(Updated at 1 p.m. on October 22) Matthew Ian Gillette, a pastor and well-regarded community advocate, died suddenly on Tuesday morning, October 19.
He was 39 years old, and the cause of death has not been released.
Gillette, who lived in the city’s Lynnhaven neighborhood, is survived by his wife, Abby, and their young daughter.
“Just a tragic loss,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “Matt was someone with a deep and abiding faith, who saw his mission to help his community. We will miss him so much.”
Gillette was the director at the National Community Church in Potomac Yard, as well as co-chair of Hunger Free Alexandria and executive director of Restore Alexandria.
“Matt was a quiet, selfless force in our community,” said Bill Blackburn of the Homegrown Restaurant Group. “My heart aches for his young family.”
Gillette was also founded the Alexandria Gratitude Table at Meade Memorial Episcopal Church, providing free meals during Thanksgiving, and worked as a volunteer coordinator at Casa Chirilagua.
“It’s not just about putting something on a plate, but more about having a place where people can feel like they have a sense of community,” Gillette said of the Alexandria Gratitude Table in 2019.
Notes of shock and grief have also poured in through social media.
“For anyone who was blessed and lucky enough to know Matthew Ian Gillette, you know how unbelievable and devastating the news of his passing is to our community,” wrote Del Ray’s Gayle Reuter. “Whenever and wherever he saw a need, he was there to fill it.”
A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000 to support Gillette’s family.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been released.
What a busy week in Alexandria.
Our top story this week was on a juvenile who was shot outside the McDonald’s at the Bradlee Shopping Center on Tuesday, Sept. 21. There have also been a number of concerning incidents at Alexandria City Public Schools, including a juvenile who was arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School.
Meanwhile, while the COVID-19 transmission rate remains high, public events are still happening in Alexandria.
- Connection Newspapers managing editor Kemal Kurspahic dies
- City Council approves new plastic bag tax for local grocery and convenience stores
- Electric scooter docks could replace some on-street parking in Alexandria
- City looks to state funding for Holmes Run Trail improvement and West End Transitway
- MacArthur Elementary shut down by water damage
- New Indian restaurant in Old Town eyes late October opening
- School Board to vote on transgender revisions in Alexandria City Public Schools
- ‘Fences’ is a triumph at The Little Theatre of Alexandria
- What’s the difference between Alexandria’s co-living policy and regular apartments?
- Government contractor in Alexandria under fire from Department of Labor for systemic racism in hiring practices
- Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School
- Police dispatched three times for fighting at Alexandria City Public Schools in less than a month
- Police: Six hospitalized after overdoses on Alexandria-Fairfax border
- Poll: What do you think of Metro’s proposed Blue Line crossing to National Harbor?
- BREAKING: Flooding reported in Alexandria
- Interview: Port City Publius opens up about Alexandria
- BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
- Juvenile arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School
- Multiple violent charges dropped against Fairfax County man held without bond for assaulting police during arrest
- Preserving Arlandria’s affordability against gentrification could cost upward of $100 million
- JUST IN: One person injured after shots fired in West End Tuesday afternoon
Have a safe weekend!
Kemal Kurspahic, managing editor of Alexandria-based The Connection Newspapers and acclaimed former editor-in-chief of Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo’s daily newspaper, died last week after a stroke, Connection Newspapers reported.
Kurspahic, born Dec. 1, 1946, served as the Managing Editor of The Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia, 1997-2001 and again 2007-2021, the weekly paper said.
Kurspahic also served as the editor of Sarajevo daily newspaper Oslobodjenje from 1988 to 1994 and continued daily publication during the city’s three year siege. At the Connection Newspapers office, Kurspahic was a stoic presence who walked with a slight limp from a car crash after he was shot at by a sniper.
Kurspahic’s work in Sarajevo was the subject of Tom Gjelten’s Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege. The editor recalled his time during the siege in his book As Long as Sarajevo Exists.
While Kurspahic was focused on Northern Virginia coverage at The Connection Newspapers, getting to talk to Kurspahic about his decades of experience in international journalism and diplomatic work was a rite-of-passage for many new reporters at the newspaper.
