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Alexandria Republican City Council candidate and community leader Townsend Van Fleet died in his Old Town home on Sunday, October 16. He was 87 years old, and his cause of death has not been released.

Van Fleet unsuccessfully ran for Mayor as an Independent in 2003, and for City Council in 2006 and 2015. He was the former president of Old Town Civic Association. He was also a member of the city’s Waterfront Commission for eight years and was a board member with the Federation of Civic Associations for 15 years.

“From my many years of being active participant in monitoring our local government, I have learned that the most effective and innovative ideas originate from the citizens,” Van Fleet told the Alexandria Gazette in 2015. “Alexandria is one of the most educated cities in the U.S. Our citizens possess a vast amount of knowledge on just about every subject matter imaginable.”

Van Fleet lived in Alexandria for more than 35 years. A 1958 graduate of West Point, he served in the U.S. Army for 23 years as a field artilleryman, and later attended the Army War College and received a master’s degree in public administration from Shippensburg State College. From 1976 until his retirement as a Colonel in 1981, Van Fleet managed the congressional affairs office for the Army’s Chief of Research, Development and Acquisition.

After retiring from the military, he founded his Old Town-based governmental relations firm, Van Fleet Associates.

“Van and I were on the opposite side of nearly every issue of consequence in our City,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “But I found him a decent man who cared about his community and served our nation with distinction in the military. My thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

“He will be sorely missed,” his neighbor and fellow activist Boyd Walker said. “He was a well-meaning critic of city government that tried to keep them on their toes. In his later life he was a civic activist, and he might not always have been right, but he always had something to say.”

Van Fleet’s wife, Julie, died in 2013.

A memorial service for Van Fleet has not been announced.

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Lee and Samuel Hernly (photo courtesy Jay Hernly)

A pair of gatherings are planned for Saturday, Sept. 24, to commemorate the recently deceased founder of local news sites Red Brick Town and Port City Wire: Lee Hernly.

Lee was a pioneer of local journalism in Alexandria, launching the popular hyperlocal blog Red Brick Town in 2006, which eventually grew into the local news site Port City Wire. Lee died suddenly in July from complications from a cerebral hemorrhage.

“We will celebrate Lee’s life on Saturday September 24th, 2022,” Lee’s brother Jay Hernly said. “Lee’s service will be at 11:30 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Old Town Alexandria VA.”

Hernly said afterward, everyone is invited to join the family and friends at Union Street Public House for drinks and treats to chat about Lee and mingle.

“We will be there from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24,” Jay wrote. “If you can’t make the service, please stop by and see us at Union Street Public House. We will probably be upstairs.”

In lieu of flowers, Jay said they are asking for donations to help Lee’s 14-year-old son Samuel. A GoFundMe has been set up to help secure Samuel’s future education.

“Lee was a generous, giving person who loved his family, loved his community, quiet at times, and could talk your ears off in politics, sports, etc,” Jay wrote. “He was certainly one of a kind.”


Chet Avery, a longtime community leader and educator who volunteered in Alexandria for decades, died at home on Thursday, September 8.

Avery, 85, was a lifelong advocate for disability justice and welfare. He lived in Alexandria with his wife, Sabra, for more than 50 years, and served on the Alexandria commission on Persons with Disabilities for 36 years and the city’s Human Rights Commission for more than 30 years.

“Chet was a tireless advocate for full inclusion of our disabled residents in both the Federal government as well as in Alexandria,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “My thoughts are with Sabra and his entire family, with gratitude for his lifetime of service to our community.”

Avery was born in August 1, 1937, in Sanford, Maine, to florists Chester Sr. and Gladys Avery. He started losing vision in his left eye at the age of 16, and he went completely blind when he was 17. After losing his vision, he briefly attended a special school for the blind, and later returned to his old high school in Sanford and graduated as president of the class.

Avery received a degree in history from Harvard University in 1960. It was there, while studying to get his master’s degree in counseling and education, that he met his future wife, fellow Harvard student Sabra Allen. They married a year later, and in 1964, their son Bradford B. Avery was born. The family moved to the D.C. metropolitan area that same year when Avery got a job with the federal government.

