At 90, Stafford County man is proud to be a ‘from here’
Wilber Segar isn’t just a family patriarch, a great-grandfather who’s shared his land with those he helped bring into the world. He is also an authority on his corner of paradise.
Segar, who turned 90 last month, has lived on Willow Landing Road in Stafford County all his life—except for the three years he served in World War II. Even then, the man whose living-room window offers a picturesque view of Aquia Creek didn’t get far from water.
He served in the Navy and was at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii several years after the infamous attack.
Then, he high-tailed it back to Stafford. He never considered living anywhere else.
“I had no desire to,” he said. “I had all I wanted right here.”
HE’S A ‘FROM-HERE’
Segar is the definitive “from-here.” He’s among 40 percent of Americans who’ve never left the place in which they were born, according to a 2008 report from the Pew Research Center.
He’s also the polar opposite of Dan and Debbie Choike, who will be featured tomorrow. The two have moved 23 times in 32 years because of his service in the Marine Corps.
While the Choikes came to call Stafford home after his military career, Segar has watched the county grow up around him.
He was born in 1923. The first census in which he would have been counted was in 1930. At that time, Stafford had 8,050 residents. By 2012, its population had grown to 134,352, according to estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Another interesting comparison is of boys in the 5-to-9 age bracket. In 1930, Segar was one of 578 of them. By 2012, there were 4,934.
From Segar’s vantage point, the landscape has changed considerably since the days when his grandparents owned the land. But most of that was his doing.
“I built all this, the house, the marina,” Segar said, extending his arms to show his home turf. “It was all a swamp.”
LOVED THE WATER
His grandparents owned a spot on the river called Segar’s Point, and his grandmother ran a combination boarding house, fishing camp and cafeteria. She took visitors out to the Potomac River, then cooked the catch of the day.
“It was 50 cents, all you could eat,” he said.
As a child, he crabbed, put out pots for eels and trapped for furs. He spent time on the creek every day.
“I walked across it a lot of times,” he said. “Any time the ice got two inches deep.”
His father died when he was 12, and Segar “had to take up the slack and be the man of the house.”
Even when he was in the Navy, he sent money home.
Segar had met his future wife, June, before he went to war, and he came home and married her while on leave.
His grandmother gave him seven acres, and at first, he and June lived in a small house on the water.
He started working at Quantico Marine Corps Base, first in the shipping department and later as a firefighter. He also was a founding member of the Stafford Volunteer Fire Department, and one of the brave souls who signed a note to buy the first department property.
SHAPING HIS VISION
As relatives sold family land, Segar bought it and developed a vision for his property.
“I knew I wanted the marina,” he said of the facility that he later built and named after the road.
He started by extending an existing dock to which he tied his rowboat. Then he put in a ramp and charged people a dollar to launch their boats.
“Now, some places charge $15,” he said.
He sold Willow Landing Marina in 1983, about the same time he had his current house built.
He also turned the former swamp into more hospitable turf. In the 1960s and ’70s, he knew contractors who were building in Alexandria, and they had tons of fill dirt to get rid of. It was cheaper to bring it to his place than to pay to dispose of it elsewhere.
For three years, trucks brought in several loads a day to fill in dips in the land “that used to be 20 feet deeper than they are now,” he said.
He also brought down a lot of trees and molded the terrain around him to fit what he wanted.
“I did a lot of the grading, when I was home.”
‘CAN’T GET AWAY’
Willow Landing Road is off Hope Road at Stafford Courthouse. At one time, Segar owned 80 acres that stretched from his home all the way to Hope Road.
What he didn’t give to relatives, he sold some years ago—“for $1,000 an acre, and that was a big deal.”
These days, he’s still got 23 acres, and five homes on the road belong to people related to him. He gave property to his two daughters and six grandchildren.
His daughter, Diana Huppmann, shares her father’s fondness for the area.
“There are four generations of us here,” she said. “We can’t get away from this water.”
Segar used to fish it as often as he could, until his arthritis got too bad. He’s been on medication since having open-heart surgery in 2006, but “basically, he’s a pretty healthy old coot,” his daughter said.
Segar has outlived many of those dear to him. His wife died in 1993, and his daughter, Dotty Segar, passed away in 2011. She was 64.
At his 80th birthday party in June 2003, his granddaughter introduced him to a friend’s grandmother, Dorothy Thomas. The two were companions for 10 years, until she died in April.
“They were a lot of company to each other,” his daughter said.
So Segar spends a lot of time looking out the living-room window at the water that relaxes him—or visiting another place he owns on the water in Deltaville.
And even though his family fusses, he cuts the grass and rides his golf cart by the familiar places of Willow Landing Road that have shaped his life for nine decades.
“He thinks he owns the road,” his daughter said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
ABOUT THE SERIES
WHO WE ARE is an occasional series about people who illustrate the diversity of life in the Fredericksburg region.