Meet John Huffman

Residents of Sunnyside come here from all kinds of places—big cities, rural areas, small towns, and other countries. John Huffman, who moved here in mid-January, might be unique in that he’s come from one of the most consistently small towns in the United States. He was born and raised in Burlington, West Virginia, which has a population of roughly 200—about the same population it had when West Virginia became a state during the Civil War.

After living his first eighteen years in Burlington, John went off to Hampden-Sydney College, but the year was 1941, and John knew he was about to be drafted. So during Thanksgiving vacation of his freshman year, he enlisted in the armed forces because he knew if he enlisted he could choose the branch he was interested in. He joined the Army Air Corps and by 1944 was stationed in Italy. By that time, the front was fairly fluid and unpredictable, so instead of the bombing runs he’d been on earlier, his crew dropped supplies, including 100-lb bags of flour. In 1945 he was in Foggia, Italy when the war in Europe ended. After that he was reassigned to B-29s in the Pacific. But during a 45-day leave prior to that assignment, the war in Asia ended as well. John was discharged in December of 1945, and in February of 1946 he started college again, this time at the University of Virginia.

John had originally intended to study pre-med and then go on to medical school, but he quickly decided that route was not for him, and he feels “the medical profession was better for his decision.” Instead, he studied economics and graduated from UVA in June of 1949.

For six years after his graduation, John worked for a trade association in Richmond and was even president of the Virginia Real Estate Association. But he got bored with that work and joined the commercial and industrial real estate division of Thalhimer’s department store in Richmond, where he worked for the next 40 years. As John explains, “I worked in the real estate business for 40 years and never sold a house.” John is also an animal lover and while living in Richmond became president of the local SPCA.

For many years John followed the same weekly schedule: leave work in Richmond at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, drive to Burlington, take care of family over the weekend, and leave at 5:00 on Sunday afternoon to return to Richmond. He never married and for 40 years lived in an apartment on Monument Avenue. When he retired in 1998, John returned to his birthplace in Burlington and lived there until moving to Sunnyside. He was attracted to the Sunnyside community because he had “always loved the country, and I love the views from my porch [on Woodside Drive].”

John is a great reader and is especially fond of history. His most recent read was a prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson. John also loves music and has a record library (both vinyl and CD) of classical composers he likes to listen to, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach being particular favorites. He feels it’s important to stay in shape and does so by walking and using his stationary bike daily.

One thing John does not have time or patience for is the computer. Although he has one, he claims he has “no interest” in it and only knows “how to turn it on”—he doesn’t email or get on the internet. And the more he hears about hacking and other problems associated with the computer age, the happier he is that he’s distanced from this technology. His years of bachelorhood have made John independent in other ways as well—for example, he still cooks his own meals.

Thus far John is very impressed by the caring and concern of the Sunnyside community. When you see him, please welcome him to his new home! --John Noffsinger