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November 26, 2014

Faces of Fauquier: Life’s work devoted to trophies

“I grew up in the house next door,” Lewis F. Lee Jr. says. “I grew up in the business. I thought it was the best thing in the world and I wanted to do it.”
Fauquier County is still relatively rural. The pace of living is somewhat slower than our northern counties. We have the changing weather climates. It offers pretty much everything you need.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The animals in his shop look alive.

Lewis F. Lee Jr., the owner of Lee’s Taxidermy near The Plains, uses his decades of skill and artistry to render outdoorsmen’s trophies in lifelike poses.

Deer, black bear, albino skunk, warthog, fox, turkey, fish and mountain lion populate the taxidermist’s shop.

“We preserve trophies for hunters,” he said. “Our trophies come from all over the world.”

For 65 years the family business, started run by his father, has preserved a variety of North American and African game.

The third-generation tradition continues with three craftsmen. Mr. Lee preserves big game, while his son Stephen focuses small game and birds. Mr. Lee’s brother Robert preserves fish.

The word “taxidermy” comes from Greek, meaning to prepare and arrange skin.

A deer head can take about eight hours to complete — usually spread over three weeks for to the drying process and other factors, according to Mr. Lee.

Customers bring in their tanned animal hides. The taxidermist relaxes the hide, prepares and arranges the skin on a foam mannequin using epoxy paste. Fake eyes replace the original.

Sometimes trophies, particularly fish, require a final touch up with airbrush painting.

“It’s kind of like building a house; there’s more to it than meets the eye,” Mr. Lee said. “The process is the same, but how you get to the finished product is different every time.”

The job came naturally for the outdoorsman, who started hunting at age 8.

The Fauquier native lives and works in his favorite place, situated between the Wildcat and Pignut mountains off Route 17.

• Age
72

• Home
The Plains

• Work

Owner of Lee’s Taxidermy near The Plains. His father L. Francis Lee Sr. ran the business until 1968 when the son took over. The family business continues in its 65th year.

Mr. Lee has worked as a professional taxidermist for more than 50 years, serving customers throughout Virginia and southern Maryland.

• Why do you do the job?
I grew up in the house next door. I grew up in the business. I thought it was the best thing in the world and I wanted to do it. I came back to the East Coast and decided this was a natural fit for me. I’m an outdoor person by nature. I love to fish, hunt, boat and golf. We get very busy here during the hunting season and it interferes with my hunting. So every year, I go to Wyoming with my son to hunt.

• Family
Wife, Ava; two sons, Kevin and Stephen; brother, Robert.

• Education
Marshall High School, 1961. Bachelor’s degree in labor and management, with studies in taxidermy, museum curation and pre-medicine, University of Iowa, 1965.

• Civic and church involvement

Member of Bethel United Methodist Church and on the finance committee for more 30 years. Served on the Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Board for eight years in the 1980s. Former little league baseball coach and Boy Scout leader. Founding president of the Virginia Taxidermists Association.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
For about 70 years.

• Why do you live here?
When I was in Iowa, I loved the people there, but I missed this area. I can step out of my backyard and be in the mountains and we have a place on the Chesapeake, so I can be in the water. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s the people and style of living. When we used to pull out onto Route 17, there wouldn’t be a car on the road.

• How do you describe this county?
Fauquier County is still relatively rural. The pace of living is somewhat slower than our northern counties. We have the changing weather climates. It offers pretty much everything you need.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I don’t think I would change anything really. Our growth has progressed at a steady pace. We have grown into our school, library and recreation centers.

• What do you do for fun?
Golf, fish and hunt when I can. I like to be on the water at our place in Reedville.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?

Right here in between these two mountains: Wildcat and Pignut.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
More subdivisions. Become more urbanized. My hope is it won’t grow at a faster rate than it is now. I think we’ve done a good job of spreading things out and hopefully that will be the case.

• Favorite TV show?
I watch sporting events, especially Iowa University basketball.

• Favorite movie?
I don’t watch a lot of movies.

• Favorite book?

I’m interested in the inter-coastal fortifications along the East Coast. Fort Moultrie and Fort Washington. I like reading about those.

• Favorite vacation spot?

Reedville, on the water.

• Favorite food?
I love any kind of seafood.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?

