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More than a man to the manor born

South Boston News
Bev Skipwith at the Clarksville Sesquesentenial celebration in the late 1960s, where he won the contest for best beard. / April 15, 2015
When Beverly Craige “Bev” Skipwith died Wednesday at the age of 85, there was no mention of his family ties to Sir Peyton Skipwith and his historic home, Prestwould, aside from a suggestion in the obituary that contributions in lieu of flowers could be made to the Prestwould Foundation.

The main reason that daughter Susan Glasscock and son Beverley Craige Jr. give for downplaying the connection is because to them, Bev’s greatest legacy is not who his family was, but the man he was — and the lessons he taught them.

The siblings agree that historically it is important to note that Bev was a member of the last generation of Skipwiths born on the Prestwould estate. However, by the time Bev joined the family — he was the youngest of his siblings — the Skipwiths had left Prestwould and were farming a few hundred acres of land on the southwestern edge of Clarksville, along Buffalo Road and across from U.S. 58.

Lesser men might have used their connection to the plantation and the family name to advance themselves within the community. But not Bev. Being to the manor born was part of his heritage, but it was not something that he felt set himself above or apart from others, according to his children.

“Daddy treated everyone the same, regardless of who you were,” said Susan, “and he raised us that there was no difference in people; everybody was the same.”

Bev did use his ties to Prestwould to teach his son at least one life lesson — the importance of hard work. Even today, when son Craige speaks of Prestwould, he recalls the hours he spent mowing the lawn on the property.

“You have no idea how many hours it took to mow that yard,” he noted. His father would drop him off in the morning, check on his progress at lunch when he’d bring him a sandwich, and collect him at the end of the day, in time for dinner.

Bev understood the benefits of hard work — something he learned at a young age. He ended his formal schooling after the eighth grade. Until he accepted his first job with Robbins Mills (later Burlington) at age 17, Bev spent his days helping his father farm tobacco.

Susan and Craige don’t know why Bev chose to work in textiles instead of living the life of a tobacco farmer. He was a formidable gardener, according to the two. If he had a particularly hard day at work, he would often change his clothes and start tending his vegetables. “I think that’s where he worked out his frustrations. He was never completely happy until he had his garden like he wanted,” said Susan.

She recalled one time in particular, around 2000. Bev was recuperating from open heart surgery. He was supposed to rest and avoid strenuous activity. Susan and her husband knew how important it was for her father to have a garden and so they tilled and planted for him. “A few days later I’m at the house and there he is behind the tiller.”

When she asked her mother about what her father was doing, Shannon Skipwith replied, “If he dies behind that tiller, at least he’ll be happy.” No more attempts were made to keep him out of the garden.

Perhaps the greatest lesson Craige and Susan said they learned from Bev was how to love.

“I learned how to treat my wife, by how he [Bev] treated her [Shannon],” said Craige. While the woman of the home “ruled the roost,” Bev supported her and respected her decisions. Throughout their 66-year marriage, Bev and Shannon were never heard to argue, say their children, and there was no cursing or exchange of cross words in the home.

They learned it was the silly, little moments that often fill your heart the most. More than once, Bev told his children that he knew “I would love that woman [Shannon] forever” after watching her pull a tobacco sled while singing a western song made popular by Jimmy Walker, “Detour (There’s a muddy road ahead).”

Though Shannon won’t admit it, she probably knew that Bev would love her forever the day he chased her down the hall as she was on her way to the restroom. She was in fifth grade and he was in sixth. It was the start of something big.

Beverley Craige Skipwith was born July 15, 1929. At age 19 he married his childhood sweetheart Shannon Forlines Skipwith, and they had four children. He is survived by his wife, three adult children, Ellen Halloway (Larry), Beverley Craige Skipwith Jr (Tammy), and Susan Glasscock (Allen Parker), four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

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