The Connection Newspapers reported that Kurspahic was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, a Clark Fellow at Cornell University, and a Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Photo via Wikipedia Creative Commons
Former City Councilman Connie Ring dies — “Carlyle Conwell “Connie” Ring, Jr., 90, passed away peacefully on August 19, 2021, at his home at Goodwin House, Alexandria, Virginia… He was an appointed member of the Alexandria School Board from 1969 to 1978, and chairman from 1976 to 1978. During this time, he was involved in the integration of public schools in Alexandria. Connie later held a seat on Alexandria’s City Council from 1979 to 1988.” [Legacy.com]
Alexandria starts pilot program to rename Confederate-named streets — “Alexandria is launching a pilot program and new process for residents to request changes to street names in the City of Alexandria.” [Alexandria Living]
The Birchmere is requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID test — “Effective Wednesday, Aug. 25, all attendees, artists and staff will need to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before attending an event. The venue will accept three types of documentation: a physical vaccination card, digital copy of a vaccination card that matches a person’s photo ID, or negative test within the past 72 hours that matches a person’s photo ID. A physical or digital test will be accepted.” [Patch]
Brewski’s Barkhaus is celebrating National Dog Day in style — “Barkhaus opens early at 11 AM on August 26 with free puppuccinos, ‘dog beer,’ and food specials. Later, get dressed up for The Pet Gala, a ticketed event supporting the National Humane Society from 7:30 to 10PM. Black tie attire is required for all pups and humans, and tickets ($75) are on sale now.” [Washingtonian]
Alexandria firefighters to get collective bargaining training — “We’ll be running through our game plan on how we can lower holdovers, improve pay, improve working conditions, and ensure that WE the WORKERS have a seat at the table when decisions are made!” [Facebook]
Today’s weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed (during the day). Hot and humid. High 94F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy skies (in the evening). A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low near 75F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New job: Cannabis reviewer — “We are a DC-based start-up and cannabis review site that is rapidly growing. We are looking for cannabis connoisseurs who think they have what it takes to join our ranks as a reviewer of Virginia medical marijuana dispensary products and homegrows. This role is mostly remote but does require the ability to travel throughout one or more Virginia counties to pick-up or receive deliveries. For consideration candidates must be local to Northern Virginia and have a valid Virginia medical marijuana license.” [Indeed]
Scott Shaw named Chamber’s 2021 Business Leader of the Year — “For the last six years, he has served as a partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP). ARP operates nine restaurants including The Majestic and Theismann’s Restaurant… Outside of the restaurant industry, Shaw established Founders Hall and co-founded ALX Community. His community involvement includes serving as Chair of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. In this position… In 2017, Shaw founded the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Alexandria’s rich maritime history through educational programs and entertainment.” [Zebra]
Rep. Beyer says he’s working on securing stormwater management funding for Alexandria — “I’m also working to secure more federal funding for storm and sewer projects in ALX in upcoming infrastructure legislation.” [Twitter]
Alexandria accountant pleads guilty to tax fraud — “An accountant from Alexandria pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in filing false tax returns that led to over $250,000 in federal tax loss.” [Patch]
Recent T.C. Williams High School graduate dies at 18 — “Tommy Lacey was a towering figure. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, he was a gentle giant with a passion for sports and hanging out with friends at Al’s Steakhouse in Del Ray. A standout lacrosse player, the 2021 graduate of T.C. Williams High School was preparing to attend James Madison University in the fall when he died unexpectedly on Aug. 4.” [Gazette]
Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy. High 91F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Scattered thunderstorms during the evening becoming more widespread overnight. Low 72F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Crew member at Trader Joe’s — “If you have a passion for people and a fervor for food, we’d love to meet you. We can teach you the rest.” [Indeed]
Former U.S. Senator John Warner died of heart failure at his home in Old Town on Tuesday night. He was 94.
Local and national leaders are remembering the Republican as an old school politician who bridged party lines with a cordiality that many say has been lost in American politics.
“John Warner truly was the best of what public service and elected leadership should be, and his loss leaves a deep void,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement. “Virginia, and America, have lost a giant.”
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said that he was stunned to hear of Warner’s passing.
“Virginia has lost an unmatched leader, and my family has lost a dear friend,” Kaine said in a statement. “Not having John Warner to go to for advice leaves a big hole in my life. But we can all celebrate a public servant who stood on principle, made us proud, and exemplified the best of what politics can be.”
Sen. Mark Warner (no relation), was Warner’s successor in the Senate in 2009, and said he was devastated by the loss. Both Warners faced each other in the general election for U.S. Senate in 1996, with the elder statesman winning 52.4% of the vote.
“I’m devastated to hear of the passing of my dear friend John Warner,” Warner said. “To me, he was the gold standard in Virginia. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and mentorship. I’ll miss you, John.”
