HANOVER COUNTY, Va. – A Mechanicsville family is sharing a tragic story after Charlie Horner, a beloved grandfather described as having a servant's heart, died after he stepped on something in the Rappahannock River. Horner's wound then became infected, his leg was amputated and he passed away just days later.
The 75-year-old former Phillip Morris engineer and Army veteran continues to leave an indelible mark on many.
Family members said Horner loved the peaceful sounds of the Rappahannock and could not wait to share his river home with his Bible Class from Fairmount Christian Church last weekend.
Rick Raines, a senior minister at Fairmount, said no one was prepared for the freak incident on the river Saturday.
“No one expected what the results have been,” Raines said. “Everyone said they will carry that picture with them of Charlie on the river, carrying people out on the boat, helping kids in the water and people on jet skis.”
Raines said Horner and his wife of 53 years hosted more than 50 Bible Class members at their river home. He remembered Horner as a true family man, always humble letting his faith lead the way. He had three sons and several grandchildren.
Horner's son said whatever it was that his father stepped was enough to take away a man beloved by his Hanover church and community. He said family members would like to know what happened so no one else goes through a similar ordeal.
Experts with Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said area rivers and lakes can become stagnant and hot this time of year. That makes them breeding grounds for bacteria.
The Virginia Department of Health said that if you are cut while in the water, you should notify your doctor immediately.
Horner was rushed to Memorial Regional, the very hospital that loved ones said helped build. Horner died, but his contributions to the Hanover community and around the world will be part of his legacy.
“He was very involved and helped build Memorial Regional Hospital and was instrumental in building our own church -- even in Haiti. He built churches there," Raines said.
He also built lasting friendships letting his faith lead the way.
“His life was of service and we are blessed to be the recipients of his hard work [and] even more blessed to have been the recipients of his friendship,” Raines said. "Life is fragile. Charlie would want people to know that, would want to make sure they are right with the Lord and right with their family. Charlie, he was right in all of those ways."