‘Overlooking the land he loved’

Those of us who cherish Rappahannock and Virginia’s Northern Piedmont owe a debt of gratitude to Dick McNear, who was buried last weekend on a hilltop in Gid Brown Hollow overlooking the land he loved.

Forty some years ago, I was a new reporter, covering Fauquier and Rappahannock counties for the weekly Piedmont Virginian newspaper. Dick McNear was the director of planning and zoning for Fauquier and the de facto planning advisor in Rappahannock, where he lived and farmed.

He was funny and forthright, honest and informed, and he always took the time to explain. A reporter’s treasure.

Dick was one of Virginia’s early advocates for sensible and managed growth. He saw the link between ecology and economy, the value of farmland and open space, the worth of preserving and protecting natural resources. He wrote and implemented local ordinances to advance those goals. He gave the Northern Piedmont and beyond a framework for balancing development and preservation.

That was Dick McNear’s public persona. Privately, he was a Good Samaritan who quietly and without fanfare helped neighbors in need. At his memorial Sunday, his daughter affirmed that growing up in the McNear family, the creed espoused and lived by their dad was “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Dick made a difference — in his own time and for the future. If they don’t pave paradise and put up a parking lot here, Dick McNear gets a big share of the credit for preserving this special place on the morning side of the Blue Ridge.

Daphne Hutchinson

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