Warner, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974, and was a U.S. Senator from 1979 to 2009. He was born in Washington, D.C. on February 27, 1927, and after the conflicts received a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School. He became an assistant U.S. attorney in 1956, and later worked on Richard Nixon’s unsuccessful 1960 presidential campaign.
Warner was married three times, first from 1957 to 1973 to banking heiress Catherine Conover Mellon; followed by a six year marriage to movie star Elizabeth Taylor. In 2003, he married Jeanne Vander Myde, and the marriage lasted for the remainder of his life. He is also survived by three children.
“Senator Warner was a statesman and a patriot,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “They don’t make them like him anymore. He always put Virginia first and dearly loved Alexandria. We will miss him.”
Former Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th) said Warner was an icon.
“He was genuine,” Moran said. “He liked people. He never acted in any offensive way toward anybody. He was always looking to gain consensus and to move forward. I can tell you my 20 years on The Defense Appropriations Committee that the strength of our military was in large part because of the influence of John Warner.”
Former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille considered Warner a friend and said that he sought his advice before entering politics. He said that Warner advised Euille, who up that that point had been a School Board member, on taking a political side and getting support from the base of a party instead of remaining an independent.
“John will be missed,” Euille said. “Despite being of different political parties, he was a human being and friend first and foremost.”
Funeral arrangements have not been released, and Northam has ordered all Virginia flags to be flown at half staff on the day of his funera..
RIP Senator John W. Warner, who served Virginia and the nation from 1979-2009. Veteran of both WWII and the Korean War. He was 94 and passed peacefully last evening in his home in Alexandria, VA.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) May 26, 2021
Saddened to hear of the passing of Senator John Warner.
Senator Warner was a towering statesman, committed to Virginia and our nation’s security.
He dearly loved Alexandria and never missed a parade. Here he is finishing our Scottish Christmas Walk in 2019: pic.twitter.com/F3863nODMC
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) May 26, 2021
I am stunned at the loss of John Warner. Virginia has lost an unmatched leader, and my family has lost a dear friend. My condolences go out to Jeanne and the entire Warner family. pic.twitter.com/j3GQj29Fkm
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) May 26, 2021
I'm devastated to hear of the passing of my dear friend John Warner. To me, he was the gold standard in Virginia. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and mentorship. I'll miss you, John. pic.twitter.com/5CFaEIEuSm
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 26, 2021
John Warner was a great American who served his country in World War II, the Korean War, and as Navy Secretary, and served Virginia in the Senate for thirty years. I am proud to have been his friend. pic.twitter.com/ICAtWQMkIm
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) May 26, 2021
Former Alexandria Delegate Richard R.G. Hobson passed away at his home on Sunday, May 23.
Hobson’s family announced his death on social media on Monday. He was 89 years old.
Mayor Justin Wilson thanked Hobson’s family and wished them condolences.
“Dick Hobson set the gold-standard for service to our community,” Wilson said. “Over decades of service to our City, he never lost his commitment to our community and our people. He was so knowledgeable on so many topics. I left every conversation with him learning several new things, and his laughter was infectious. His family and close friends are in my thoughts. Thanks for sharing him with Alexandria.”
A familiar face in Alexandria politics for decades, Hobson retired as Alexandria’s Delegate for the 21st District after two terms in 1979 and spent the next several decades as a land use attorney with McGuire Woods.
“I never intended to make a career out of the House of Delegates,” he told the Washington Post, emphasizing that “I’m not going away” and promised to continue work in local politics “in finding and encouraging persons of integrity and ability to seek and hold public office.”
Born on July 28, 1931, in Orange, New Jersey, Hobson and his family moved to Alexandria in 1936, according to a biography written in Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill’s website. He was in the first graduating class of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, and then attended George Washington Middle School and Episcopal High School. Hobson graduated from Princeton University and then served for three years as an officer in the U.S. Navy before getting his law degree from Harvard Law School.
In 1959, he met his wife, Kathleen Stanton, and they were married the following year. In 1962, he and his wife moved back to Alexandria. His career credits included stints as chairs of the Virginia Bar Association, the 8th Congressional District Committee and the Alexandria Democratic Committee (ADC).
In 2014, the ADC awarded Hobson with its lifetime achievement award.
ADC Chair Clarence Tong said that Hobson was a very dedicated, well-respected and valued member of the ADC family.
“His service spanned for over five decades, including representing Alexandria as a Member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and serving as a precinct leader and long-time Chair of the Resolutions Committee,” Tong said. “We will greatly miss Dick and offer our condolences to Kay and the entire Hobson family.”
