Washington -- George Garner, known locally as the Shepherd of Accokeek, Maryland, passed away unexpectedly this month. He owned a small farm in the Piscataway forest, where he raised Polypay sheep and a few Angus cattle. His farm was in the viewshed of Mount Vernon, across the Potomac. He and other land owners have been maintaining the forest so as to afford Mount Vernon visitors the same view as that of George and Martha Washington at our country's founding.
At his funeral, friends and neighbors said that if there was anything George Garner would miss upon departing this life, it is that he would never know the outcome of a lawsuit with which he assisted to protect his neighbor Howard Vess's property, likewise in the Piscataway forest. Howard Vess died in 2011, wanting his part of the forest to remain undeveloped, open to hunters and others who valued it for its natural beauty.
George Garner spent countless hours researching law cases so as to toss out an egregious provision in his neighbor's last will, which Howard Vess's personal representative (also his financial advisor) had arranged so as to make himself the beneficiary of the Vess property as well as personal representative. Unlike previous wills, which were filed in the county courthouse and named charities as beneficiaries, the last will was held secretly by the personal representative and revealed only after the death of Howard Vess. At the Vess funeral, the personal representative discussed with attendees, before the service even started, that the Vess property would be developed with homes and a shopping center.
George Garner brought formidable skills to the task of challenging the last Vess will, which he knew was executed when his neighbor was vulnerable* to being taken advantage of. George Garner was a forensic researcher who did Internet technology and legal work for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, among other federal agencies. He was a religious scholar who knew classical Greek and Latin and spent two years at the Vatican. He also knew his neighbor, and strived to the very end to do him justice.
But after five years of work on the Vess will, George Garner did not live to see the fruits of his labor. The case is still before a Maryland court of appeals, its outcome uncertain.
Nevertheless, it was with great respect and affection that his friends and neighbors said good-bye on July 29, 2017, to George Garner, the Shepherd of Accokeek.
• In fact, the personal representative's own in-house attorney for his business as a financial advisor had confirmed this; in a letter to another party the lawyer maintained that a personal loan from Howard Vess, meant by Vess to be discharged at his death, had to be collected because an old, vulnerable man was not capable of making such an arrangement.