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About John

Who Is John

John Lawrence Heatwole, III (the Third)

Was born March 23rd, 1948
He was the only son of Lillye Marie Preston and John L. Heatwole, Jr. and the junior sibling of his sister Stephanie. Together for many years, the four were a unit. John would never forget their visit to relatives on the eastern shore of Maryland, which held an exceptionally special place in his heart. Saint Mary’s County was the setting for numerous events that would have a profound impact on his future artistic career. Nevertheless, discord arose among the parents. John Jr. and Lillye, or Bootsie as she was known to many, fought like cats and dogs. Through John’s father’s extensive employment at the Heatwole family restaurant in Washington, D.C., he eventually made contact with another woman by the name of Lillian, Lilly for short. The marriage deteriorated and while it was essentially over John’s mother, Bootsie, would not let her husband out of the marriage and things got nasty. Their children became victims to their mother’s drinking, anger and who might have had some untreated mental conditions. John attempted to escape from all of this at an early age by using his imagination and losing himself in the woods near his house or in the fields searching for indian arrowheads. As he aged and went into high school he became involved with sports and became a star player. He also was very involved in the school newspaper, drama club and more.

John III, age 2 with grandmother Bessie Heatwole

The Early Years

John was smart and a motivated student.  In high school, in order to stay away from home, he got involved in many school activities.  John excelled in sports and pushed himself in a variety of school activities including being part of the school newspaper, participating in Drama and theatrical productions.  It was in art class that he met lifelong friend and future wife Miriam Dale.  Before that marriage took place John had to struggle through some other life journeys.   He was an award winning football player and was featured in northern Virginia newspapers.  Miriam’s father would go to the school football games and said that John was the best player he had ever seen and despite a couple serious injuries he continued to play.  One of those injuries he simply wrapped with a bandage and didn’t discover for another 15+ years that he had had a fractured wrist during that time playing football.  The other injury was in his knee.

​Immediately following high school he had a free ride for college thanks to a football scholarship, which he needed because his family was not well off financially.  However he lost the scholarship and the promise of a college career due to the high school knee injury that reared its head.

Without much direction at that point he met with a recruiter for the armed forces and joined the Marines.  He was proud to serve the country and to be part of a family once again.  For John there may have also been a sense of a connection with father who had had been long separated from but who had served the country in WWII and Korea as a naval officer but this is only speculation.  To his disappointment John’s military career with the Marines was short lived once again due to his old football injury.  According to journal entries and some information gleamed from talks with Miriam, this disappointment was probably the greatest disappointment he had ever experienced next to the childhood trauma he endured.  John made it through 99% of the rigorous basic training that the Marines is known for when on one of the very last exercises, where he had to jump over a huge ravine fully weighed down by all his gear.   Upon landing on the other side and even with knowing well how to roll, his knee popped and that was the end of his service in the Marines.  John was honorably discharged but the sting of rejection or of failure stayed with him for the rest of his life.  He learned that the recruiter who knowingly signed him up regardless of the injury served time in a military prison.   John was a strong and proud man.  He would not let the disappointment of losing this life challenge show to anyone and as with most of his disappointments he internalized it all and just pushed forward.  In fact he rarely ever talked about his past because the pain was too great.  All throughout this time he stayed in contact with Miriam who was in college.

​After coming back home to Northern Virginia John began trying his hand at drinking alcohol to deal with disappointments.  He had grown up seeing his mother drowning herself in booze so it may have been an easy direction for him.  He did not touch drugs and maybe smoked Marijuana once or twice in his life.

John got a job working in a drug store that had a popular grill/soda shop in the back of it.  That was where he met Kathleen Marie Stoffel, he was 21 at this point in his life and she was 19.   They dated for a short amount of time and then the two married at the county court house in Fairfax Virginia and not to long after the couple gave birth to a son named David.  Shortly after the birth of their son, the couple split apart.  Both young people were having their own personal struggles much stemming from their unhappy childhoods.

Once again John had a difficult time following that trying to get custody of his son as Kathy’s father, David’s grandfather, Fred Stoffel petitioned the court for custody also.  The resulting custody battle ended in the court granting both males half custody of John’s only son.  a couple years later he married high school friend and sweetheart Miriam Dale. 

​After 20+ years battling crones disease and many forms of cancer John died November 22/2006. 


The Artist

Articles and Books
​about John L. Heatwole.
This will be updated soon. There were so many articles about John’s art that it would take weeks if not months trying to find them all. He was featured in The Washington Post, and Fine Woodworking Magazine to name a couple biggies. 

The only book about John is actually an oral history compiled by Carol Maureen DeHart of Lot’s Wife Publishing. The book is titled The Word Gatherer.


The Historian

From a young age John was interested in history.  From prehistoric age to more modern history it all interested him.  However, he was especially fond of stories that were passed down from generation to generation.  John became well known in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley for his efforts in preserving these stories by interviewing and recording the elderly.
He was cohost of a radio show about local history that touched on everything that he was especially interested in including the civil war, folk lore in the valley and past times.
He also consulted on a number of films.
Some of John’s greatest successes were preserving important sites in the valley from development.
Guest Writer
John was invited to write forwards to books, contribute to other publications authored by collegues, Historical Societies and various historical councils. He always felt it an honor to be asked to do so. The following are some publications that he contributed to but are not a complete list (we will continue to add to the list as we find others): 
  • A transcribed presentation given in March of 1999 for the Augusta County Historical Society Banquet held at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Va. was used as the introduction for the Augusta Historical Bulletin Volume 35 Spring 1999 Number 1 (Booklet)
  • For Augusta Historical Bulletin Volume 41, 2005 (paperback book) he wrote a chapter titled: The People Laughed: Humorous stories from the Uplands of the Virginias.
  • PORTALS to Shenandoah Valley Folkways Edited by Dorothy A. Boyd-Bragg with Introduction by John L. Heatwole published by Lots Wife Publishing, 2005.
Because of John’s great contributions to the history of Virginia specifically the Shenandoah Valley region he was recognized toward the end of his life by the Virginia Government as “The Foremost Authority of the Shenandoah Valley”.  Speaking for my father I can say that this was the greatest honor he had ever received and it validated him as a professional in the field. – David (Son of John) 

The Author

Authored Books
Three of Mr. Heatwole’s books, Shenandoah Voices – Folklore, Legends and Traditions of the Valley; The Burning – Sheridan’s Devastation of the Shenandoah Valley and “Remember me is all I ask:” Chrisman’s Boy Company have been acclaimed regionally and nationally. He is also author of the Virginia and West Virginia Mountain and Valley Folk Life Series. This series consisted of 15 booklets.


  1. Some Madstones of the Virginias
  2. The Games We Played
  3. Holidays and Pastimes
  4. Supernatural Tales
  5. Witches and Witch Doctors
  6. Old Sayings, Proverbs, Riddles and Conundrums
  7. Magic Cures and Incantations
  8. Superstititions.
  9. Gathering – The Bounty of Nature
  10. Work Stories
  11. Tall Tales
  12. Herb, Tea and Broth Cures
  13. Old-Time Recipes
  14. School Days
  15. When The War Came – Civil War Stories from West of the Blue Ridge