Hobson is survived by his wife, Kay, and his children Rich Hobson, Hartley Hobson Wensing, Lee Hobson and Kathleen Hobson Davis and their children. Details of funeral services have not been released.
Photo via Jack Powers/Facebook
School Board vice chair condemns City Council elimination of School Resource Office program — “Without surveying the larger community, they made a decision that frankly their backgrounds don’t qualify them to understand the ramifications of their actions. It’s still puzzling, even after a 2.5-hour exchange by council, what problem council was trying to solve, as the SRO program has not only been highlighted to be a successful partnership, but also there was no evidence to suggest otherwise.” [Alex Times]
Investigative journalist Nick Horrock dies — “Perhaps the best example of his courage came in 1968 when he was trying to expose problems in the prison system. His head shaved, he went undercover as an inmate at the Maryland State Penitentiary. With only the warden and the governor aware of why he was truly there, there was no special protection from either the inmates or the guards. He survived unscathed, he wrote, he won accolades and prizes but he was awash in fear when he was doing it.” [Gazette]
Animal Welfare League ‘Cover the Cruiser’ event on Saturday in Del Ray — “Join us this Saturday from 10-2 to help us Cover the Cruiser! We’ll be out in front of The Dog Store in Del Ray along with @AlexandriaVAPD and @AlexVASheriff to cover their vehicles with donated pet supplies to help animals in need!” [Twitter]
Chamber ALX hosting City Council candidate meet-and-greet on June 1 — “The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce will gather members and friends for a “speed networking” type of event where Candidates for Alexandria City Council and Mayor will hop from virtual table to table to have micro conversations and targeted discussions with each group of attendees. Attendees will be seated by areas of interest to better focus the small group conversations.” [Chamber ALX]
Today’s weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 89F. N winds shifting to ESE at 10 to 15 mph… A few clouds. Low 56F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Entry level appointment setter — “We are hiring for individuals who have a background in either customer service, finance, or sales. If you are searching for a company that pays well, and takes care of all members, feel free to apply. We are looking to add 4 new members to our team. We fully train, so experience in our industry is not required. If you work hard and show that you are serious, we do have advancement opportunities. We truly care about helping our associates succeed and we have the tools.” [Indeed]
Via Volcán Coffee Roastery Opens in Old Town — “Although the global pandemic slowed them down, the McCauslands finally opened their store this month at 110 S. West St. (the former location of VIP Pet). They are excited to share their passion for coffee in a physical space.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
How Will Small Businesses in Alexandria Survive? — “Amy Rutherford, the owner of Penny Press & Red Barn Mercantile, has been brainstorming since July for new ways to make the holidays simple and safe for her clients. This year, she is adding delivery, gift wrap, and gift boxes to her list of services.” [Local DMV]
Sweet Root Village Pivots to Pop Ups — “It was the end of the summer and many in Alexandria had been homebound far too long. The pop-up markets Sweet Root Village ran in September and October somehow made life more bearable.” [Alexandria Gazette]
Local Chef Dies from Brain Cancer — “An accomplished chef, Hugh and his wife Anne-Claire have owned and operated the award-winning Le Refuge Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia since taking over the legendary operation from Anne-Claire’s family about 10 years ago.” [Zebra]
An Alexandria Living Legend and longtime advocate for public access to the waterfront died last Wednesday in his Old Town.
Engin Artemel served in the City of Alexandria Department of Planning for ten years and was Planning Director from 1997-1984. He was 81 years old.
“One of his most notable contributions to the City of Alexandria was the opening of the Alexandria waterfront to residents and the general public, planned through careful attention to historical precedent and in close collaboration with community leaders,” said his daughter, Deniz Artemel. “He also led the revitalization of lower King Street.”
According to his Living Legends profile, Artemel played a key role in the establishing which areas of the cohesive waterfront belonged to whom, and working on advocating on the city’s behalf for opening up public access to previously inaccessible portions of the waterfront.
Artemel’s vision is clear in the city’s Waterfront Plan, an ongoing process of establishing a walkable waterfront along the eastern edge of Old Town.
After serving as the planning director, Artemel founded Artemel International which exported his experience in urban planning — particularly on waterfronts — to the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.
Artemel was named a Living Legend of Alexandria in 2009. His funeral was officiated by former Mayor Bill Euille and Bud Hart at Ivy Hill Cemetery on June 19th.
Deniz Artemel said that in lieu of flowers, her father would have wanted to be remembered by taking a stroll and “enjoy his beloved Old Town Alexandria waterfront.”
Photo courtesy Deniz Artemel