Glenn H. Updike Sr., former Southampton County supervisor, passes away at 82

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, June 4, 2022

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Glenn H. Updike Sr., a former member of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors, unwavering advocate for county issues, passionate teacher of livestock management, and loving husband and father, passed away Saturday, May 28, at the age of 82 after a brief illness.

Glenn H. Updike Sr.

Updike served on the Board of Supervisors from Jan. 1, 2012-Dec. 31, 2015. His wife of 54 years, Lynda T. Updike, now serves on the board.

“I have lost not only my husband of 54 years but also my best friend,” she said Monday evening, May 30. 

They shared a lot of experiences, many related to the farm life they enjoyed together that was made possible by the county’s agriculturally rich land.

“We did a lot of things together, whether it was docking lamb tails, fixing a fence or delivering a calf,” Lynda said.

Glenn’s obituary notes that he graduated from Virginia Tech and earned a master’s degree from Virginia State University. He served in the National Guard, and he also worked for the Virginia Extension Service for years while working the family farm.

He was a longtime member of Barnes United Methodist Church where he served as Sunday School secretary, and he was a member of Newsoms Ruritan Club where his handle was “cow whisperer,” the obit continued before noting that his entire life was dedicated to recruiting kids for 4-H, helping them with livestock projects and teaching life lessons along the way. 

“In just the two days since his passing, so many people have told me how much he meant to them when they were 4-H members, helping them halter break their steers, treating a sick 4-H steer or offering advice,” Lynda said. “Several have told me that everything they know about cattle they learned from Glenn.”

She said he did not mind when someone called at 2 a.m. with a calving problem.  

“He didn’t hesitate to assist,” she said. “More than once he stayed up all night with someone else’s sick animal.”

She noted that Glenn practiced no discrimination with regard to who he helped.

“He was totally color blind,” she said. “He cared not if it was a Black or White person who had a livestock problem. His main concern was helping a four-legged creature having a problem that he could alleviate.”

His obituary stated that he helped organize the Emporia 4-H Livestock Show.

Jerusalem District Supervisor and Board Chair Dr. Alan W. Edwards recalled Glenn and him once being the only conservatives on the Board of Supervisors. Edwards said he knew him well and will miss him greatly.

“His primary concern was maintaining and protecting the lifestyle we have here in Southampton County,” Edwards said. “He loved the county, loved the people, loved to farm, and that was his major concern — protecting it from any outside interests that he felt were detrimental to that.

“I would say that he stuck to his guns, no matter what the flak he caught,” Edwards added. “If he had an idea he thought was right, he stuck with it.”

Southampton County Administrator Michael W. Johnson said, “Glenn was a strong believer in grassroots democracy, leading by example with regular attendance and active participation in Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors’ meetings. He was passionate about preserving Southampton County’s proud agricultural heritage and served as a leading voice for fiscal conservatism. He will be deeply missed.”

Edwards said, “I don’t remember but one Planning Commission meeting that he did not show up to talk during the public comment hour. And I’ve been on the Planning Commission for 32 years, and he shows up regularly at the board meetings and the Planning Commission.”

Glenn was known for saying he thought his wife is doing a better job on the Board of Supervisors than he did, denoting the love and support he had for her.

“I’ll tell you the other thing he was dedicated to was his wife and family,” Edwards said. “He was very unselfish, sharing whatever they needed.”

Glenn had been a patient of Dr. Edwards’ for years, and Edwards recalled a humorous story about him that spoke to his love of animals.

“Sometimes his animals there at the farm would get in the car with him,” Edwards said.

One day, when Edwards was at work at Southampton Medical Center, he went up to the front of his office to hear his front office staff looking out the window and laughing.

“I looked out the window, and I said, ‘What’s the matter?’” Edwards said. “They said, ‘Well, there’s chickens running all over the parking lot.’

“Well, here comes Mr. Updike in, and I said, ‘Glenn, I think your chickens got out.’ He said, ‘There were a bunch of them in the car, and I never bothered to get them out.’ So we went out to help him catch chickens and put them back in the car.”