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PROFILES: Keith Price helped shape Culpeper's monuments to its heroes
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PROFILES: Keith Price helped shape Culpeper's monuments to its heroes

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Keith Price is a quiet, unassuming guy who doesn’t toot his own horn. One might have difficulty picking him out of a crowd.

But he knows how to get things done, whether in the military or public service.

You have to drag the particulars out of him, though.

Turns out that Price, 64, has had a major hand in creation of the Charters of Freedom monument in Yowell Meadow Park, the town’s Wine Street Memorial Park—which honors Culpeper citizens who gave their lives in World War II and the Korean War—and, mostly recently, a fountain at Rockwater Park.

Early this year, the Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution honored Price with its state award for his work on Yowell’s Culpeper Minute Battalion and Charters of Freedom monument. Price carried on work begun by Lon Lacey Jr., a retired FBI agent who proposed the project but died in 2019.

Price, who has been commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2524 since 2010, is also a member of the SAR’s local chapter. He has been the master of ceremonies at Culpeper National Cemetery’s Memorial Day ceremony every year since 2010, and was its keynote speaker in 2006.

Price grew up in Morganton, a small town rather like Culpeper, in a blue-collar family that rarely traveled away from western North Carolina, though his father served in the Navy during the Korean War.

He worked as a groundskeeper and in pizza parlors after high school while attending community college, but wondered what lay over the horizon.

“I read the newspapers and watched the news,” he recalled. “I was always curious about the world.”

Then a college friend at UNC-Greensboro joined the Army and later became a warrant officer. “He was highly squared away, and he put the idea of military service in my head,” Price said. “I thought, ‘Well, if it worked out for that guy, it might work out for me.”

It did.

Price enlisted, scored well on the battery of aptitude tests, and got into computer science when that was a burgeoning field. At his first post—Fort Lewis, Washington—an officer suggested he apply to Officer Candidate School. So Price did, and wound up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1985.

But the administrative work that computer science led him into wasn’t his cup of tea. He transferred to another branch and enrolled in classes at the Army Intelligence Center in Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

While he was still in school there, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Price volunteered to deploy, and was sent to Saudi Arabia.

“I thought it would be a big adventure,” he said. “It was my time to step up. I thought, and still do, that every American should do something for their country, in whatever way they can.”

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Just before he left, Price married Felecia Chavez, a Red Cross worker he had met earlier at Fort Irwin, Calif. (She runs La Bee da Loca, a bee-centric shop at 236 E. Davis St.) They were married for 14 months before they could set up a household together.

In Saudi Arabia, Price worked in the Third U.S. Army operations center in Riyadh. Once the lightning-fast war ended, he moved up the coast to help the U.S. logistics command to ship military material back home.

In 1991, orders came to go to Germany, where he relished learning about that country’s World War II history. Then it was on to the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Korea and Britain, where he taught tactical intelligence at a British military school built in a Gilbertine monastery dating to 1150.

In 2005, he found himself in Baghdad, running the intelligence shop at theater headquarters for a year. Around dawn each day, on behalf of his staff, he gave the intel briefing to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commanding general of the Multi-National Force–Iraq.

Casey was mentoring the new Iraqi prime minister, and the country was holding national elections and writing a new constitution. “It was a grind every day,” Price said.

He returned to Baghdad in 2007, assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Saddam’s old palace. “That was pretty neat,” Price said. He left during the height of the U.S. troop surge, when Gen. David Petraeus was serving as theater commander.

After Price served a Pentagon stint and retired from the Army in 2008, he had time to get involved in local affairs. He’d served in the Army for 24 years.

Price and his wife, who had always wanted to own an old house within walking distance of a downtown, chose to retire to Culpeper after considering Warrenton and Fredericksburg.

In 2008, he got involved with helping brainstorm what kind of a monument would grace Wine Street Memorial Park. The initial design was too elaborate and expensive, so Price consulted with the director of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. That’s how “Homage,” a bronze statue of a U.S. soldier sculpted by Jim Brothers of Lawrence, Kansas, ended up in Culpeper.

The 800-pound statue, which honors World War II and Korean War veterans, depicts a soldier standing and gazing at a field cross—a fallen soldier’s rifle stuck in the ground with his helmet on top. The only copy of it is at the D-Day memorial in Bedford. Brothers died in 2013, not long after his work came to Culpeper.

Price worked every day straight for three years to make the monument happen, coordinating many diverse elements, including design and fundraising. He did the same with the Minute Man Battalion and Charters of Freedom monument, even traveling to Georgia to meet with the stone workers who sculpted and engraved its granite boulder.

Always “a history nut,” as he puts it, Price volunteered behind the counter greeting visitors at the Museum of Culpeper History and helped organize its two-day Civil War bus tour of Culpeper and Orange counties.

He joined the museum’s board of directors, served as its president in 2013-2014, and then ran for Town Council in 2014.

“Running for office was always a life goal,” he said. “I thought it would be a nice thing to do, would be interesting, a way to make an impact for the sake of the community.”

Most recently, Price put his energies into completing the Culpeper Minute Battalion and Charters of Freedom monuments in Yowell Memorial Park.

This summer, the councilman announced he would not seek a third term after seven and a half years on the council, as he continues working a full-time job with the federal government and wants to spend more helping his wife with her business.

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Clint Schemmer, a journalist since 1980, has worked at papers in California, North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been a bureau chief, editorial-page editor, copy desk chief and local news editor. Now a staff writer at the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

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