Donald Lee Rice 1929-2021 Obituary
“I might as well – ‘can’t fish!” was his well-worn playful lament.
But now Donald Lee (Don) Rice has all the time the Lord will allow in His kingdom for fishing or writing or hiking or traveling or being with family and friends – things that he loved to do.
Donald Rice passed peacefully on July 3, 2021, at age 92, at the Davis Medical Center in Elkins. He was the last surviving member of the Lewis Jordan (L. J.) and Florence Nutter Rice family.
When Don was born in Bridgeport, West Virginia, on May 26, 1929, few would have guessed that he would become the preeminent historian for the county where his ancestors had farmed and settled since before the Civil War. As the youngest son in a family of ten children, Don grew up and went to schools in Randolph County watching, and hoping to follow, in the footsteps of his older brothers (Robert, Willard, Paul, and James) and his sisters (Lois, Virginia, Rita, and Eleanor) with their many accomplishments in academic, athletic, social, and military pursuits. (One younger sister, Mary, died in infancy.)
Don graduated from Elkins High School in 1947; he was President of his Senior Class and was a standout football player with enough skill to go on and play collegiate football on scholarship at Davis and Elkins College. He achieved success there, both in the classroom and on the athletic field. His Political Science and Economics degree from D&E in 1951 led him to continue studies in that same subject area at West Virginia University where he attained his master’s degree in Political Science.
Don began his long career in public education as a teacher at Durbin School in Pocahontas County, and Elkins High School, and served as Principal of Harman School. He retired in 1987 as Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Randolph County, following many years of service as an administrator in the county school system. He held advanced certificates in education which allowed him to do a variety of jobs in teaching and education administration. He also retired from the West Virginia Army National Guard, with over 20 years of service, of which nine years were full-time active service. He rose to the rank of Master Sergeant (MSG), but was officially retired at the rank of Sergeant First Class (SFC).
Donald Rice was an 80-year member of First United Methodist Church in Elkins.
Don had three real loves in his life – his family, the study of local history, and exploring the out-of-doors. He was married to his wife of 68 years, Carolyn Canfield Rice, who survives him. His wife’s Canfield ancestors settled parts of the lower Shavers Fork area in Randolph County. His outdoor pursuits were always combined with a study of the history of a given area, so their marriage further fueled his interest in the outdoors and early Randolph County history.
His favorite fishing grounds were Shavers Fork of the Cheat River, and Glady Fork and Laurel Fork, east of Elkins. He held firm to the idea that there is no better meal to be had than “trout, ramps, and fried potatoes” and jokingly regarded trout as the “only fish worthy of the chase.” He fished for trout during his travels around the country, from Virginia to Alaska, in states like Pennsylvania, Maine, South Dakota, and Wyoming. He especially enjoyed his backpacking trips into the Wind River Range of Wyoming, where he caught “more fish than he ever knew existed.” He loved exploring Alaska and once had occasion to cross north of the Arctic Circle with his son, Tom, and grandson, Keith. He finally realized a long-held dream of having a log cabin on the Glady Fork River on land that adjoined his cherished Monongahela National Forest. He spent as much time there as he could in recent years during trout fishing and deer hunting seasons.
Don and Carolyn had three children, all living and married, with children – Lynne Petrosky (m. Phil) of Buckhannon, WV, Tom Rice (m. Melissa), of Xenia, OH, and Donna McClung (m. Ben) of Sissonville, WV. They also had many nieces and nephews who were very special to Don. A total of eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren live and work in various states and will carry on the traditions and legacy he established around his love of history and the out-of-doors.
Don published a number of books on the history of the region, including Randolph 200: A Bicentennial History of Randolph County, West Virginia and Elkins Centennial Album. He authored several articles for The West Virginia Encyclopedia and West Virginia’s Goldenseal magazine. He wrote or contributed information for many articles in local newspapers and magazines. His early interest in military history focused mostly on Civil War activity around Randolph County. Later writings reflect an expanded interest in World Wars I and II, with special emphasis on people from the local area who rose to prominence during those wars.
Since the 1950’s he was involved in the Randolph County Historical Society. He was President of the Society for close to 40 years and held other offices on county and state boards and committees related to the preservation of state and local history. He was the driving force and primary volunteer behind the establishment of the Randolph County Historical Society Museum at the historic Blackman-bosworth Store in Beverly, WV. That effort started in the mid to late ‘70s and continued into his later years. The volunteer hours are incalculable. No one ever loved his hometown, his state, and its history more than Donald Rice did.
The family will receive friends at the Lohr & Barb Funeral Home of Elkins from 4 to 7 PM, Friday. Final Rites will be conducted at the funeral home, Saturday, July 10, 2021 at 11 AM. The Rev. Brian Seders will officiate and interment will follow at the Elkins Memorial Gardens on the Country Club Road, Elkins, WV. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial gifts be made to the RANDOLPH COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM FUND and sent to PO Box 342, Elkins, WV 26241.
Donald Lee Rice 1929-2021 Obituary