John L. Machen Sr., 88, passed away peacefully in the comfort of his home in Mobjack, Va., on Monday, June 19, 2023, surrounded with the love of his family and friends. He was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle and brother. He is survived by his loving wife, Linda, who brought much joy and laughter to his life, and her son, Zell Railey; and his sons and daughter, John Lee, of Mobjack, Naudain of Raleigh, N.C., and George (Donna) of North. He was “Granddad” to eight wonderful grandchildren: Leland (Xin Wei), Phillip, Mark (Emily), James, John (Heather), Esther, Ruth and Peter, and father-in-law to Cindy Machen. His life was blessed with nieces and nephews and many, many dear friends. John was the son of the late Emmett and Isabel Machen of Mobjack and was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 50 years, Pam, and his siblings, Elizabeth Warren, Helen White and George Machen.
John was a man of many interests with a thirst for knowledge. He had a phenomenal memory and could quote poetry and lines of Shakespeare, sing the most random of songs or tell you the history of Mobjack, Mathews and the Chesapeake Bay. He loved raising Japanese koi and spent many years pursuing that hobby.
As a young man, he helped his father harvest oysters and crabs from their boat, the Canary Bird, and helped create the family business, Mobjack Nurseries. He graduated from Virginia Military Institute with a degree in Chemistry, followed by several years of service in the Air Force stationed in Korea. Returning to Mobjack with his wife Pam, he worked long, hard days to support his young family working on the water and expanding the nursery. He became an accomplished plantsman and businessman who employed a large number of people from the Mathews community. He had strong loyalty to and from his employees and several people like Harold Smith and the late Wilbur Johnson, Monk White and Byron Duff all worked with him for a large part of their adult lives. He particularly enjoyed giving young kids their first job–teaching them skills and the value of hard work. He was especially proud of Danny Pennington, David Ashberry and Wilson Roane, among others, who moved into very successful careers after starting in the nursery.
In retirement, he enjoyed flying his ultralight airplane locally and on extended trips with Pam. They also traveled extensively on their cabin cruiser, the Mobjack, ranging from New York to the Florida Keys. John and Linda also cruised on the Mobjack and had a memorable trip up the Potomac River, including a brief “run in” with a Navy range boat from Dahlgren during a live fire exercise. With Linda, he enjoyed new pastimes with her love of music, estate sales, dancing, caring for their German Shepherd, “Jake,” and spending many happy hours sitting together on the porch swing.
A longtime Episcopalian, he was very involved in his church home, Kingston Parish, and also enjoyed the fellowship of Grace-Providence UMC with Linda.
Even though his body began to fail him in recent years, he kept his wit and sense of humor. He particularly enjoyed teasing medical professionals and always elicited a laugh with his often-outrageous comments. The family thanks the wonderful staff of the Mathews Rescue Squad, Riverside Walter Reed Hospital and Riverside Hospice who managed his home care and helped the family through his illness.
A celebration of his life with Holy Communion will be held on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at 11 a.m. at the Mobjack waterfront. In case of rain, service will be held at Kingston Parish House Chapel. Twenty rooms will be available at the Hampton Inn, Gloucester. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Mathews Rescue Squad, 94 Cricket Hill Road, Hudgins, Va. 23076. Faulkner Funeral Homes, Foster-Faulkner Chapel, Mathews, Va., is assisting the family.