Former CEO of poultry and feed company Rocco Enterprises, Robert Hopkins “Twig” Strickler, 90, died May 24, 2019.

Strickler was born September 27, 1928. He graduated from Harrisonburg High School in Virginia in 1946 and earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration in 1950 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. During his senior year at Virginia Tech, he was commissioned into the United States Army as a 2LT after completing ROTC and was stationed in Germany for two years.

After he returned to the Shenandoah Valley in 1953, Strickler resumed his work within the small family business, Rocco Feeds. By the time he retired as CEO in 1985, Rocco Feeds had expanded into a large food company known as Rocco Enterprises. The broiler division of Rocco Enterprises was purchased by George’s in 2001 and the turkey division by Cargill, also in 2001. Under the leadership of Strickler and his brother Charles, Rocco Enterprise’s turkey division grew to be one of the largest processors of turkeys in the U.S. by the mid-1980s and the company’s Shady Brook Farms brand was a pioneer in the marketing of fresh ready-to-cook turkey tray pack products like ground turkey and sausage.

Strickler was the recipient of numerous awards that recognized his visionary leadership in the poultry industry. He also received numerous other awards from public and private endeavors he was passionate about, including the Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association (now USPOULTRY) Workhorse of the Year award in 1972. Strickler played a key role in the creation of Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association’s Research Advisory Committee and served as the committee’s chairman for several years. At different points in time he was the chairman of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Virginia and Rockingham Memorial Hospital Foundation. He was also president of Farm Credit Bank of Baltimore, Southeastern Poultry and Egg Association, the Virginia Poultry Federation, the Virginia Feed Association, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, a director of Rockingham National Bank, and a Member of The Superior Business Firm Roundtable. In 2013, the National Turkey Foundation honored Strickler with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

For his philanthropic work, he was honored by the City of Harrisonburg for longstanding support of Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, which endeavors to preserve the history and heritage within the local community.


He supported several charitable organizations, most notably education programs, funding multiple full, partial scholarships, and professorships at Virginia Tech, Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College and James Madison University. To honor his parents, he started the Robert Burtner and Gladys Hopkins Strickler Honored Teachers Essay Contest in 1996 to recognize the value and importance of local educators through a student essay contest.

Strickler is survived by his wife, Nelsina Lorraine Warren; four sons, Robert W. (Lisa) Strickler, David W. (Nelly) Strickler, Scott W. (Sallie) Strickler, and Mark W. (Beverly) Strickler; 10 grandchildren, Cameron, Vaughn, Jessica, Rebekah (Brandon) Holcombe, Sam, Abby, Benjamin, Sarah, Bogdan and Eleanor.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert Burtner Strickler and Gladys Hopkins Strickler, and brother Charles O. “Chip” Strickler.

A memorial service will be held at Asbury United Methodist Church – 205 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Saturday, June 8, 2019, at 11 a.m. A reception will be held in the social hall after the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, 382 High Street, P.O. Box 716, Dayton, Virginia, 22821.