John Rector Friant (1919 – 2011)

Clarke County is saddened by the loss of a pillar of its society and long-time community activist.

John Rector Friant, of Berryville, Virginia died peacefully at home on Sunday, January 16, 2011 surrounded by family and friends. He will at last be re-joined by the love of his life, Nancy Leachman Friant, who predeceased him in 2002. Mr. Friant was born on Dec. 3, 1919 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the son of Bertha R. Friant and Julian N. Friant.

John Rector Friant at his farm, Bel Voi, in Berryville, Virginia

In 1932 his family moved to Washington DC where his father served as Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture under President Roosevelt and young John soon became a page in the US Senate. He then earned an Economics degree from Georgetown University in Washington, DC and was working towards his Masters in Agricultural Economics at Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa, when he was called to military service.

In March of 1942 he was drafted into the Army and proudly served as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the Army Air Force in the Pacific theater.

Upon returning to Washington DC after the war, John 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 Company and was an active member of the Clarke County Chamber of Commerce, Ruritan Club, Library Advisory Council, and St. Bridget’s Catholic Church.   He served on several boards: The Barns of Rose Hill, Grafton School, and was a founding board member of Heritage Child Development Center, and former Chairman of the Clarke County Planning Commission. His initiatives included Clarke County Recreational Center, The 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 paw paw ice cream, he convinced Norfolk Southern to improve the at-grade crossing on Main Street at no expense to the Town of Berryville.

In 1998 he was honored as Clarke County Citizen of the Year.

Surviving family members include a son, John R. Friant, Jr. of Berryville; 5 daughters,   Katherine (Clissy) Funkhouser of Charles Town, WV, Mary Veilleux of Berryville, VA, Margaret Pittman of Virginia Beach, VA,   Nina Geiger of Waynesboro, PA, and Caroline Watkins of Charlottesville, VA,   22 grandchildren and 1 great-grandson. He was predeceased by his wife Nancy, his parents, Bertha and Julian Friant, a sister, Katherine Post, and a daughter Molly P. Friant.

John Friant and family

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 at Enders and Shirley Funeral Home on Friday evening, from 5-7 pm. A funeral Mass will be held at 2 pm on Saturday, January 22nd at St. Bridget’s Church in Berryville and a private burial will follow.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Bridget’s Chapel in the Field, The Nancy L. Friant Scholarship for the Performing Arts at Clarke County High School, or the Heritage Child Development Center.

John Friant Sr. with his son, John Friant Jr.


  1. Mr. Friant was a good man. May he rest in peace.

  2. A very great gentleman and civic leader, John was a firm supporter of education.

    He will be sorely missed.


  3. Andy Kiser says:

    God rest the spirit of a man who truly lived out his faith, was a true pillar of the community in so many ways, and who loved his country, his family, and his fellow man as fully and without bias as ever a man could. God’s Peace be with his family, friends, and this community.

  4. My condolences to the family. I did not know him, but I appreciate a man who is faithful to his marriage and willing to impact his community.

  5. Mr Friant is my neighbor and will be greatly missed. He was very active and strong and his passing surprises me. It is such a huge loss for Berryville and all of Clarke. It really saddened me that VDOT plowed over his beautiful garden at the triangle. I will miss the cotton plants that he grows along the road! I regret that I did not volunteer to assist him nor tell him while he was living Thank You for making our community better. Rest In Piece — Richie Blick

  6. My oldest uses her dictionary from the Dictionary Project all the time. I will have her read this article so she can see just how much one person can do for their community.

  7. George L. Ohrstrom II says:

    John was a real example to me when I first arrived in the county. He taught me the importance of community service. I remember wondering “why me” when he first asked me to help try and raise money to fund the Clarke County Activities Center in the park.
    That was just the start of many fundraising activities together…..I will miss him, as will Clarke County

  8. Last year on his birthday, a plane had been hired to celebrate and flew over our home with a message for him. I knew instantly who it was for and it made me smile. My thoughts are with the family – his shoes were great and can never be filled by another…