Editorial: In memoriam

Rappahannock County will miss the quiet and benevolent — yet also forceful and persuasive — presence of Bob Dennis, who passed away on Sunday. Perhaps more than any other county resident, he was the unwavering champion and loyal leader in efforts to preserve our uniquely beautiful landscape for future generations — to partake of and take nourishment from, just as we and our own predecessors have done.

To accomplish this goal, the best tool available, in Bob’s view, is putting as much of the land as possible in conservation easements. To this end, he would use his considerable powers of persuasion on anyone who would listen. Following through, like a questing knight, he could often be spotted at the county clerk’s office ensuring that the easements were recorded. Then, he would contact the newspaper to make sure that we afforded the proper news coverage that each and every grantor of conservation easements deserved.

Largely because of Bob’s tireless dedication, Rappahannock today has proportionally more of its privately owned land in conservation easements than just about any other jurisdiction in the entire country.

I first became acquainted with Bob many years ago through his help with Fauquier conservationist and canoeist Randy Carter’s lifelong efforts to save the Rappahannock River. Subsequently, in 1981, Bob became executive director of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), whose founding mission was to preserve the traditional nature of Virginia’s northern Piedmont.  

It was under Bob’s watch that the PEC, in what became known as the Fourth Battle of Manassas, thwarted Disney’s 1993 plans to create a history theme park here in the Piedmont. The historic, hallowed ground of the Piedmont landscape doesn’t need to be “Disneyfied.”

In Bob’s wise view, timeless, enduring values, like the land itself, always trump short-term thinking and profiting.

Bob does not need a traditional stone monument in a cemetery; the land itself, its lasting beauty and heritage, marks his time here on earth.

Walter Nicklin


  1. On behalf of the Dennis family, I want to thank you Walter for your kind words. It means a lot to us to be have Pop honored in this way. And thank you Ben for your thoughtful comments. I know Pop would have appreciated hearing it from you.

  2. Bob Dennis was a Rappahannock hero. He had an old-fashioned gravitas about him. Though quiet and unassuming, when Bob talked, peopled listened. He didn’t waste words, but cut to the quick of the issues he cared about, and he spoke with the authority gained by serious study.
    He cared about our county in a way that we should all emulate, in my opinion. He was a fine man, and he will be greatly missed.

    Ben Jones

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