He was a Renaissance good ol’ boy.
From local bluegrass music to local media to Little League baseball, Sonny Ludlam left a lasting legacy across the Fredericksburg area.
Ludlam passed away Monday at Mary Washington Hospital at 79.
He considered himself a lucky man because he got to live in the place he loved, doing things he loved to do.
He lovingly helped to preserve area cultural traditions like bluegrass and gospel music, the Elks Lodge and the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair, while helping to establish new ones like Little League baseball in Spotsylvania.
He became well-known in the Fredericksburg area as a sports photographer for The Free Lance–Star in addition to working as an advertising sales representative for the paper. He also served as advertising sales manager for WFLS.
Ludlam, who helped make bluegrass music a fixture for years on WFLS radio, was an expert on and a cultivator of the local bluegrass scene. He was himself a songwriter who had a half-dozen of his tunes recorded and was a member of the local Bluegrass Butchers band. He promoted the bluegrass festival at Graves Mountain Lodge for nearly two decades.
He also hosted a gospel radio program on Sundays on Thunder 104.5 radio.
Ludlam was a member of the BPOE 875 Elks Lodge for many years and served for a time as exalted ruler of the lodge. He helped oversee the move of the lodge out of what is now the Fredericksburg Square building downtown to a more modern facility in Spotsylvania County. The Elks had occupied that vault-like city building with steep steps for 94 years, and some members vehemently opposed the move. But Ludlam saw it as necessary, for one thing, because the new space would all be on one floor, easier for aged members to navigate, easier for all to park and a place where a swimming pool could be built to attract much-needed younger members.
He lettered in four sports at Spotsylvania High School and attended the University of Virginia.
He was a veteran of the U.S. Army who spent 13 months in Korea. While in the Army, he became a correspondent for the Bayonet and Pacific editor for the Stars and Stripes newspaper.
He was a longtime supporter of the Fredericksburg fair who played a key role in keeping it going for decades, even as the area seemed at times to be outgrowing that tradition.
He was an avid fisherman who once wrote a first-person piece for the paper about a five-hour battle to land a 108-inch, 730-pound giant blue fin tuna off the coast of Maine.
The family will receive visitors from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday at Covenant Funeral Service, Fredericksburg. A celebration of life service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home chapel.
The family asks that donations be made to the Elks Lodge 875 Youth Camp, 11309 Tidewater Trail, Fredericksburg, 22408.
Michael Zitz: 540/846-5163