By Jesse Wood
At the age of 103, Robert Shipley, Sr., of Linville Creek Road in Vilas, passed away on Friday afternoon at Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca, S.C.
A member of the N.C. Livestock Hall of Fame and the WNC Agricultural Hall of Fame, among other awards and recognitions, Shipley was well known in the agricultural community in the High Country and beyond.
“Everyone in agriculture in Watauga will fondly miss Mr. Shipley. I would say a majority of our local farmers were taught by him at some point,” Watauga County Cooperative Extension Executive Director Jim Hamilton said. “It was truly an honor to work with him.”
The patriarch of three generations of cattle farmers, Shipley farmed land in Vilas that has been in the family since 1872. After World War II, where he served in the U.S. Air Force, Shipley accepted a position as vocational agriculture teacher at Cove Creek High School and later taught at Watauga High School until retirement in 1977.
At one point, five of the seven principals in the county’s elementary schools were former students of Shipley. He advocated for travel being apart of education and organized and sponsored trips with students around the country and to Mexico and Canada.
When he turned 100 years old in 2012, Shipley and his late wife, Agnes, received the Wade Brown Community Recognition Award and it was said at the time that both hadn’t missed a single Farm City Banquet in Watauga County, attending more than 50 annual banquets.
He was married to Agnes Shipley for 71 years. They were known as the “first couple of agriculture” in the High Country. Agnes passed away at the age of 96 in 2013.
Mr. Shipley was active in the Mountaineer Ruritan Club, which he helped organize, and was a founding member of Cove Creek Grange and Boone Rotary Club.
“He organized and managed the Cove Creek Horse Show for 20 years; he operated a sheep dipping business for many years; and, when rural electrification was getting established, he visited farmers to get their permission to have power lines go through their property,” according to a script from a 2012 Boone Area Chamber of Commerce annual awards event.
In 2010, the N.C. Extension Services established an educational foundation in the name of Robert and Agnes Shipley, and a few years prior to that the couple was honored by community members with an endowment fund to benefit youth agricultural programs in Watauga County.
“The Shipleys established an endowment for 4H and youth in agriculture a few years ago. It is now vested and helped someone go to 4H camp last year. We’re hoping that it will continue to grow to honor the memory of someone who spent more than a career helping to advance agriculture in our county and in our state,” Hamilton added.
Shipley was a member of the Henson Chapel United Methodist Church, where services will be conducted on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 1 p.m. The body will lie in state from noon to 1 p.m.
Officiating will be Reverend Katherine Cornell. Burial will follow in the Cove Creek Baptist Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends Friday evening, Aug. 21, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Hampton Funeral Service. Online condolences may be sent to the Shipley Family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com.