Whenever he took on a new challenge, Peer Segelke always turned to his team with the boundless energy and optimism for which he was famous and he’d ask one question: Are you all in?
For Segelke, that answer was always yes. Whether it was tackling projects at work where he led a company of 500 or at home where he was a proud father of three, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to everything he did.
“He only had one speed, and that was wide open,” said friend and colleague Jim Harrison. “He was energized and driven and very, very smart.”
“He was also very genuine and caring. He made friends easily,” Harrison said. “Without qualification, I haven’t talked to anybody who didn’t love the man.”
Segelke, CEO of Roanoke-based Lawrence Companies Inc., died Nov. 18 in a golf cart accident while in Florida to attend a professional conference.
His passing is being mourned by a wide network of friends, family and colleagues.
Segelke, 40, was born in Texas but attended Washington & Lee University as an undergraduate and later settled in Blacksburg with his wife and three young daughters.
An attorney, he worked with the law firm LeClair Ryan and as in-house counsel with regional businesses.
He joined Lawrence Companies, a transportation firm with operations in Virginia and North Carolina, in 2013 and rose to become CEO in 2016.
He was known for remembering not only the names but the families and interests of the company’s many staffers. When he asked how you were doing, he meant it, and he wanted to know if there was anything he could do to make your day better.
“He would do anything from tying a mechanic’s shoestrings to sweeping the floor,” said Harrison, the company’s chief financial officer. “He had that sense of personal commitment and pride in the accomplishments of the company and the team.”
Segelke loved to dig into big ideas both inside the company and out. He was active in efforts to help shape the region’s economic development strategies and served on the board of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.
Botetourt County Administrator Gary Larrowe, who has known Segelke for years, recalled once making the drive to Georgia with him to court a company considering relocating to Virginia.
On the ride back, Segelke charted a course that seemed to take them through every small town and byway.
“I started wondering if we’d ever get home,” Larrowe said, laughing at the memory. “But he was looking around and picking up ideas everywhere. He kept saying, oh, wouldn’t it be great if we did this and we could tie it to that, oh gosh.”
“He was a great person, a great asset to the entire Southwest Virginia region,” Larrowe said.
From an early age, Segelke loved to travel and later relished introducing his children to the wider world. Longtime friend Ray Tuck said the two took their families to France together earlier this year.
Tuck’s son, a college freshman, was flipping through a guidebook looking for day trip ideas when Segelke mentioned that they were near the site of some of the oldest cave drawings known to mankind — an archeological treasure that Tuck’s son remembered reading about in textbooks but never imagined he’d get to see first hand.
“When we got back, my son said, ‘You know, I don’t think we ever would have seen that if it wasn’t for Peer,’” Tuck said. “And he was exactly right. Peer loved exploring and knew about so much.”
Amid the grief created by his sudden passing, Tuck said he tries to remind himself how fortunate he was to be able to count Segelke as a friend.
“You have to feel lucky for the time you got with someone,” Tuck said. “I know I feel pretty lucky to have known Peer.”