Skip to content

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).

More Stories

  • Haley Lane Clay receives medical degree

    On Saturday, May 15, 2021, Haley Clay received her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Degree from The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Auburn, Alabama. She will begin her three year Internal Medicine Internship Program at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Al... Read More
  • Latest Issue 5 17 21

    Read More
  • Mid-South Horse Show Association adds class

    The Mid-South Walking Horse Association Horse Show, scheduled for Saturday May 15 in Parker's Crossroads, Tennessee has added a class to their schedule. Class 13A will be Men's Specialty... Read More
  • WHOA Gallatin Spring Classic Horse Show update

    The Walking Horse Owners Association introduces a new show on Saturday, May 15 at the Sumner County Fairgrounds in Gallatin, Tennessee. Dee Dee Miller from Lewisburg, Tennessee will judge the show... Read More
  • TWHNC welcomes new CEO

    The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (TWHNC) has hired Warren Wells to be its new Chief Executive Officer. Wells will be the fifth CEO in the Celebration’s rich history.  Wells, originally from Bedford County, currently lives in Signal Mountain, Tenn... Read More
  • FAST makes donation to Bedford County Cancer Society

    The Foundation for Advancement and Support of the Tennessee Walking Show Horse, FAST, hosted two Red Ladies classes at their Spring Showcase a few weeks ago. The classes were held in memory of Kathy Zeis who was a founder of FAST as well as a long-time exhibitor.  Read More
  • WHTA Fun Show meetings scheduled

    The WHTA Show Board of Directors will meet Wednesday, May 26, at 4 p.m. The General Membership meeting will follow at 5 p.m. Both meetings will be held at the Blue Ribbon Circle located on the Celebration grounds in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Read More
  • WHTA/Glenn C. Dowell Scholarship applications now available

    The Walking Horse Trainers Association scholarship application is now available. This is a joint educational endeavor with the Glenn C. Dowell Jr. family. Thes scholarships are made possible by the Dowell family's generous donation, making this their tenth year to sponsor... Read More
  • Latest Issue 5 10 21

    Read More
  • Birth Announcement – Jonah Smith Harney

    Jonah Smith Harney was born on Friday, April 23 at Ascension St. Thomas to proud parents Justin and Rebekah Harney. Jonah joins big brother, Jack Harney... Read More