One of my first employers always said to trust my instincts, and it has always been good advice. I’ve never forgotten that.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My parents because I probably wouldn’t be who or where I am without them.

• What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery?

Pay down some debts, do some traveling, save some and give some to charity.

>> Suggest a “Faces of Fauquier” profile subject

Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Editor Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Previous Faces of Fauquier:

• Edward Payne returns to Orlean and to photography with passion.

• Janet Metzger’s Old Town Warrenton shop a hub of creativity.

• Pablo Teodoro bakes to build community.

• Community trails have become passion for retired VDOT engineer Bob Moore.


• Teresa Reynolds makes transition from butcher to museum director.

• After working in New York and Italy, Christine Fox moved home to open fashion boutique 25 years ago.

• Steve Lewis develops hunting reality show on Dish Network.

• Julia Trumbo grew up in the family grocery business.

• Tax preparer Renée Turner enjoys owning a business in Old Town Warrenton.

• ICU staff Carol Jones values patients’ trust.


• Wilson Sanabria grew up working in his family’s Warrenton restaurant and learning to box.

• One-man band Peter Fakoury quit 9-to-5 to learn from children.

• Liberty graduate Brittany Aubrey works in the smile business.

• Walmart cashier Lulu Baer loves to play violin and several community roles.

• In Sandra Alm, SPCA dogs have a loyal companion.

• St. James’ Episcopal new Rector Ben Maas appreciates community’s embrace

• Bicycles dominate work and play for Brian Larson.

• Teaching music therapy combines Abigail Newman’s passions.

• Brenda Rich leads volunteers who organize and run the Fauquier County Fair.

• 1st Sgt. Greg Harris stresses empathy in his job as a supervisor at the county detention center.


• Chuck Tippett challenges the “rich guy” stereotype about pilots.


• County government employee Surja Tamang previously worked as a Mt. Everest sherpa.

• Woody Isaac found his calling as a chef at age 16.

• Horses take Tommy Lee Jones all over the county.


• Retired nurse Angela Neal continues to volunteer in hospital ER.

• Gilmer Lee really knows high school sports in Fauquier.

• Stage remains central to Tim Bambara’s life journey.

• Bus driver Melissa Strain’s weekend job all about “fun.”


• Bartender Taylor Edgar has a pretty good standup routine.

• A nomad childhood led Paul Schmeling to start a moving company.


• Adam Lynch’s family owns café with local food focus and a special name.

• Patricia McMahon Rice turns passion for art into her livelihood.

• Cindy D’Ambro works as “director of first impressions” at LFCC.

• Ginger Hilleary leads local literacy organization.

• Farmers with groundhog problems call Rod Kirkpatrick.


• Horses “retire” to work with Jeanne Blackwell.

• Remington cattle farmer Doug Linton loves his home and work.

• Sports central to Robert Glascock’s life’s work.

• For Richard Mast, company ownership started with his summer work as a teenager.

• Bernice Simpson knows northern Fauquier back roads and the people who live along them.

• Eddie Payne has logged 38 years as a volunteer firefighter in Marshall.


• Stephanie Layton turns her lifelong passion for dance into her livelihood.


• Shawn LaRue matches children and adoptive families.


• Biker and psychology major Clif Stroud makes music in a big way.

• Becky Crouch greets lots of visitors.

• She helped blaze trail to equality for black teachers.


• Family and food come first for Marshall pizzeria employee.

• Rural “closeness” of Fauquier appeals to Kansas native

• A “spoke” in the wheel of preservation.

• His job dovetails with passion for hunting

• Veteran educator sees the potential in every child.

• His passions: Fixing cars and helping people


• Habitat ReStore volunteer appreciates Fauquier’s diversity.


• Dad’s example led to new career at Fauquier Hospital.

• He lives and works in a beautiful place.

• The Goldvein firehouse ranks as his favorite place.


• Pretty things everywhere she looks.

• Through scouting, he encourages girls to explore.

• One day, he might run the company.


• FISH volunteer likes to help others.

• She sees the community’s generosity.

• Cop patrols while most people sleep.


• Pastor a constant in Calverton.


• She keeps the courthouse spotless.


• He loves working working outdoors at the park.


• She sees “everyone” at Carousel

• Library assistant works in a “fun place"

• Hat lady sets up shop in Old Town Warrenton


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