IRVINGTON—Robert “Lee” Stephens Jr., 59, passed away peacefully at home in Irvington on August 11, 2017, surrounded by his family after a courageous battle with brain cancer.
Lee is survived by his parents, Robert “Bob Lee” Stephens and Elynor “Suzy” Neblett Stephens; his wife of 37 years, Jarrett Michael Stephens; their sons, Robert Lee Stephens III and wife, Elizabeth Pratt Stephens, and James Harry Michael Stephens; his siblings, Elynor “Nell” Stephens Heneghan and husband, Daniel Francis Heneghan; Scott McDonald Stephens and wife, Karen Atiyeh Stephens; and Randolph Wood Stephens; as well as countless cousins and loving relatives.
Lee was born on January 8, 1958, in Richmond. He was raised in Irvington, where he was the only male member of the inaugural class at Chesapeake Academy. Lee graduated from Woodberry Forest School in 1975. There he met Jarrett, was selected a prefect and excelled both in the classroom and on the athletic fields. He earned his bachelor’s from the University of Virginia in 1979, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall.
Lee began his career in the U.S. Navy as an officer on the destroyer USS Scott, focusing on anti-submarine warfare for five years while traveling the Western Hemisphere. Once on dry land, Lee earned his J.D. from the Marshall Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in 1987. He then practiced law in Richmond with Williams Mullen while serving as a member of the Naval Reserve.
His heart called him home to Irvington in 1990 to ultimately become president and general counsel of the family-owned and operated Tides Inn, which was built by Lee’s grandparents in 1947.
When the Stephens family sold The Tides Inn in 2001, Lee returned to practicing law with Spotts Fain of Richmond. In 2012, Lee planted his flag in downtown Irvington with Lee Stephens Law, PLC, where his firm became renowned in the field of conservation easements. Lee combined his knowledge of the law with his love of Virginia to help preserve some of the Commonwealth’s most cherished real estate. Lee’s reputation for strategic thinking and client service, sharpened by his hospitality upbringing, earned him respect from peers nationwide.
Lee was honored to serve on the boards of the Foundation for Historic Christ Church, Library of Virginia Foundation, North American Land Trust, Northern Neck Insurance Company, Steamboat Era Museum and Virginia Forever. Additionally, Lee was involved with the Northern Neck Land Conservancy, Resort Hotel Association, Virginia Bar Association and the Virginia Society of Association Executives.
Lee was devoted, faithful and friendly to all he knew, as well as those he did not. His infectious smile, cheesy “Dad humor,” and undeniable charisma would light up any room; even his entire hometown during the years he served as the master of ceremonies at Irvington’s Fourth of July parade. Lee was a pillar of his community, with loyal friends statewide and beyond. A man of true integrity, Lee led by example. He provided a remarkable life for his family. His sons, Rob and Harry, are grateful for his commitments to Jarrett, fatherhood and family, and strive to honor his legacy.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the “R. Lee Stephens Jr. ‘75 Scholarship Fund” at Woodberry Forest School, which was renamed by Lee’s friends and classmates on July 27 and presented to Lee in person on August 5.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, August 19, at Grace Episcopal Church in Kilmarnock, followed by a reception at The Tides Inn.