(This tribute has been updated with information on visitation and funeral dates and times)

Allan Rockwell grew up fishing and hunting. They were sports he excelled at and they molded him as a person.

But an up-and-coming metamorphosis of bean-bag-toss became a central part of his being in the later years of his life.

Nobody – OK, maybe a few – saw the infancy of Cornhole for what it would become today. But when the guy everybody knew as Rocky got involved, it was the birth of an obsession.

Sure, Rocky still fished and he managed to keep alive a streak of one buck harvested a year since he was 16. But show him four bags and two boards and he became transfixed.

He’s now hitting all airmails, catching monster bass and shooting the biggest deer man has ever seen.

Rockwell died after a long battle with prostate cancer on Wednesday morning, comfortable at home with nearly all of his family at his side.

He was 60.

“He was one of our all-time favorite human beings,” said Debbie Lowrance, who, along with husband Keith, started Virginia Beach Cornhole – an organization what was the foundation of the local tournament scene. “He was one of those special, special people and we noticed it right away when he came into Cornhole.”

Rockwell’s competitive nature pushed him to the forefront of the sport. He was almost always in the national rankings in all divisions and in 2016 was the top senior player in the world.

But as much as he was devoted to playing, it was his organizational efforts that elevated the local scene beyond what even the Lowrance’s could have imagined.

Southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina have become hotbeds for talent in what has gone from the picnic to a million dollar national industry.

Rockwell was zealous at the least about promoting the local scene and running everything from small events to national competitions. With ESPN finally realizing the sport’s significance, he often was a commentator during tournaments.

“He loved running tournaments,” said Elvis Orr, the first nationally top-ranked player from the area. “He was serious about it, but he had fun with it.

“And he loved the people in the sport as much as he loved Cornhole itself. He got an awful lot of people involved.”

Consequently, the upwelling of support for the Rockwell family was nothing shy of amazing. When word of his cancer got out, people started raising money with things like tournaments, “Rocky Strong” T-shirts – he even had his own line of bags.

His Facebook page, along with many others, have been inundated with well-wishes and memories.

“The outreach of people has been amazing,” said son Chris Rockwell. “He was known across the country in the Cornhole world.”

On a personal note, I first interviewed Rockwell for a bass fishing story in 2010 and his competitive nature shined even then. Cordial throughout the interview while fishing the Nottoway River near his Suffolk home, he could tell I was no novice and continued to step up his game as I hung tough – fish for fish – with a guy used to competition bassing.

We fished several times together and I wrote about his two-buck Christmas Eve. When he saw me at a Cornhole event, he dropped what he was doing to greet me.

My biggest regret is that I didn’t take the time to cast more lures with him.

He truly was one of the finest people to ever touch my life and that of so many others.

Farewell my friend. Here’s to lots of tight lines, big antlers and plenty of threes.

Visitations will be held from 3-5 and 7-9 at Parr Funeral Home in Suffolk – across Route 460 from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. A service will be held at Parr at 11 a.m. Monday, followed by burial at Holy Lawn, also in Suffolk.

2 Comments

  • Terry lynn Millette
    Posted October 1, 2021 12:57 am 0Likes

    Im so very sorry prayers of comfort, peace strength . Hold on to the great memories he touched many lives it sounds like in his adventures God bless

  • James Allen
    Posted October 3, 2021 5:56 pm 0Likes

    I loved this man and his family. Everyone he met became a friend. Rocky was a giver,he never expected anything in return when going out of his way to help someone.
    You never had to wonder what kind of a man he was when it came to his faith and family.
    I was proud to call him friend, he will stay with all with a smile and a great thought. God’s Grace for his family…..

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