For retired educator-turned-entrepreneur Etta Osborne Legner, the end of one long, rewarding career followed by a series of personal life challenges unexpectedly opened the door to a new profession that fulfills her and the public she serves. The award-winning former early childhood teacher and school administrator for more than 40 years, named among Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators, became co-owner of Timberlake Tavern in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 2020. The restored, historic, and elegant event center built in 1929 sits atop a knoll that overlooks a quiet 60-acre lake community and offers indoor and outdoor celebration spaces, overnight accommodations, weekend stays, fully furnished apartments, Airbnb rooms, and recreational activities with equipment including bicycles, kayaks, canoes, and pontoons. Ms. Legner promotes and maintains the business as well as plans events and shares the history of the tavern and lake area. She enjoys making connections, especially when prospective customers visit, view, and ponder the picturesque site for their special occasions.
In the years leading to Ms. Legner becoming co-owner of Timberlake Tavern, after her retirement, she downsized her house, acquired a vacation home, and rented out both before deciding to first manage the tavern. After her first husband died, she later wed her high school sweetheart to whom she was married for ten years before he, too, passed away. Desiring to do something meaningful with her life and stay busy, she purchased the tavern with co-owners Tom and Didi Gilette and used her gift of being creatively and visually oriented to spruce up and decorate the entire space to make it appear more warm, friendly, and inviting. She received excellent feedback from visitors and was motivated to envision greater possibilities for the business.
Helping to run Timberlake Tavern suits Ms. Legner, she says, because of her uncanny ability to understand people and help them see other points of view—a beneficial characteristic carried over from many years in education. Her most memorable moment since buying the tavern was when a couple held their joyous wedding at the venue. Already knowing the groom and several other people in attendance, she had a pleasant conversation with the father of the bride. Two weeks later, the patriarch unexpectedly passed away, and the next month the same wedding party and family held a remembrance event for him at the tavern.
Operating the business also has reminded her to remain humble, she said, every time she gets the necessary “nitty gritty” work done as in her previous career. Her goal is to always provide good, friendly service, and, in turn, her satisfied customers are easier to please and show their appreciation. Within the next five years, she plans to continue to help the business grow by increasing promotion and word of mouth to attract more weekday business for luncheons, small conferences, and other events. She also wants more leisure time to go sailing and enjoy other hobbies such as painting barn quilts, refurbishing furniture, and gardening.
Reminiscing about her years of accomplishment in education, which brought her accolades for being an outstanding teacher, Ms. Legner taught in public and private schools, developed preschool and kindergarten curricula, and taught community college. She also ran her own parenting and coaching business and regularly presented workshops in her community, which she still does along with consulting. She cites her most notable achievements in education to be when she left a job in public school to teach at a private school for the then-new experience of teaching preschool-aged children and becoming certified in nursery education in California after earning her master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Radford University. Named a life member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, in her spare time, Ms. Legner performs charity work as a hospice volunteer and supports the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.