Avery also served on nearly 25 different boards, commissions, committees, councils and workgroups in Alexandria, “including the Special Education Advisory Committee for the Alexandria Public Schools, the Alexandria Human Rights Commission, the Virginia State Rehabilitation Council, the Virginia Assistive Technology System Advisory Council, and the Washington Ear,” according to a 2010 proclamation for “Chet and Sabra Avery Day.” That same year he was named a Living Legend of Alexandria and The Chet and Sabra Avery Room was dedicated at City Hall.

A lover of books, film and television, Avery was instrumental in developing audio descriptions for plays, informational tours and movies. He was a member of the Audio Description Advisory Committee of the National Captioning Institute and the Consumer Advisory Group of the WGBH Media Access Group

Avery is survived by his wife, son and two granddaughters.

There is no service planned at this time, and well-wishers are asked to remember Avery on his memorial page.

Lee Hernly (photo via Lee Hernly/Facebook)

Lee Hernly, founder and editor of Port City Wire and its predecessor Red Brick Town, died earlier this week.

According to a Facebook post from his brother Jay Hernly, Lee died on Tuesday, July 26.

“Family, church family, friends, colleagues and more, I am posting we lost a good man, former US Air Force Staff Seargant, my bother Lee Hernly on July 26,” wrote Jay wrote.

Jay said Lee was a military vet, serving for seven years and later working gas a Level 2 IT analyst for INALAB Consulting, Inc.

Lee was most widely known as a pioneer in online media in Alexandria, launching a Carlyle/Eisenhower East neighborhood blog in 2006. The blog eventually grew into the popular local blog Red Brick Town, which eventually became Port City Wire.

“When we launched 8 years ago at the old site, the Westin Alexandria hotel had yet to be built, the Carlyle Square Condominiums was in the process of being developed, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark campus was in the final stages of being built as was the Whole Foods Market in our Carlyle/Eisenhower East area,” Lee wrote in 2014. “The Hoffman Town Center plan had been released, and the Eisenhower East Small Area Plan was still being amended. Now, we have the National Science Foundation moving into the area in a few years and Carlyle South community coming online. Our Carlyle/Eisenhower East community in Alexandria, Virginia has come a long way baby!”

As part of Red Brick Town and Port City Wire, Lee expanded the blog into a full news site covering larger swaths of the city. Port City Wire covered everything from movie reviews to traffic closures and shootings, though publication stopped last October.

Photo via Lee Hernly/Facebook

Former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley (staff photo by James Cullum)

Memorial services for former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley have been announced.

The family will receive guests at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home (1500 W. Braddock Road, Alexandria) on Sunday (July 24) from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., according to an obituary. A prayer service will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Donley, 66, died unexpectedly at his home in Alexandria on Wednesday (July 13). The Alexandria Times reported he died of a heart attack. He lived in the city for nearly six decades.

The obituary notes there will also be a funeral mass at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church (1427 W. Braddock Road, Alexandria) on Monday, July 25, at 11 a.m., followed by a private interment.

Donley was mayor from 1996 to 2003, after which he became chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia for two years. He was also vice mayor from 1994 to 1996, and then again when he returned to politics from 2009 to 2012.

Donley tried running for mayor again in 2015, but lost in a three-way primary between then-Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and former Mayor Allison Silberberg, the latter going on to win the general election. Professionally, he was the former athletic director at T.C. Williams High School (now Alexandria City High School), and spent years as a senior vice president at John Marshall Bank and Virginia Commerce Bank.

Donley is survived by his wife, Eva, his five children and grandchildren.

Former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley died unexpectedly at his home in Alexandria on Wednesday, July 13.

Donley was 66 years old and died of a heart attack, according to the Alexandria Times. He lived in the city for nearly six decades.

Donley was mayor from 1996 to 2003, after which he became chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia for two years. He was also vice mayor from 1994 to 1996, and then again when he returned to politics from 2009 to 2012.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that Donley was a transformational mayor.

“So much of the progressive and dynamic City we enjoy today has its roots in Kerry’s leadership and persistence,” Wilson said. “He was a friend and someone I valued for advice on many occasions. Our City has lost a great leader.”

Donley tried running for Mayor again in 2015, but lost in a three-way primary between then-Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and former Mayor Allison Silberberg, the latter going on to win the general election. Professionally, he was the former athletic director at T.C. Williams High School (now Alexandria City High School), and spent years as a senior vice president at John Marshall Bank and Virginia Commerce Bank.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine said he’d forged a strong bond with Donley.

