In Memoriam: Pungo’s Roy David Flanagan Jr., farmer and family man

Roy David Flanagan Jr., seated in the center of the image, is is seen with his family, including Susan Flanagan, his wife of 50 years, in a December 2018 portrait taken at Flanagan Farm. [Courtesy]

PUNGO — Farmer Roy David Flanagan Jr., who died on Tuesday, April 7, in his Pungo home after a long illness, will be remembered for the turkeys, sweet potatoes and crops he raised – and for his devotion to family and community. He was 82.

Flanagan was active in the agricultural community, earning recognition as the Virginia Beach Man of the Year in Agriculture in 1995, an honor that is known today as the Excellence in Agriculture Award.

A longtime turkey and produce farmer, Flanagan served in a number of leadership positions, including as a member of the Virginia Beach Agricultural Advisory Commission and as a member of Virginia Beach Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

His legacy is in agriculture and his devotion to his family, according to Susan Flanagan, his wife of 50 years.

“He was known for his sweet potatoes and his turkeys,” she said during an interview on Wednesday, April 8, “and his children and grandchildren were the apple of his eye.”

A lifelong Pungo resident, Flanagan was the son of Roy David Flanagan Sr. and Alice Flanagan. He attended Creeds Elementary School and graduated from Princess Anne High School in 1956. Farming was his heritage as well as his legacy, according to produce farmer Steve Barnes.

“He was a fixture in the county,” said Barnes.  “His family has been farming here for generations.”

Flanagan and his future wife, who graduated from Princess Anne High School in 1958, met when she was visiting her aunt, who lived near the Flanagan home.

Susan Flanagan recalls that she and David had their first date in 1966, but she left the area for three years to teach in Maryland.  They corresponded while she was away, and they married in July 1969 after she returned to Virginia Beach.

Her husband was known for his generosity, Susan Flanagan said, recalling that older people would often come to him for help if their Social Security checks didn’t last throughout the month.

“He would give them money with no thought of ever being repaid, and sometimes he would get it back, but sometimes he wouldn’t,” she said.

“He was very much a gentleman,” said Don Horsley, a Blackwater farmer who worked with Flanagan for at least four decades on boards, including the Virginia Beach Agricultural Advisory Commission, the Southern States Chesapeake Cooperative Board of Directors and the Virginia Beach Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

Flanagan, Horsley said, was thoughtful, calm and always active in the community.

Virginia State Del. Barry Knight, a farmer who represents the 81st District, first met Flanagan when, as a teenager, Knight worked for dairy farmer A.C. Brown. Knight accompanied Brown to meetings among area farmers, where he met Flanagan.

“Of course, I first knew him as Mr. Flanagan,” Knight said, “but, when I got older, he told me that I should call him ‘David’ now.”

Knight remembered Flanagan as calm and polite – and he also remembers the dinners that David and Susan Flanagan would host each year after the turkeys were harvested – a Thanksgiving and Christmas event that draws neighbors and kin to the family farm in Pungo.

“He was the Princess Anne Turkey Man,” agreed Bobby Vaughan, a farmer and the president of the Virginia Beach Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

Vaughan served with Flanagan on the Farm Bureau board and worked with him in other community activities and on church committees at Charity United Methodist Church. They had known each other since they were children attending that church.  

David Flanagan was a few years older, Vaughan said, but he always impressed him as being very calm and polite. The two became life-long friends.

“He was never an excitable person,” said Vaughan. “He was always very nice and polite, and we always enjoyed each other’s company.  He was a good friend.”

City Councilmember Barbara Henley, a farmer who represents the Princess Anne District, also remembers Flanagan from their childhood days at Charity, and she and her family have remained close friends with the Flanagans throughout the years.  

Their sons, Bruce Henley and Roy David III, are very close in age, and she and Susan Flanagan co-authored Charity: Its Past and Its People, a history of the rural church.

Henley remembers Flanagan as devoted to family, church and community — and added that he would be missed in Pungo.

“You could always count on David,” she said.

Flanagan raised Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys primarily to market directly to individuals.

Because he had to slaughter them himself, he appealed to friends and neighbors to help with the process. Susan Flanagan and other ladies in the community would prepare a large holiday meal, and everyone would enjoy the food and socialization after the work was done.

“The neighbors would all get together, and the wives would cook a huge dinner,” said Pungo resident Randy Tillman, who also helped with the harvest. “He’d also have sweet potatoes there, so people could pick up their sweet potatoes when they got their turkeys.”

Flanagan also reigned over Pungo as Honorary Mayor at the Annual Pungo Strawberry Festival in 1999, when Susan served as First Lady and as the Witch of Pungo. Despite medical problems in later life, he remained active in the community, and he passed on his farming legacy to his son, Roy David Flanagan III, who also serves as the Virginia Beach extension agent.  

Roy David Flanagan Jr. is survived by his wife, Susan and two children, son Roy David Flanagan III and daughter-in-law Jeannie Flanagan, daughter Amy Irving and son-in-law Rick Irving, and seven grandchildren.

Because of the current new coronavirus pandemic, a private ceremony was held at Charity United Methodist Church in Pungo. His family will schedule a celebration of life when restrictions on gatherings are eased. 

The Flanagan family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Charity United Methodist Church Building Fund, 4080 Charity Neck Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23456.

Farmer Roy David Flanagan Jr., along with one of his seven grandchildren, is seen on his tractor in this family photo. [Courtesy]

© 2020 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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