Bedford landmark restoration effort moves forward following leader's death

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) The Big Otter Mill Foundation's Harvest Festival has been forced to relocate because of high water near the mill.

Becky Wuergler stirs a pot of Brunswick Stew at a past fundraiser for the Big Otter Mill Foundation.

The event will now be held at Liberty High School from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.


Crowds gathered to take pictures and watch with excitement in October of 2011, when a large water wheel was re-installed on the Big Otter Mill in Bedford County.

"It lets the community see our progress, because so many of the things that we have done are not this visible," remarked Becky Wuergler, who was serving as president of the Big Otter Mill Foundation at the time.

Wuergler spent most of the last decade raising money to restore the landmark. She and other members of the Big Otter Mill Foundation worked to bring back the former saw and grist operation as a museum.

"She was so passionate and so committed to restoring that mill," said Kristy Milton, the Big Otter Mill Foundation's current president.

The effort Wuergler helped start reached another milestone a few weeks ago when electricity was restored to the building.

"It sent chills up and down my spine, because I knew how proud she would be and I knew all the hours she put into it," Milton said, choking back tears.

Wuergler died in March after a battle with cancer. While her death devastated Milton and her other friends, it also recommitted them to restoring the mill."

"It seems that no matter what we face, somebody steps up and says we are going to keep this moving forward," Milton said with a smile. "I truly believe Becky has a hand in that every day."

On Saturday the Big Otter Mill Foundation will hold a "harvest festival," one of its biggest annual fundraisers.

The event will feature a tribute to Wuergler.

"Work hard, get it done, don't let anyone stop you and just keep moving forward," said Milton. "That was (Becky's) way of looking at life, that was the way she fought cancer, and that was the way we'll always remember her."

To learn more about Saturday's event, click here.