“Kerry Donley and I met as mayors, and that experience forged a strong bond between us,” Kaine said. “He was a wonderful civic leader, a devoted public servant, and a good friend. He will be greatly missed.”

Donley is survived by his wife, Eva, his five children and grandchildren.

No information on services have been released.

The City released the following message:

Former Mayor and Living Legend of Alexandria Kerry J. Donley passed away the evening of July 13, at the age of 66. A fixture in the community, Donley and his family called the City of Alexandria home for nearly 60 years.

“Kerry was a transformational mayor of our City,” stated Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “So much of the progressive and dynamic City we enjoy today has its roots in Kerry’s leadership and persistence. He was a friend and someone I valued for advice on many occasions. Our City has lost a great leader.”

The former Mayor had an enduring career as both an elected official and civic leader of the City of Alexandria. First elected to the Alexandria City Council in 1988, Donley served as Mayor from 1996 to 2003. He also served as Vice Mayor from 1994 to 1996 and 2009 to 2012.

As a member of City Council and Mayor, Donley led the resolution for the reconstruction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, attracted the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the City and worked to save 500 market-rate affordable housing units for our residents. He was instrumental in the building of the first elementary school in the City in 35 years, Samuel Tucker School. He led our City through the shock and tragedy of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the economic impact that followed.

During his tenure, Donley served on several boards, including: the Alexandria Transit Company Board (DASH) (Vice-Chair), Cameron Station Development Task Force (Co-Chair), the Alexandria Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy (Chair), the Youth Policy Commission and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (Chair).

The Former Mayor’s commitment to the betterment of the City did not stop at 301 King Street. His compassion for the community extended into all areas. He served on several non-profit boards, including: Carpenter’s Shelter, the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, the Center for Alexandria’s Children, Alexandria Senior Services and Alexandria Renew Enterprises.

In 2017, Donley was recognized as a Living Legend of Alexandria. In his lifetime, he also received the Lifetime Achievement Award (2016) by Volunteer Alexandria, the Carpenter’s Shelter Wall of Honor (2015), served as the Grand Marshall for the Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade (2016) and was named Business Leader of the Year by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce (2004). In 2002, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments bestowed Donley with the Elizabeth and David Scull Metropolitan Public Service Award.

Former Mayor Kerry J. Donley is survived by his wife, Eva, and their five daughters and five grandchildren (with an additional grandchild arriving soon). Funeral Arrangements are pending at this time.

Judy Guse-Noritake (right) with her husband Rae Noritake (left) and grandson Theo (photo courtesy Alana Noritake)

Judy Guse-Noritake was a presence in Alexandria civic activism for decades; a lung cancer diagnosis in 2018 did little to slow that down until her death at 68 on Wednesday.

Guse-Noritake was a regular at many city commissions and hearings, where she advocated for better park space in Alexandria and better amenities for mixed-income communities. Judy Guse-Noritake was particularly impactful in shaping civic discourse in the Braddock and Old Town North neighborhoods, helping to found the Braddock Metro Citizens’ Coalition.

“She was still like ‘here’s the next hearing, here’s the next committee meeting’ and she was vocal about people getting out to vote,” said her daughter, Alana Noritake. “She never stopped.”

Alana said her mother had a long history of political activism dating back to her early 20s pushing environmentalism and preservationist causes in the Pacific Northwest, where she was from. She served on the Alexandria Park & Recreation Commission for nearly 20 years.

“She was always politically active,” Alana said. “When she got older and transitioned to more local politics, she took all of that experience that she had and focused on making this city a better place. Some people are just born to be activists.”

Alana said her mother was particularly focused on environmental issues and parks and open spaces, along with a focus on ensuring that residents at all income levels had access to the city’ green space.

“One really important thing for her was: Alexandria is mixed-income,” Alana said. “There are wealthier people in wealthier schools and lower-income communities. She advocated for everybody. It wasn’t about ‘let’s make the city beautiful with high-end restaurants and condos.’ She advocated for spaces and programs for everyone.”

Alana said her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018. Her health “roller coastered” but she enrolled in new drug trials that helped to keep her active and involved.

