by Henry Lane Hull
Making time for other people is a genuine gift that often goes unrecognized. For John Hunt, that quality was a dominant characteristic of his personality. Irrespective of a person’s status in the world, John always could find the time to listen and to engage the individual in conversation. In short, he enjoyed people, and his pleasure in dealing with them showed.
Although John was a native of Sheffield, Alabama, he was a Virginian at heart. In his youth, his family moved to the Old Dominion, and he graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, before the school became more fashionably known as Virginia Tech.
His tie to the Northern Neck came with his marriage to Page Gravatt, the daughter of two of the Northern Neck’s most notable individuals, Dr. A. B. Gravatt, who practiced medicine in Kilmarnock for over 50 years, and Ruth B. Gravatt, known to all as “Dimple,” who was a principal founder of the Republican Party throughout our area.
As a young man, John began a decades-long career in banking during which he assisted many folks in achieving their financial goals, and through which he became known across the region. John’s parallel career was in the realm of philanthropy. He used his time and talents to advance many local causes that have enhanced the quality of life here in the Northern Neck. His ability to listen was key to his success in bringing people together to work for the common good.
Of particular concern for John was the preservation and conservation of Christ Church. He served for many years as the treasurer of the Foundation for Historic Christ Church, and ultimately for more years as president of the Foundation. His enthusiasm for every detail of the operation was boundless. He wanted to see the continued expansion of the educational programs and the growth of the museum from a church project into a regional attraction that today attracts scholars and tourists alike. He liked the hands-on aspects that especially encouraged children to experience history beyond the written word.
Historic Christ Church was but one of the multitude of John’s activities to which he expanded his seemingly inexhaustible energies, all to the desired end of inspiring others to follow in his lead. John liked history, and he saw the opportunities for its pursuit in the Northern Neck to be virtually limitless; however, few others could match him in covering such a wide panoply of pursuits.
For many people, John’s commitment to philanthropic causes would have constituted a full-time profession, but he had an avocation as well in the form of boating. Most boaters consider a big trip to be a cruise to Annapolis. To Page and John, a cruise meant traveling in their own boat as far as Canada. They were undaunted in setting forth for months at a time, exploring and making new friends as they plied both the local waters as well as the international seas. As veteran sailors, they were prepared and ready for the next horizon.
John had more interests and made more differences in more causes than any of us could begin to document. He was committed to doing his share, all the while finding pleasure and humor in the everyday routine of life, even if his routine left his friends agape in admiration.
Last month, John died at the age of 73. His passing from the Northern Neck scene leaves others to carry on his work, cheerfully and productively in his memory. Perhaps the most constructive way in which we could emulate John would be to listen to others. In that realm, he was unsurpassed.
John Herbert Hunt II, April 25, 1947–March 4, 2021. R.I.P.