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Obituary-Robert Morris Reel



Virginia Horse Center Executive Director Robert Morris Reel, (Bob), 57, died suddenly Saturday, March 1, 2003. Reel was born December 12, 1945 in Vincennes, Indiana, and was a graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School, Indiana State University (B.S.) and the University of Maryland (M.S.).

Reel served as a 4-H Agent in Marion County (Indianapolis) in charge of agricultural programs for twelve years. He was on the 4-H youth staff, which won the USDA Super Service Award presented in Washington, D.C. He became involved in the 4-H Horse and Pony Program, and was appointed the Indiana State Fair 4-H Horse Show manager, beginning a life long love of the equestrian business and his hobby of showing Shetland, Hackney and POA ponies to cart.

Reel married Emily Smitherman in 1974 and moved to College Park, Maryland, where he completed his Masters in Extension Adult Education. After two more years as a 4-H agent in Terre Haute, Indiana, he returned to Prince George County, Maryland, where he was on the extension staff, and in 1979 joined the Maryland State Extension staff. In 1983, he made an important career change when he became manager of the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., where he converted a previous thoroughbred race track into a full service equestrian center.

In 1986, Reel and his family moved to Lexington, where he became the first Executive Director of The Virginia Horse Center as recently authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Center during his tenure was developed from only a concept to a venue generally recognized as one of the premier multi-purpose equine facilities in the nation. It had a significant impact on the horse industry in Virginia as well as the economies of the Lexington-Rockbridge County area and the entire Commonwealth.

Reel was committed to community and public service. Among many such activities, he was past president of Lexington Golf and Country Club and RARO of Lexington, as well as vice president of the Board of Southern Virginia College. He was a director of the governing boards of the regional First American Bank, Virginia Episcopal School, and the Virginia and Indiana Horse Show Associations. He was a member of the Lexington Presbyterian Church.

Reel's passions were his family, the development and successes of his sons, showing and dealing with horses and ponies, and the success of the Virginia Horse Center. He is survived by his wife, Emily S. Reel; two sons, Andrew McCracken Reel and Adam LaVelle Reel, both of Lexington; his mother, Anna Katherine (Kate) Reel of Lexington; and a brother and sister-in-law, Dick and Mary Reel of LaPorte, Indiana.

A private burial service will precede a public memorial service at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 5, 2003 at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception at the Virginia Horse Center in the Appomattox Mezzanine. Arrangements made by Harrison Funeral Home. The family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Virginia Horse Center (P.O. Box 1051, Lexington, Va. 24450), The VMI Keydet Club (VMI, Lexington, Va. 24450) or Virginia Episcopal School (400 VES Road, Lynchburg, Va. 24503).

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