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Melvin Poe dies at age 94

Saturday, Sep. 13 | By Betsy Burke Parker
Photo by Betsy Burke Parker
Photo by Betsy Burke Parker
Easily the most celebrated huntsman in American foxhunting, Fauquier native and a beloved member of the equestrian community, Melvin Poe died Saturday, Sept. 13, at his home, Ozark Farm in Hume.
He was 94.

Poe suffered a brief illness over the last months, but he'd actively farmed, and hunted his own pack of foxhounds – on horseback – up through this past spring.

Poe was born in Hume Aug. 24, 1920. Grandfather John Lewis Poe served in the Confederate Army, fighting in the battles of Seven Pines, second Manassas, Antietam and Gettysburg. Melvin Poe was the third of 10 children of Ollie and Eva Pearson Poe.

Poe attended the now-closed Hume School, often recalling long school days spent “staring out the windows,” he once said. “I remember one day a meet of [Gen. George Patton's] Cobbler Hunt crossing the crossroads. The principal – all of us – got tied up by the hunters on the way to school. No problem, school started an hour late that morning.”

Poe was a Boy Scout and an expert jouster, as well as an avid baseball player while in high school.

He served a tour as a jeep mechanic with the U.S. Army during World War II, taking part in the Normandy invasion.

Upon his return stateside, Poe took a job with the Old Dominion Hounds in Orlean, 1947-1962, then with The Plains-based Orange County Hounds until he “retired” in 1991.

Poe was huntsman for the private Bath County Hounds until that hunt folded in 2011. He continued hunting his own pack of hounds until this past spring, inviting friends and family to join him on twice-weekly outings. “We were so lucky to have him,” said neighbor Emily Richardson, a regular rider with Poe's group. “He was so knowledgeable.”

Sportsmen from all corners of the nation were eager to share their thoughts on the heavy loss. Longtime friend and fellow foxhunter Beverley Heffernan weighed in from Utah, calling it “a sad day for foxhunting.”

Pennsylvania hunter Charlie Fleischmann remembering Poe's “wonderful [way] with hounds, horses and people. As is said, we will not see his like again.”

Maryland's Holly Isaacson lamented that “the foxhunting world will sorely miss him,” and California hunter Michelle Abma recalled him as “a truly amazing man. He always had time for one-on-one with you. He made you feel like the only person in the room. It was quite special.”

In 2011, Poe was inducted along with baby brother Albert to the sport's Hall of Fame – the Huntsmen's Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting.

A 2002 book, Foxhunting With Melvin Poe, was written by the late Peter Winants, himself something of a luminary in American horse circles as long-time editor and publisher of the Chronicle of the Horse magazine and one of the driving forces behind creation of Middleburg's National Sporting Library.

An award-winning film, “Thoughts on Foxhunting,” was released in 1979 by Delaplane filmmaker Tom Davenport, and remains a popular classic still being sold at area tack shops and through Poe's local supermarket, the Marshall IGA.

Poe leaves wife Peggy, son Randy Poe, and daughters, Shirley Laing, Susan Bradshaw, Bridget Paradise, Patty Gould, Cathy Baldwin and Chrissy Gray, and grandchildren.

There will be a viewing at Moser Funeral Home in Warrenton on Tuesday evening, Sept. 16. Services will be at the Marriott Ranch in Hume at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 17 with reception to follow.

Memories of a legend
“I remember one day hunting with Melvin (with his 'farmer's pack' of hounds from his home in Hume.) Coming out of the woods, the group of riders finally wandered away from (the covert) and I was holding open a gate for Melvin. I said to him that, now that all the chattering people had moved off, maybe the fox would run out. He laughed and said, 'I hope not. No one would get to see him then.' That's what I think is most unique about Melvin Poe – he's always knew first and foremost he was in the entertainment business. He tried to make it fun for everybody.”
Writer Jackie Burke, who followed Poe with the Old Dominion Hounds, with the Orange County Hounds, Bath County Hounds and his own private pack from his Ozark Farm

“Melvin was always a great teacher, so unselfish with his wisdom. He loved to share his knowledge … stuff you can't learn in a book.”
Butch Gray, professional whip to Poe at OCH for 12 seasons, later huntsman at Piedmont

“I literally spent all my hunting life around Melvin.”
Charlie Matheson, former president of the Orange County Hounds

“He amazed me, ... as much of a way with hounds as he had with people.”
John Head, former director of Leesburg's Museum of Hounds and Hunting, where Poe was inducted into the sport's 'Hall of Fame', the Huntsmen's Room

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