Saying Goodbye to Augusta County’s Bob Dickerman

“Did you know someone named Bob Dickerman?” my husband called up the steps this morning. His question came out of the blue and made me stop what I was doing.

“Why?” I asked. “Did he die?”

Indeed, Mr. Mitchell had seen the obituary in the Staunton News Leader. I quickly pulled it up on my laptop to be sure it was the Bob Dickerman I knew from politics in Augusta County.

Sure enough, it was him. As I read of his amazingly versatile and far-reaching life, it again struck me how we don’t really know most people until they die. That is when their life’s achievements and accomplishments come to light in a brief end-of-life wrap-up known as an obituary.

How sad.

And how enlightening.

When I was very active in Augusta County Republican Committee leadership in the George W. Bush years, Bob and I crossed paths a number of times — he with the Augusta County Democrats, I with the local GOP. He was a bit crusty, and I am certain he made more of an impression on me than I on him. Too bad I was such an activist in those days and didn’t take the time to get to know him a little better.

He had a mountainside farm in Buffalo Gap on the Old Parkersburg Turnpike, a gravel road that traverses the national forest through the Appalachian Mountains to Deerfield Valley in western Augusta. Born in Staunton, after his many years of foreign service, he came home and spent his final years here.

Bottom line: this is why I have grown to dislike extreme partisanship and the fact that we often see people only through a one-dimensional political lens. Everyone is so much more than that, and reading about Bob’s life showed all of him that I did not know. And didn’t take time to know. It’s my loss.

Charles Robert (“Bob”) Dickerman

Staunton – Charles Robert (“Bob”) Dickerman, a Staunton native who served the United States for 30 years as a Foreign Service Officer, died on November 8th, 2018 on his farm in Buffalo Gap. He was 81 years old and had suffered from a rare neurological disorder: Multiple Systems Atrophy with Parkinson’s.

Bob was born in Staunton on November 29, 1936, the son of the late Staunton physician, Dr. Charles Pingrey Dickerman and his first wife, Stella Irene Mallory. Bob received his BA from Antioch College, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University‘s Kennedy School of Government.

During this time, he was also a faculty level research fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs. In addition, he graduated from the State Department’s prestigious year-long Senior Seminar on US Foreign and Domestic Policies.

Prior to joining the United States Information Service in 1962, Bob was a journalist on three Midwestern newspapers, including THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. As a career diplomat in the Foreign Service he specialized in cultural affairs and media relations.

During his more than 30-year career, he served in Finland, Somalia, South Vietnam, Norway, Iceland, West Germany, the Eastern Caribbean, and Denmark. He worked in several languages including Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, German, Vietnamese, and Italian.

After his retirement from federal service in 1992, Bob continued to be engaged in politics and his interest never ceased in how our country is viewed by many people overseas. He followed the news in many countries, and maintained many friendships with former colleagues and friends.

In his conversations and writings, he discussed and addressed some of our most significant problems: racism and other forms of intolerance and prejudice, our lack of universal health care, and social inequalities. He was intensely concerned about the decline in American prestige and respect and was active in the Democratic parties of Arlington, Staunton, and Augusta County.

Bob Dickerman is survived by his daughters Julia Torres and Anneke Braisted of Cary, NC, their husbands Nehemiah and Timothy, his grandchildren Liam and Kaia, and his former wife (and best friend) Gerhild Sachs Dickerman of Durham, NC. In addition, he is survived by his brother, Dr. William Dickerman, his half-sister, Anne Reid, and his half-brother, Dr. Will Dickerman. A Celebration of Life will be held with family and friends at his beloved farm. Contributions in his memory may be made to Planned Parenthood.

My condolences to Bob’s family and friends.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Shenandoah Valley looking west to North Mountain Range
Appalachian Mountains | Augusta County, Virginia