“She never stopped doing things with the community,” Alana said.

After her death, tributes came in from several local leaders.

“Today, all around our City, Judy leaves a rich legacy of what is possible when you work to bring people together around good ideas,” Mayor Justin Wilson wrote in a post on Facebook. “That legacy of parks, good design, diverse neighborhoods and sustainable communities is one that will benefit generations.”

“She has had an outsize impact on bringing together people with common interests to conspire in ways that bettered our city in many ways,” Planning Commission chair Nathan Macek wrote. “I will miss her thoughtful comments, dry wit, and wise counsel.”

A background on her life, written and saved specifically to be used in an obituary, was prepared by Judy and is presented below:

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Former Voter Registrar Anna, photo via Justin Wilson/Twitter

Longtime voter registrar Anna Leider, who retired last year after managing over 40 elections, died this weekend after a long battle with brain cancer.

Leider grew up in Alexandria and was a fixture of local election days before her retirement in 2020.

Leider died Saturday, Feb. 12. Leider was remembered as an adept manager of elections and a passionate baseball fan.

“Anna was brilliant, kind, and had a wonderful smile,” former Mayor Allison Silberberg wrote on Facebook. “Her enthusiasm for life was contagious. A few years ago, I ran into her at the start of a Nats game. I distinctly remember how she was all decked out in Nats gear, ready for the game. Later, she cherished that our team won the World Series.”

“I first met Anna when I joined the Alexandria Democratic Committee in 1990 and remember her coordinating the Alexandria primary campaign in 1992 for Bill Clinton.” State Senator Adam Ebbin wrote on Facebook. “She withdrew from Democratic politics when she later joined the registrar’s office but I relied on her for advice on laws dealing with applying for absentee ballots and ways to say that more absentee ballots were fairly counted. She was a wonderful, thoughtful person who will be sorely missed.”

Photo via Justin Wilson/Twitter


Morning Notes

Say farewell to the Fairies of Del Ray–just for now! — “You might have noticed the petite doors and houses and stained glass windows hidden in the crooks of trees and crannies of rocks in the Del Ray neighborhood.” [Zebra]

I-395 Seminary Road ramp conversion OKed by VA board — “The conversion will allow solo riders to use the ramp for a toll and HOV-3 carpoolers to continue using it for free.” [Patch]

Youngkin, Psaki respond to Northern Va. school systems’ announcements on mask requirements — “Youngkin said he would use state resources to force the school systems to comply, though he did not specify how.” [WTOP]

Obituary: Bill Stokes — “International business consultant dies at 57.” [Alexandria Gazette]

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(Updated on Dec. 23) Florence King, a 2018 Alexandria Living Legend and 2021 City Council candidate, has died.

King, who was in her early 70s, died at her Alexandria home on Thursday morning, Dec. 9, after a brief illness, according to friends. The news was a surprise to many city leaders, activists and friends.

“Very shocked to hear that news,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “She was such a vibrant presence in our City. Constantly showing up and giving back to our community in so many ways.”

King, who descended from a freed slave from George Washington’s plantation, lived in Alexandria for more than 30 years.

Notes of shock and support have poured in through Facebook.

“What an unthinkable and shocking loss,” wrote former Mayor Allison Silberberg. “I’m so saddened. Florence has made a phenomenal difference here in countless ways, and she was a friend to all. My deepest sympathies to all who knew and loved her, especially her family. Her life was a blessing and she will be sorely missed.”

A native of Fairfax County, she received a major degree in sociology and a minor degree in business administration from George Mason University, after which she worked for 17 years with the federal government. She later founded financial literacy company FMK Credit Education Center and donated her spare time to community causes. She was chair of the regional council of the United Way, chair of the Alexandria Employment Commission, sat on the Board of Trustees for the Alexandria Symphony, and was vice chair on the board of Agenda Alexandria.

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker said that King was a stalwart of the community.

“I served with her on three boards & she was a constant source of kindness and positivity,” Bennett-Parker said. “Her positive impact on our community will live on for generations.”

In 2018, King was honored as a Living Legend of Alexandria. In April, she announced her Independent candidacy for City Council.

King is survived by a brother, three sisters, a son and two daughters. Her memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15,  at McLean Bible Church, 8925 Leesburg Pike in Vienna.

Via Facebook


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