Robert Vernon Dobson, a businessman, publisher, and avid horseman who lived in Delaplane, Virginia for 50 years, died on April 16, 2020, a day before his 93rd birthday due to complications from a stroke.
Mr. Dobson was a native of Alexandria and was born on April 17, 1927, the son of George and Fanny Mae Dobson.
He attended George Washington High School in Alexandria. He joined the Navy at age 17 in 1944, where he was stationed in Newport News and served aboard a ship that patrolled the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.
When he returned to Virginia after the war, in 1949, Mr. Dobson married Gwendolyn Marie Armstrong, then a reporter for the Alexandria Gazette newspaper. She went on to become a reporter and later editor of the women’s section of the Washington Star newspaper.
Mr. Dobson’s working career began as a plasterer in a family business. Before and after his military service, he also rode with much success in jumper classes on the horse show circuit. He had learned to ride while working on a nearby farm in Mount Vernon, starting at the age of 14 and maintained a life long passion for horses. Several of his early horses came from the Army remount center in Front Royal, Virginia. One horse, Hi Jack and went on to capture many blue ribbons for his owner W.C. Viar.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Dobson and a partner opened a bowling alley off Route 1 in Alexandria called the Penn Daw Lanes. He operated the facility until the mid-1970s.
He and his family moved from Alexandria to Delaplane in 1970 and named their horse farm The Meadows. Over the years, he purchased several Thoroughbred broodmares, many of them at major horse sales at Keeneland in Kentucky and Saratoga Springs, New York. He owned racehorses that ran at tracks in West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Dobson also had a way with dogs, both training and showing them in several competitions, including a pit bull named Midge named “best bitch” in the country for five straight years at shows at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In the early 1970s, the Dobsons purchased a magazine called “Spur” that covered the horse world. In 1983, they partnered with Leonard Shapiro and his wife Vicky Moon to start Middleburg’s first local magazine, Middleburg Life, a general interest publication that covered the area.
The Dobsons bought The Iron Jockey, a women’s fashion boutique in Middleburg, in the early 1970s, and at the time of his death, Mr. Dobson owned several other buildings in the village. In the 1980s, he and several partners built and owned the Best Western in Leesburg.
Mrs. Dobson pre-deceased her husband in 1997. In 2000, he sold their home and a portion of The Meadows property, but retained 50 acres nearby, building the home where he lived until his death. He also maintained a home in Naples, Florida, and wintered there for most of the last 25 years.
Mr. Dobson was an avid tennis player and a member of the Belle Haven Country Club and the Middleburg Tennis Club.
His long-time companion, Kemlee White, survives him; two sons, Michael C. Dobson and his wife, Louie Delaplane Strother Dobson of Middleburg, and John L. Dobson and his wife, Jeannie Larkin Dobson of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his daughter, Robyn Yovanovich, in 2012 and three sisters, Jean, Georgia, and Pam.
Funeral arrangements are not complete at this time.