Hedgepeth, Roger Edward

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Roger Edward Hedgepeth, 89, of Blacksburg, Virginia, died of natural causes on Tuesday, 12 November 2019. He was born 17 January 1930 in Norfolk, Virginia, second son of Atna and Mattie Hedgepeth. Atna was employed by Ford Motor Company in Norfolk. His older brother, Ralph, served in the Air Force during World War II and later had a career in banking and finance. Roger attended Maury High School and Old Dominion University.

Roger transferred to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and completed his studies in Mechanical Engineering. After graduation, he worked briefly in Philadelphia as a design engineer but then served in the Army during the Korean Conflict. Following his service in the Army, he returned to VPI, obtained a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, and subsequently taught thermodynamics and related courses at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. As a college student, he played saxophone and clarinet in bands that toured in Virginia and West Virginia. In the Army, he played in orchestras for officers’ clubs and military marching bands.

He married the true love of his life, Jenny, in 1956, with whom he was delighted to spend the next 55 years discovering the joys of a shared life of broad interests together.

Roger also was a consulting engineer who designed hydraulic components for industrial and military clients during his career at Electro-Tech located in Blacksburg. He retired from his professional career from Career Services at Virginia Tech.

Aside from his professional pursuits, Roger surrounded himself with music and the arts. His record collection earned him the nickname of “Mr. Vinyl” among his mechanical engineering friends. Especially during his earlier years at VPI, he and Jenny were hosts to gatherings of musicians, actors, and artists from all over the world. His musical preferences were boundless – classical, country, jazz, rock and roll, experimental and avant-garde and many other genres. He collected and preserved copies of prints of pastoral English countryside images and early twentieth century Modern artists.

In 1980, after getting involved in his own neighborhood advocacy group as a spokesperson, he decided to seek political office to be a fair and informed representative of citizen interests. He served for two years on Blacksburg Town Council and the next twenty-four years as its Mayor.

Although he considered himself to be akin to an ex-patriot American living in a peacetime, pre-atomic Paris, he was never more at home, and never ventured far, from Blacksburg. He truly loved everything about this town – its places, its history, its potential, and most of all, its citizens, both temporary and permanent.

As mayor, he synthesized his appreciation of the arts, the precision of an engineer’s thinking, and his understanding of the indomitable human spirit to find commonality and purpose among all of his constituents, and savored the opportunity to exude charm, wit, empathy, knowledge, and intelligence to craft paths to progress. Always humble about his achievements, he instead may well have admitted to being proud of having had the chance to make a difference.

As a true friend of mammalian pets, especially dogs, Roger was a proud owner (with Jenny) of Barney, Komisch, and Sheba, and in his childhood, Stumpy. But Roger also provided baloney and hot dogs for all the neighborhood dogs, and any stray wanderer dog in need of nourishment – they were all deserving and worthy to him.

Roger is predeceased by his wife, Jenny, his parents Atna and Mattie, and his brother Ralph. He is survived by his children, Natalie, her husband, David Dierks, and grandchildren Taylor and Austin of Bristol, Virginia; Michael, his wife, Shelley Martin, and grandchildren Risher and Azat of Blacksburg, Virginia.

To honor the memory of Roger, it would be in keeping with his wishes that donations are made to a favorite charity, that time is volunteered to a favorite activity in service to a community, that thanks and tributes are extended to military veterans, that attendance to concerts and artists’ shows is manifest, and stray dogs get hot dogs for treats.

A public memorial will take place on Sunday, 8 December 2019, from 4PM-6PM at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg.

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