Robert Hopkins Strickler

After a life lived well beyond his greatest expectations, Robert Hopkins "Twig" Strickler passed away on May 24, 2019 at the age of 90. Born September 27, 1928, he was the son of the late Robert Burtner Strickler and Gladys Hopkins Strickler of Rockingham County. He earned his nickname after a particular nurse commented upon his birth and Gladys said "Well, he's a Twig off the old family tree!" In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, Charles O. "Chip" Strickler. Despite not learning to read until the fourth grade, especially considering his parents were educators and his father a principal, Twig graduated from Harrisonburg High School in 1946. In the fall of same year he enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) where he ultimately earned a Bachelor of Sciences Degree (Business Administration) in the spring of 1950. During his senior year at Virginia Tech he was commissioned into the United States Army as a 2LT after completing ROTC. After being introduced to his future wife on a blind date and a brief courtship, on June 14, 1952, Twig married Nelsina Lorraine Warren of Middleburg, Virginia, who survives. Immediately after their nuptials, Twig and Lorraine were shipped out to Germany where they were stationed for two years. During their time in Germany they learned to appreciate the simple things in life like a clean towel and a cold shower. Returning to the Shenandoah Valley in 1953, Twig resumed his work within the small family business, Rocco Feeds, which was an abbreviation for Rockingham County chosen by his mother. By the time Twig retired as CEO in 1985, Rocco Feeds had expanded into a large food company known as Rocco Enterprises. During his lifetime, Twig was the recipient of numerous awards which recognized his visionary leadership in the poultry industry. He also received numerous other awards from public and private endeavors which he was passionate about. At different points in time he was the chairman of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Virginia and Rockingham Memorial Hospital Foundation. He was also president of Farm Credit Bank of Baltimore, Southeastern Poultry and Egg Association, the Virginia Poultry Federation, the Virginia Feed Association, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, a director of Rockingham National Bank, and a Member of The Superior Business Firm Roundtable. In 2013 the National Turkey Foundation honored Twig with a Lifetime Achievement Award. When he reflected on his business career and the many challenges that he faced over a lifetime, the poverty he experienced as a child of the Great Depression had a significant impact on his thought process throughout life, "I can still remember the times I didn't have 5 cents to buy a piece of candy." During his leadership years, he consistently looked for ways to improve various business endeavors so that those around him could provide for their families and be successful in their own right. At times, he would make tough business decisions that were hard to swallow. Many may remember the fleet of Volkswagen diesel cars and trucks that Rocco utilized during the Oil Embargo of 1973, vehicles that only reached top speeds of 70 miles an hour while drifting down the Shenandoah Mountain in neutral according to reliable sources. He believed in philanthropy, sharing his time, his talents, and his resources with numerous organizations in the City of Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, and the surrounding communities. He was honored by the City of Harrisonburg for longstanding support of Harrisonburg - Rockingham Historical Society which endeavors to preserve the history and heritage within the local community. He supported a number of charitable organizations, most notably education programs, funding multiple full, partial scholarships, and professorships at Virginia Tech, Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College and James Madison University (formerly Madison College, his wife's alma mater). To honor his parents, he started the Robert Burtner and Gladys Hopkins Strickler Honored Teachers Essay Contest in 1996, which continues today, to recognize the value and importance of local educators through a student essay contest. On any given Friday night, Twig's maroon and gray '72 El Camino could be found parked at the Green Valley Auction House in Mount Crawford, Virginia, where he could be found socializing with others who were passionate about antiques and collectable items. He truly enjoyed the chase especially when he and Lorraine ended up with the winning bid. Over the years, he acquired an assortment of hand carved canes and iron penny banks. One of the most interesting items that he ever acquired was a life-size wood carving of George Washington. A firm believer in God, country, and family, Twig was a lifelong member of Asbury United Methodist Church. He preferred a seat in the sanctuary which gave him what he considered to be the best view of the ornate stained glass windows especially when they were illuminated by the morning sun. He was a life-long member of the Francis Asbury Sunday School Class as well as the Joy Group. He is survived by his four sons and their wives; Robert W. Strickler and wife, Lisa, David W. Strickler and wife, Nelly, Scott W. Strickler and wife, Sallie, and Mark W. Strickler and wife, Beverly, all of Harrisonburg. He had ten grandchildren, all of whom have followed in "Granddad's" footsteps as vibrant, focused, passionate, and unique individuals: Cameron of Harrisonburg, VA, Vaughn of Nelson County, VA, Jessica of Richmond, VA, Rebekah and husband, Brandon Holcombe of Richmond VA, Sam of Oahu, HI, Abby of Newport News, VA, Benjamin of Blacksburg, VA, Sarah, of Harrisonburg, VA, Bogdan, and Eleanor of Port Republic, VA. Twig had a desire to impart wisdom to those he met locally as well as those he met while traveling around the world. Over the past 60 years he enjoyed sharing one particular bit of wisdom which is attributed to Calvin Coolidge, who was the 30th President of the United States. Thousands of people have received pocket sized laminated cards from Twig with this particular quote from Mr. Coolidge: "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. Press On." Twig believed that this particular quote will stand the test of time. One of Twig's last wishes was rather simple, "Get me into the ground as quickly as possible and move on with your lives". We were able to honor this request with a private event involving close family members on May 25, 2019. A memorial service will be held to celebrate Twig's life at Asbury United Methodist Church - 205 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia on Saturday June 8, 2019, at 11 a.m. A reception will be held in the social hall after the service. Condolences may be shared at In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to Harrisonburg - Rockingham Historical Society, 382 High Street, P.O. Box 716, Dayton, VA, 22821.

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