Sperryville column for Sept. 21

Godspeed, Dick McNear

Rappahannock County mourns the loss of an extraordinary resident — an “Era has passed,” in the words of John McCarthy, the former administrator of Rappahannock County.

Dick McNear fought a brave battle with cancer and surrounded by family, at his beloved Greenwood Farm in Gid Brown Hollow, said his last goodbyes.

Photo by Alex Sharp VIII

He leaves a legacy of success both in his personal and professional life. A forward thinking man, Dick was a leader in every respect. In post-World War II years he saw his career soar as an engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, and in later years followed in his father’s footsteps, a former Rappahannock zoning administrator, when Dick became the Fauquier County Director of Planning and Development.

Dick played a major role in Rappahannock County, too, and on myriad levels.

He was a proponent of “Growing Villages and Cultivating Farmers,” and was the author of the county zoning ordinance adopted in 1986. With the usual amendments, it remains in effect all these years later.

He had much influence and was an active participant in the community. In a letter to the editor of the Rappahannock News in 2013 he stated his strong-held belief that the county expand its villages for future growth and so as to provide low to moderate income housing for teachers, deputies, the elderly and less fortunate.

He didn’t want the county to become an “oasis where people want to reside for what is not here.” Nor did he want Rappahannock to become exclusionary.

Farmers, he wrote, “hold the key to our wondrous open spaces [and are] not exactly getting rich, and land use tax and property tax exemptions for farm equipment are a must if farming is to have a chance of existing in the future. Villages and avocation farmers as well as non-farming ‘newcomers’ must accept this premise if Rappahannock County is to continue as the special place that we all know it to be.”

He signed off with his trademark humor: “A 1960 newcomer in Gid Brown Hollow.”

He championed the financial survival of sustainable farming and in 2012, along with four other owners and managers of local farms, engaged in a “Holistic Management International” pilot program, a whole farm planning system.

Dick had, at that time, 100 head of purebred Black Angus cattle. He described the program as “a three-legged stool, with equal focus on the social, financial and environmental realities of owning and operating a farm.”

Mike Peterson of Heritage Hollow Farm further stated that among the most significant contributions the holistic management method bring to farms involves rotational grazing, a practice that he and Dick utilized with great success. In Dick’s trademark, self-deprecating fashion, he said “I was the biggest pessimist going into this thing, but ultimately became a huge advocate of the program.”

He was a mentor to many, a man of few words, but when he spoke, you listened. He adored his golden Lab “Fancy,” loved caring for his cattle, driving his tractor and haying his expansive fields laden with rich golden hay, upon the scenic farm called Greenwood.

His generosity was legendary, his lion heart enormous, and his smile infectious. He was a family man, a farmer, a zoning guru — and perhaps most importantly a father to three beautiful and accomplished daughters, ultimately becoming a grandfather, affectionately known as Pap Pap, and of course the beloved husband to the love of his life, Jeanie.

Dick was for many a year a fixture with his “Afternoon Bunch” buddies, hanging out at the Rt. 211 Quickie Mart, discussing critical farm issues mixed with much local gossip and lore. Jeanie and I used to giggle when upon returning from an out of town family trip, before his bags were even unpacked, Dick would race to the Quickie to see what he missed.

Peterson, who knows Dick so well, relates of Dick’s humor, indeed his fondness for one-liners, a favorite of which Dick would share if you were experiencing a problem, and eliciting smiles he’d say: “Well Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, how was the play?”

Dick was larger than life. His family meant everything to him, and he worked tirelessly in his later years to ensure that his farm was forever protected for his children and their children. Kindness and caring were his trademark.

There are many in the county who live in quiet thanks for his lion heartedness. During the 2008 worldwide economic collapse, unrelentless in its six-year duration, many a home were on the foreclosure auction block.

When I lost everything, my business, my income, livelihood, and my beloved Mt. Marshall home, Dick showed up at the courthouse steps with Jeanie, to put a bid on my home so I could keep it. And while the bank kept the price too high for any of the bidders present, the show of profound friendship will never be forgotten.

Thank you Dick, for your compassion. They don’t make ‘em like you anymore.

Chris Green
About Chris Green 162 Articles
Chris Green (formerly Chris Doxzen) is an an executive recruiter by profession who enjoys exploring and writing about all things Rappahannock. Friends and neighbors with potential stories for her Sperryville column should email her at chrisdoxzen@gmail.com.


  1. So well said… .Dick and I both worked at Fauquier planning and zoning but most important were friends for more than 40 years.

    • Maybe we’ll run into each other at the service, Jeanie is a close friend and I see her often. She told me Friday they’re going to have bagpipers.. won’t be a dry eye on Greenwood Farm. He was a very special man and will be greatly missed.

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