February 22, 2021
Faces of Fauquier: Retiree volunteers for “God’s work”
Photo/Don Del Rosso
Bob Irving serves as the senior warden of the vestry at St. James’, where he oversaw a recent $3-million expansion and renovation.
Life has been pretty good to me — the passing of my wife notwithstanding. And it’s just time to give back.
On the same day about five years ago, his wife died of pancreatic cancer and he retired as an IT manager with Northrup Grumman.
“So here I am, widowed and jobless,” recalled Bob Irving, 71, who lives near New Baltimore. “What do I do with my life?”
It didn’t take Mr. Irving long to figure out that he wanted to spend some of his free time giving to others through his church — Saint James’ Episcopal in Old Town Warrenton.
“I think Saint James’ is an important part of the community,” he said, noting the church’s pre- and elementary schools and various outreach efforts to help the needy. “I started assisting in the video streaming of our (Sunday) services.”
His IT duties soon expanded to include Saint James’ school programs, Mr. Irving said.
“It was like someone said this needs to be done or that needs to be done,” and he would tackle tasks that matched his skill set, the Richmond native explained.
In fall of 2017, he took on the role of church property manager.
While Mr. Irving rarely performs the “grunt work,” he diagnoses infrastructure problems — roof, HVAC and electrical, for example — and lines up contractors to fix them.
For his most challenging project, he served as Saint James’ construction manager on the approximately $3 million, 10,000-square-foot addition to the school and renovations to the church and existing classrooms.
First- through fifth-grade students moved into the new education wing in January 2019.
Mr. Irving joined the church’s 12-member vestry in 2019 and last year became the advisory panel’s senior warden.
“It’s almost like a chairman of the board,” he said of the leadership post. “The senior warden is a partner with the rector, which is what the Episcopalians call the chief priest. It’s my job to try to help the rector (Rev. Ben Maas) in whatever ways I can . . . to be a sounding board.”
Among his administrative accomplishments, Mr. Irving wrote Saint James’ COVID-19 plan to eventually allow safe in-person use of the church, which closed for services and other gatherings last March because of the deadly pandemic.
He also helped prepare the school’s COVID-19 re-opening plan. Its approximately 200 students resumed in-person instruction last fall.
His volunteer work for the church totals about 20 hours per week. He also volunteers at the Fauquier Free Clinic, logging at least four hours a week there.
“I do that because I believe I’m doing God’s work.”
Near New Baltimore
IT manager, Northrop Grumman Corp., Reston, 1999-2016; Director of Public Works, Director of Transition Force, Vint Hill Farms Station, 1981-99; electrical engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mount Weather, 1980; deputy area facility engineer, U.S. Army, Camps Humphreys and Page, South Korea, 1976-80.
• Military service
Retired lieutenant colonel, Air Force, 1972-76; active reserve, 1982-99.
• Why do you do volunteer?
Life has been pretty good to me — the passing of my wife notwithstanding. And it’s just time to give back. I’ve been fortunate. For those who have been given much, much is expected. And that’s me.
Two children, four grandchildren. His wife Mi Cha died at age 65 in 2016.
Master’s degree, engineering administration, Virginia Tech, 1999; bachelor’s degree, electrical engineering, Virginia Tech, 1972; Huguenot High School, Richmond, 1968.
• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
About 34 years.
• Why do you live here?
When we came back from Korea, we lived in Stephens City (near Winchester). But I started working at Vint Hill, and we finally just moved to Fauquier to get rid of the commute.
• How do you describe this county?
It’s still rural; it’s very peaceful. There’s enough to do, in my way of thinking, but not too much to do. In other words, we’re not like Northern Virginia. And, I hope it stays that way.
What I worry may happen is we get a lot of people escaping Northern Virginia, then want to make it just like Northern Virginia.
• What would you change about Fauquier?
Make service districts (areas the county targets for dense, mixed development) robust.
But we’ve got to be careful not to overbuild, because you’re going to have a lot of empty storefronts. And I’m not sure you’re going to fill them all.
They’ve got to rebuild the (Route) 28 corridor from Nokesville all the way to (Route) 29. I think 28 needs to be four lanes. There are so many wrecks. And industrialize it a little bit. Take advantage of the transportation service that they have there — the highway and the (Norfolk Southern) rail head.
• What do you do for fun?
I take Korean language lessons, which is kind of a diversion. And, I think it stimulates my mind. I have an old Mercedes Benz that I kind of play around with and work on. After four years of not playing it, I’m taking up golf again.
At my age, if you don’t keep busy, your mind will deteriorate.
• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
In general, Old Town Warrenton.
• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I think it will be a little more crowded. I think it will grow a little more but not as much as many people think.
I think the roads may be a little busier. I’m already seeing (Route) 29, between (Route) 605 and Warrenton, a lot more traffic.
• Favorite TV show?
I don’t have one. I watch a lot of Korean TV — Korean dramas — and anything NFL.
• Favorite movie?
“The Sound of Music.”
• Favorite book?
“Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World” by Margaret MacMillan.
• Favorite vacation spot?
Blackberry Farm, Tenn.
• Favorite food?
Just about anything Korean.
• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
My father: Be a man of your word, and do the job right.
• Who’s your hero and why?
My late wife, Mi Cha. She was born in Korea in a house with a grass roof and progressed to where she was able to send her younger brothers and sisters to school, buy a house for her family and taught herself English.
She taught me how to be good person. When she was dying of pancreatic cancer, she showed me how face death with grace and dignity.
• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I would probably take a small amount and blow it on something, give a little bit more to my kids and probably 80 percent to charity.
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