John Friant

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

John Rector Friant, 91, of Berryville, Va., died peacefully at home Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, surrounded by family and friends. He will at last be rejoined with the love of his life, Nancy Leachman Friant, who predeceased him in 2002.

Mr. Friant was born Dec. 3, 1919, in Cape Girardeau, son of Julien Nicholas and Bertha Rector Friant.

His family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1932, where his father served as assistant to the secretary of agriculture under President Franklin Roosevelt, and young John became a page in the U.S. Senate.

He then earned a degree in economics from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and was working toward his master's in agricultural economics at Iowa State College in Ames, when he was called to service.

In March 1942 he was drafted and served proudly as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the Army Air Force in the Pacific Theater, earning two Bronze Battle Stars.

After the war and upon returning to Washington, D.C., he met and married "the most gorgeous woman in the world," Nancy Leachman, in 1948. They moved to Berryville, where John wasted no time starting a family and serving the community in his beloved Clarke County.

He owned and managed the Berryville Lumber Co. and was an active member of Clarke County Chamber of Commerce, Ruritan Club, Library Advisory Council and St. Bridget's Catholic Church. He served on the boards of The Barns of Rose Hill, Grafton School, and was a founding board member of Heritage Child Development Center, and former chairman of Clarke County Planning Commission.

His initiatives included Clarke County Recreational Center, Route 7 Triangle Beautification Project, Dictionary Project and the international guest program at the Annual Ruritan County Fair. Using his highly effective power of persuasion and a gift of homemade pawpaw ice cream, he convinced Norfolk Southern to upgrade the grade crossing on Main Street at no expense to the town of Berryville. In 1998 he received Clarke County Citizen of the Year Award.

Surviving family members include a son, John R. Friant Jr. of Berryville; five daughters, Katherine (Clissy) Funkhouser of Charles Town, W.Va., Mary Veilleux of Berryville, Margaret Pittman of Virginia Beach, Va., Nina Geiger of Waynesboro, Pa., Caroline Watkins of Charlottesville, Va.; 22 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

He was predeceased by his wife Nancy; parents, Bertha and Julien Friant; a sister, Katherine Post; and a daughter, Molly P. Friant.

John Friant was a lifelong Democrat, though he loved and engaged in spirited discussions with many Republican family members and friends. He will be greatly missed as an active community member and as a family man who left a lasting legacy of service, sacrifice and faith.

The family will receive friends from 1 to 3 and 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Enders and Shirley Funeral Home in Berryville.

A funeral Mass will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Bridget's Church. Private burial will follow.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Bridget's Chapel in the Field, 130 Keating Dr., Winchester, VA 22601; or Clarke County Education Foundation (in memo, designate: The Nancy L. Friant Scholarship for the Performing Arts or The Dictionary Project), P.O. Box 1252, Berryville, VA 22611.

To view obituary or send condolences online, please visit