“Chester, Hondo, and Hickory”

Congratulations, you otter-ly amazing human – you found one of our beautiful bronze otter sculptures! This sculpture is part of the Otter-ly Amazing Fredericksburg Project supported by Fredericksburg, VA Main Street, and the City of Fredericksburg.

Did you know that the Rappahannock River is home to the river otter? These furry river dwellers are a crucial indicator of an aquatic ecosystem’s health, and their presence is a sign of good water quality. Thanks to the cleanup efforts from local environmental organizations like Friends of the Rappahannock, otters have started returning to our river!

This otter proudly serves as a symbol of the health and vitality of our city.

Learn more about the river otter and this project at fredericksburgotters.com.

Our donors named their otters in honor of family members, important people, pets, or with a name that represents their values or beliefs. We hope you will enjoy the stories that weave a community together and give you a glimpse of the special people who call Fredericksburg home.

This river otter was proudly donated by:
John and Linda Coker

The river otter and two pups are named:
“Chester, Hondo and Hickory”


Momma Otter – Chester

My Maiden name was Linda Chesnut. When I got to college, for some reason, my friends started calling me “Chester.” To this day when one of them calls and says, “Hi Chester,” I know it’s one of my friends from college, some of the happiest days of my life. The nickname evokes nothing but happy memories for me.

Linda Chesnut Coker


Pup – Hondo

I grew up in Nelsonville, Ohio (50 miles from Columbus, Ohio, and Ohio State University). I played high school basketball and my favorite college basketball player was John Havlicek, who played for the Ohio State Buckeyes. His nickname was “Hondo.” I cut my hair like him, and I tried to hustle and play basketball just like him also, so my friends and teammates started to call me “Hondo.” I was “Hondo” before being called “Coke” in college and now “Chief” by all my Grandkids.

Dr. John H. Coker, Jr.


Pup – Hickory

Our son-in-law, George Dickinson, III, an avid fisherman, chose the name Hickory after the Hickory Shad, a favorite food for otters. A member of the Herring family, shad is an anadromous species, meaning that it returns to fresh water to spawn, but lives most of its life at sea. From mid-March to mid-May, the shad return up the Rappahannock River to the Fall Line at the Route 1 bridge where they spawn. This is a perfect place for the otters to hunt the shad.
The Hickory Shad’s lower jaw protrudes noticeably beyond the upper jaw to distinguish it from the American Shad whose jaw fits easily into a deep notch under the lower jaw.

Hickory Shad is a great fish to eat and is very healthy but is famously bony. Cooks get around that by baking the fish to soften the bones. Shad are river specific: each major river along the Atlantic Coast appears to have a discrete spawning stock and adults return to their natal river to spawn. River Otters’ diet consists mostly of fish. They prefer larger fish due to ease of capture. Larger prey gives the river Otters more energy as well. Hickory Shad are the otters’ favorite prey.

We love Fredericksburg because of its size, location on the East Coast, its family friendly activities, sports, and its people. Our family has been involved with downtown Fredericksburg for many years, helping with the Hurkamp Park Wall (with the Rappahannock Rotary Club), Scarecrowfest events in October, and the Santa Mailbox in November and December. In return, Fredericksburg has been very good to our family over the past 38 years, and we want to continue to show our support and love for our downtown. We believe that having a vital, energetic, family friendly downtown is so important for our citizens as well as the many tourists that come to visit. Having seen first-hand the “Mice on Main” public sculptures in Greenville, SC, I thought a similar public sculpture program would be a wonderful and fun idea to enhance our downtown. I met with Ann Glave, Executive Director of Fredericksburg Virginia Main Street to discuss this idea and she loved it and got the ball rolling. Then April Peterson, serving as Past President on the Main Street Board of Directors, conceived of the idea of River Otters. The Otter-ly Amazing Art Project will blend the Rappahannock River, River Otters, the Riverfront Park, and downtown Fredericksburg into a tapestry showcasing our beautiful city for all who come to visit.

John and Linda Coker