By Justin Toney
Eight days after Sibby Emory died in questionable circumstances, her husband of 50 years also passed away in their Fredericksburg home.
Police found the former UMW geography professor, Samuel T. Emory Jr. of local restaurant fame, dead on arrival.
His son and next-door neighbor, Samuel T. Emory III, said that police had suspected him and his father of killing Sibby Emory.
Fredericksburg Police spokeswoman Natasha Bledsoe called Sibby Emory’s death “unusual.”
On Aug. 10, police found Sibby Emory dead on arrival in her home. According to Bledsoe, police believed that she died the day before while her husband was home.
“It was certainly considered an unusual and suspicious death, but no charges were brought to either Mr. Emory or his son,” said Bledsoe.
She said that investigators think Sibby Emory bled to death after suffering blunt head trauma. Emory III says he has not been told definitively how his mother died.
No coroner’s report has been filed concerning Sibby Emory’s death.
Bledsoe said that there was nothing suspicious about Sam Emory’s death, except that it was unattended, a cause for investigation.
Cases investigating both Sam and Sibby Emory’s deaths remain open.
Emory III spoke with resentment about police investigations into his mother’s death. As conversation changed to memories of his father, his tone became happier and relaxed.
“He didn’t like to talk,” Emory III said. “He loved soil and rock formations, and he loved to travel.”
Sam Emory’s passion for travel corresponded with his education in geography.
He received a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, and began teaching at Mary Washington College in 1959.
In his upcoming history of the University, history professor William Crawley calls Sam Emory the “patriarch” of the geography department, crediting him with the most responsibility for its creation.
During an interview, Crawley described Sam Emory as an “old-school” professor.
“Sam was a rather reticent person. He appeared somewhat shy. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and what I would call a disarming smile,” Crawley said.
“He had the aura of what used to be thought of as a typical ivy-league professor,” he added.
Crawley’s history of UMW describes Sam Emory as having a devoted following of students. Emory III recalled hearing his father talk sometimes of faculty and students around family dinners.
Emory III also recalled how his father was very involved in the city, working with the Fredericksburg City Planning Commission, the Salvation Army and the local homeless shelter, among other organizations.
“He thought it was an obligation to give back to the community,” Emory III said.
Sam and Sibby Emory established the landmark downtown restaurant, Sammy T’s, in 1980. People who knew them described them as being very close.
John Fedowitz, general manager of Sammy T’s, considered Sam Emory a friend.
He recalled humorously how the 75-year-old “stole a car” after his licence had been revoked so that he could drive to the grocery and buy cookies, ice cream and frozen pizza for the Sammy T’s staff.
“I wonder if Sammy T’s will be able to make it without its parents,” Fedowitz said.
“I feel sorry for [Sam]’s son,” he added, “He’s all alone.”
Emory III, the 48-year-old presumed inheritor of his parents’ restaurant, has worked there since the age of 18.
He says that if he inherits the business as his father said he would, he would definitely keep the business open. Emory III has yet to read his father’s will.
Fedowitz said that Sam and Sibby Emory would dine almost daily together at their restaurant. After Sibby Emory’s death, Sam Emory’s visits became noticeably rarer.
Fedowitz suspected that Sibby Emory’s death and the ensuing investigation emotionally affected the decrease in her husband’s appearances at Sammy T’s.
“I don’t know how it affected him, but imagine you’re in his shoes: police accuse you of killing your wife,” Fedowitz said. “I’d hate the police.”
Emory III said that on the day of Sam Emory’s death, he walked next door around 9:20 a.m. to assist his father, who he described as “bedridden.” At the time, Sam Emory appeared fine to his son.
He said he returned approximately two hours later, and found his father unresponsive.
After Sam Emory’s phone malfunctioned, Emory III returned home and called the police.
According to the incident report, Fredericksburg Police department dispatched emergency response personnel to Sam Emory’s home at 12:15 p.m.
No time or cause of death has yet been officially established.