General and Wife, Victims of Metro Crash, Are Laid to Rest

Family, friends and members of the military gathered on Monday at a memorial service for Major General David F. Wherley and Ann Wherley, two of the victims from a recent metro train crash.
By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

They were high school sweethearts, the king and queen of the senior prom, who, approaching 40 years of marriage and with an 11-month-old granddaughter to dote on, were settling nicely into retirement.

But retirement for the Wherleys didn't just mean travel and golf and dinner parties -- though there was plenty of that. As the former commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, David F. Wherley Jr. had sent soldiers into combat. And one of them, whom Wherley and his wife, Ann, visited often, was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after being hit by a sniper in Iraq.

Inspired by that soldier, the Wherleys wanted to do more to help wounded warriors, friends and family said. So on June 22, they attended an orientation for volunteers at Walter Reed. Riding the Red Line home, the Wherleys were killed in what became Metro's deadliest crash.

Yesterday, a day after an emotional memorial service packed with more than 1,000 people at the D.C. Armory, the couple, both 62, were buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a service that included a flyover of four F-16s.

Simultaneous services were held elsewhere for LaVonda Nicole "Nikki" King, 23, the youngest victim of last week's crash, and Dennis Hawkins, 64, who also died in the crash. Thousands of mourners gathered to bid farewell to the two.

King, of Northeast Washington, was preparing to open a beauty salon, LaVonda's House of Beauty. She was talking to her mother about it on a cellphone as she boarded the Red Line train that afternoon. They were planning to distribute fliers to promote the new business. "She was so excited," her mother, Tawanda Brown of Upper Marlboro, said. "She had so many dreams about the beauty salon."

Hawkins was on his way from work at Whittier Elementary School in Northwest to Bethesda Baptist Church in Northeast to teach vacation Bible school at the time of the crash, relatives said. The D.C. native was the oldest of eight siblings. With his death, six survive.

A retired Air National Guard major general, David Wherley "felt responsible and accountable to everyone he sent into harm's way," chaplain Stephen Tillett said at Monday's service.

He was, friends and family said, every bit the stoic leader, tough and cool, especially on Sept. 11, 2001, when, as commander of the 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, he ordered fighter planes into the skies over Washington in the wake of the terrorist attacks. But before doing that, he gathered his pilots and laid out the rules of engagement, recalled Lt. Col. Dan Caine.

"Then he paused, and looked at us and said, 'I trust you,' " Caine recalled in an interview. "He had a calmness and a sense of stability that was reassuring."

At their Capitol Hill condo, within walking distance of the Armory, it was Ann Wherley who was in charge, telling her husband, "You might be a general down the street, but not here," Tillett said. "She allowed him to be commanding general of the trash detail."

But there was also a softer side that those in his command didn't always see. There was David Wherley the chocoholic, who often needed sweet fixes. There was David Wherley the "technogeek," who bought a Wii "before the rest of us even knew what it was," said close friend Don Mozley.

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