Remembering Stewards of the Land

Robert Tier Dennis

Robert “Bob” Tier Dennis, executive director and then president of PEC from 1981 until 1995, passed away peacefully on February 10, 2014. We will miss the quiet and benevolent—yet also forceful and persuasive—presence of Bob Dennis. He was the unwavering champion and loyal leader in efforts to preserve the uniquely beautiful landscape for future generations, just as we and our own predecessors have done.

In 1976, Bob moved his family to a cabin in Rappahannock County. It was at this time that he placed the family farm under conservation easement—only the second in Rappahannock. During his tenure at PEC, the organization became a leader in land conservation policy in Virginia and at the national level, helping to develop the Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit and the Federal Farm and Ranch Protection Act. He was a tireless advocate for both planning and voluntary land conservation, establishing the concept of the million-acre Piedmont Reserve. Landowners protected more than 65,000 acres in the Piedmont region while Bob was at PEC.

Over his many years in Rappahannock County, Bob was involved with a variety of local conservation groups including RLEP, RCCA and others. He focused on a host of local land use and zoning issues such as revisions to the master plan, the building of the the Sperryville wastewater treatment facility, zoning for cell phone towers and accurate property assessments.

In Bob’s wise view, timeless, enduring values, like the land itself, always trump short-term thinking and profiting. Bob doesn’t need a traditional stone monument in a cemetery; the land itself, its lasting beauty and heritage, marks his time here on earth.

Janet Ketchum Grayson Whitehouse

Janet Ketchum Grayson Whitehouse, another steward of land conservation and long-time resident of the Middleburg area, died peacefully this past Christmas Eve. Her conservation efforts began in the 1960’s and continued through her life.

In April 1951, she married William Cabell Grayson, program director for NBC, Washington; and later he was the special coordinator for telecommunications for the Smithsonian Institution and president and chairman of the Audubon Naturalist Society.

Together they worked on preserving the C&O Canal, in opposition to the Potomac River and Salem Church dams. They helped spearhead funding for studies leading to the Virginia Scenic Rivers Act, the founding of the Conservation Council of Virginia, in support of the Virginia Outdoors Plan. They also wrote “Raising Wood Ducks in Captivity” and gave the National Zoo its first wood ducks.

In October 1984, she married Charles S. Whitehouse, who soon thereafter became chairman of the PEC, and he served as chair when PEC opposed Disney’s planned theme park development until his retirement in 1995.

While she was the co-chairman of the Goose Creek Association in 1995, she rallied with the PEC against Disney’s proposed theme park near Haymarket. She even set up the first community meeting regarding Disney’s plan at the Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains.

In 1995, she co-founded and chaired the Mosby Heritage Area Association (MHAA). Through its many initiatives, MHAA serves as an advocate for the preservation of historic, cultural, scenic and natural resources of the Northern Virginia Piedmont.

“Janet was dearly beloved to all of us and was the energy and spirit behind so much of the good that has happened in the Piedmont,” said Chris Miller, President of the PEC. “She was a woman of great kindness, dignity and grace, who knew what was right. She never wavered in pursuing what was right, encouraging the rest of us to rise to her level of courage and commitment.”

This article was featured in our Winter 2014 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.