Joseph Temple Henley Jr., 82, a well-known local farmer and former Albemarle County supervisor, died at home near Crozet on Friday of a combination of old age and a blood disorder, according to family.
Henley took over the family farming operations in 1960, when his father died in a tractor accident.
“He turned it all around,” his son, Tim Henley, who now runs the operation, said.
The elder Henley, a Virginia Tech graduate and an Army veteran, increased the size of the cattle herd, added a pig-raising operation, switched apple varieties in the family orchard, added other fruits, invested in a cold-storage facility and expanded into timber, his son said.
Winesaps, Yorks and Albemarle pippins gave way to red and golden delicious, which were then in ascendancy.
The timber provided a crucial financial cushion when other crops didn’t bring in enough profit to support the farm, which had been in the family since the early 1930s.
“That’s what really kept him going, and that’s what got him out of debt,” his son said. “To this day, that’s what we’re falling back on.”
The timber didn’t start wholly as a financial venture, though.
“Daddy was crazy about training bird dogs and hunting grouse,” his son said.
An avid hunter and fisherman, he served wild game at the Tuesday night supper club he hosted at the orchard’s packing shed. The meals were attended by as many as 30 people, and eventually began attracting political guests.
He also served for a number of years on the county’s Board of Supervisors. His father had served on the school board, and Henley became a respected conservative voice on the county board.
“He was not a talkative guy on the board, but whatever he said, you could go to the bank on,” said the Rev. Peter Way, who was Henley’s contemporary on the board.
He met his wife, Joan, when he was a student at Virginia Tech and she was a counselor at a children’s camp at Sherando Lake.
“It was love at first sight — for him,” she said. “It took me a while.”
The two would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary Sunday.
The entire family now lives on the farm, and Henley was a force there, too.
“As busy as he was, you really couldn’t hide from him,” his daughter-in-law, Sarah Henley, said.
Henley remained active around the farm until last summer, and handed over responsibility for spraying the orchard only about three years ago.
Roughly the last decade was spent getting the operation in shape to pass on, including planting a variety of apple types to ensure the next generations have plenty to choose from.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by sons Tim and Joseph Temple III, daughters Tracy Barnett and Temple Jensen, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
There will be a memorial service 4 p.m. Saturday at the Crozet United Methodist Church.