Roderick D. Kirkpatrick, who died on Wednesday, July 3, at the age of 85, was known throughout Fauquier and Rappahannock counties as “Groundhog,” a nickname he acquired in his early teens when local farmers asked him to take his trusty rifle out in their fields and go after the destructive rodents.
A native of Warrenton, Kirkpatrick passed away at the Broookside Rehab and Nursing Center in Warrenton after a short illness.
Groundhogs love to feast on commonly grown vegetables, and their burrows can destroy farm ponds, injure horses and undermine building foundations. Enter Kirkpatrick, a crack shot who rarely missed and was often summoned by frustrated farmers.
When Kirkpatrick was asked about his groundhog hunting he told an interviewer, “the landowners don’t have the time and I’m glad to contribute the time to help them. Groundhogs are a nuisance. They dig seven- to eight-foot deep holes in the ground and owners don’t want their horses stepping in those holes.”
Kirkpatrick also was known in Fauquier County for his tennis prowess, both as a player and a chair umpire for countless club, local and state tournaments over the years. He was a long-time and truly beloved employee at Warrenton’s Chestnut Forks Tennis Club for 40 years.
“Our opening day was April 25, 1975,” recalled Chip Maloney, the club’s owner then and now, and one of Mr. Kirkpatrick’s closest friends. “Rod came in that first day and he was really our first customer.”
Two years later, the jack-of-all-trades began working at the club; Kirkpatrick spent the next four decades in a variety of maintenance and other positions until he retired in 2017.
According to Maloney, if someone didn’t show up for a game, Kirkpatrick quickly changed into tennis clothes and shoes and filled in. When potential new members wanted to try out the courts -- indoor or outdoor -- he was summoned to hit balls with them.
“Rod was quirky, but it was a good quirky,” Maloney said. “He always had nicknames for his favorite people. He called me Father Maloney. When he umpired county tournaments, he would always give a short speech about the winner of the match. People would come out just to hear his speeches. To call him a character would definitely be an understatement.”
Terri Diley, another close friend for many years, said, “I have never met a more pure and genuine soul.
“His heart was a magical source of positive energy and love,” she added. “You could be sure he found only the positive characteristics in each person he encountered and carried them with him and built his strength from those qualities. His adoring love for his God illuminated through his eyes and his words. I will miss him more than anyone before.”
Kirkpatrick was born on Feb. 15, 1934, at historic Twin Oaks in Warrenton, the son of Col. Richard J. Kirkpatrick and Dorothy Seaton Kirkpatrick. His father was a squadron leader for the famed Flying Tigers, an elite group of American pilots who joined the Chinese Air Force to take on the Japanese in the Pacific theater during World War II.
He attended the Stuyvesant School in Warrenton, Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Virginia, and earned a bachelor of arts in biblical studies and a minor in speech from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1962. Kirkpatrick lived in Rappahannock County for many years.
He and his wife, Sandra Kirkpatrick, were divorced and he is survived by his two children, Lorraine Desantis of Canton, Ohio, and Paul D. Kirkpatrick of Richmond, and sisters Anita Kirkpatrick, who lives in Pennsylvania, and Elsie Jordan, a North Carolina resident.
A service will be held at Moser Funeral home in Warrenton on Saturday, July 20, at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon at Chestnut Forks Tennis Club. Donations may be made in Kirkpatrick’s name and will go toward funeral and burial expenses.