Peter Way has been out of the public eye for nearly two decades; and, as a result, many people in Central Virginia today never knew him or knew of him.
Still, the former politician’s life and recent death deserve notice — especially serving, as they do, as a brilliant contrast to the politics of today.
The Rev. Peter T. Way was a long-time member of the Board of Supervisors and then served for a time in the House of Delegates. He also served on the county School Board.
He was a mentor to many, a public servant and a man of God in the highest sense of the words. Those concepts might be considered old-fashioned today, but we would be a better nation if they were more prominently practiced.
“Peter was one of the finest men I’ve ever known,” Delegate Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, told The Daily Progress. “An awful lot of us called on him when we made mistakes or needed some sage advice. He was always kind and thoughtful.”
That kindness extended across party lines.
“I knew him in a couple of different capacities, as president of the Chamber of Commerce and as a supervisor from Scottsville, his old district,” said former Albemarle Supervisor Jane Dittmar, who served on the board and ran for the House of Representatives as a Democrat. “He was very warm and introduced me to people and gave me a lot of good advice.”
In 1991, he ran for the House of Delegates against Democrat Timothy Lindstrom, himself a former member of the county Board of Supervisors. Compared to the tenor of today’s politics, that campaign was a gentleman’s contest of notable civility.
The race was so close, however, that Mr. Way won by only a seven votes, after initially having been thought to be the loser by a single ballot. (Razor-edge vote totals are not just a recent phenomenon, such as last year’s dispute over balloting between Republican incumbent Del. David E. Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds in the 94th District.)
Mr. Way sought to serve modestly and moderately. He believed in the essentially Jeffersonian principle of limited government, which made him a non-activist in office. He was not out to make a name for himself, but rather to serve the people.
In his private life, Mr. Way also devoted himself to service. As the leader of St. Anne’s Episcopal Parish in Scottsville, servanthood was virtually written into his job description.
But he also spent years supporting both public and private education — not only as a member of the School Board but also as a teacher at the Blue Ridge School. The original version of the school closed in 1961, and the following year Mr. Way founded the Tros-Dale Home for Boys to help house and educate former Blue Ridge students who had been placed there by social services but had not found other homes after the closure.
In today’s era of vicious political mudslinging, it’s instructive to recall that politics wasn’t always this way. There have been men and women who strove to treat others, including political opponents, with respect even amid disagreement.
Perhaps we can find such men and women again. The country needs them.