When it comes to criminal cases, you don’t always know what you’re going to find. In one case early last year, Greene County Sheriff Capt. David Roach uncovered a treasure trove of items from a stolen box trailer in Northern Virginia that have since been brought home to Greene.
Inside the trailer was a trunk with numerous items that belonged to Haywood Powell, who passed away in 1994, and other Powell family members.
“I was able to get into the trunk and find the identity of the people the items belonged to, and it happened to be three Greene County brothers and one of them was Haywood,” Roach said. “I had never met these people; it was just in the course of my job.”
Powell’s next of kin is Evelyn Powell Deane, 70, who was taken aback to learn these items existed and were coming back to her 25 years later.
“He was a very simple man. Just to find out that these things exist was truly amazing,” Deane said.
Inside the trunk were letters written to Powell from family and friends while he served in the U.S. Army during World War II. His discharge uniform was found, too, as were his discharge papers, a McClellan saddle and photos from World War II.
The McClellan saddle isn’t dated, but it was used as a military cavalry saddle and has an intertwined USA shield on it.
“I had real images, real hand-written letters, all this really valuable stuff for families,” Roach said.
From the time Deane was 11 years old, Powell was her mother’s life partner, though they never married. Deane’s father died three weeks before she was born.
“He was my father. He became a grandfather to my children. He was part of my family,” Deane recalled through tears. “When he got cancer I’m the one who took care of him. I drove from Lake Monticello every day to take him to radiation. I’m the one who buried him.”
Deane said it’s been very interesting to learn more about Haywood Powell.
“He lived in the old farm house off Pea Ridge Road in Stanardsville where his grandfather had lived,” she said. “He lived there until his father died in 1979 when he moved in with us off U.S. Route 33.”
Powell still had cattle on his farm, while also working for the highway department. Deane said she doesn’t recall ever visiting the old farmhouse.
“I didn’t know there was anything of Haywood’s out there,” she said. “When Capt. Roach called me to come down to look at the items I was happy to do it. My heart still bleeds for Haywood. I adore him.”
Powell gave Deane away at her wedding in 1973.
“He went to the store and purchased a new suit for the occasion,” she said. “He also wore it for my older sister’s wedding. He was buried in that same suit—the only three times that it was worn.”
It seems fitting that an avid history buff such as Roach would locate these items. Roach is a member and volunteer for the Greene County Historical Society.
“History is a very important aspect of the human condition because if you don’t understand where you come from you can hardly figure out where you’re going,” Roach said. “I think it’s important to know who we are, the archeological stuff, it documents where we’ve been and how we’ve grown and changed. I know if it was me seeing the pictures that my father had of North Africa in the war in uniform serving the country that changed the face of the world it’d be moving. It was men like him from Greene County that changed the face of the world.”
Roach noted that a full uniform, including the overcoat, Powell wore when he was discharged was donated to the Greene County Historical after he had it cleaned. His bars and medals were also intact, and now in Deane’s possession. There were other full military uniforms recovered which were given to the next of kin for Powell’s brothers. Copies of the letters were also donated to the historical society, Deane said.
“I found it very touching that she had never seen these letters,” Roach said. “I was touched to see (the family) was keeping in touch with each other,” Deane said.
While Powell never talked about the war, he did talk about working for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to build Skyline Drive. Deane now has a hat he wore during that time.
Deane’s oldest son is named Christopher Haywood, in honor of Powell.
“In the ninth grade, he wrote a paper about the person he most admired and it was Haywood,” Deane said. “Haywood was a simple, kind, good man. He was just a good man.”
Deane’s mother didn’t drive and Powell took care of her during bouts of mental illness.
“I always call Haywood my guardian angel; it was because of him that I had a normal life,” Deane said.
Her youngest son, Jason, had a good relationship with Powell, too.
“Two weeks before he died, Haywood said ‘I know you’re going to be OK. You and that boy have something special,” Deane said. “This has been emotional for me, a good emotional as I remember him.”
Powell’s family were all farmers, Deane said.
“When Chris was 1 year old Haywood gave me some money—like $10 or something—and told me ‘Evelyn, go out and buy something that has to do with a farm. Teach the boy about farming,’” she said.
Powell died from Mesothelioma.
“When he told us, he and I both started crying. He was gone within three months,” Deane said.