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Archive: Washington DC-area people

Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 10/ 9/2009

How I Got the Story: Ben Ali of Ben's Chili Bowl

I had never spoken to Nizam Ali before, but somehow his call to the paper ended up at my desk. I picked it up my phone around 11:30 a.m. Thursday and learned that Ali's father had died the night before.

His father was Ben Ali, who wasn't exactly a public figure but the place he created certainly was a public institution: Ben's Chili Bowl. I casually mentioned it to some reporters and editors around me, and all of a sudden we were launched on multimedia whirlwind throughout the day. In less than 15 minutes, I put together a brief seven-inch teaser obit for our online Web site, letting the world know that Ben Ali had died. In no time, the story hit the wires, the blogs (including Post Mortem) and TV.

All of that's nice, of course, but my work was just beginning. People often think obituaries are fairly easy to do, with clean-cut blocks of information cleverly repackaged and locked in place. Well, that's hardly ever the case, and it certainly wasn't true about the story of Ben Ali.

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Posted by Matt Schudel | Permalink | Comments (12)
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Posted at 2:47 PM ET, 09/27/2009

William Safire dies

William Safire, 79, conservative political columnist and word maven, died today at a hospice in Rockville, Md., reportedly of pancreatic cancer. The full Washington Post obit can be found here.

Mr. Safire, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1978 for his scathing columns on the Carter White House budget director Bert Lance, wrote a semi-weekly political column in the Times from 1973 to 2005, penning an erudite and opinionated series of articles, ultimately creating a body of work that he described as libertarian conservative. He said he "was hired to be a sore thumb" at the famously liberal newspaper. "It's time to leave when you're still hitting the long ball and have something else you want to do," he told the Washington Post at the time, one of many baseball-related metaphors that popped up in his work.

He was equally known for his On Language column, which he began writing in 1979, a delightful look at the origins of words and phrases and their proper usage that engaged readers from all over the U.S. He wrote it until two weeks ago.

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Posted by Patricia Sullivan | Permalink | Comments (23)
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Posted at 9:10 AM ET, 07/ 6/2009

Robert S. McNamara -- His Words, Your Forum

It would be hard to think of a more controversial figure from the Vietnam War era than Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara who died this morning. He was the longest-serving defense secretary in the U.S. He was one of the original Whiz Kids, a corporate chieftain and later World Bank president, but his identity is tied inextricably to Vietnam.

In his 1995 memoir of the war, McNamara said he and his senior colleagues were "wrong, terribly wrong" to pursue the war as they did. He acknowledged that he failed to force the military to produce a rigorous justification for its strategy and tactics, misunderstood Asia in general and Vietnam in particular, and kept the war going long after he realized it was futile because he lacked the courage or the ability to turn President Johnson around.

Once again McNamara was vilified by critics who said he should have spoken up when it might have made a difference and accused him of salving his conscience with a last-minute conversion. A 2004, Oscar-Award-winning film, "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara," addressed what he learned from the war.

He left a note for his wife, Diana, who read it to the Washington Post's chairman and chief executive, Donald Graham:

"I leave this earth believing that I have been blessed with a wife, children and friends who have brought me love and happiness beyond compare. Heaven, for me, will be to remain in their hearts and memories as warm and close as we were in life.
"I will hope as well to see others continuing to pursue the objectives which I have sought (very imperfectly at times) to move the world toward peace among peoples and nations and to accelerate economic and social progress for the least advantaged among us."

Tell us how you see him.

Posted by Patricia Sullivan | Permalink | Comments (124)
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Posted at 12:04 PM ET, 07/ 1/2009

Federal Employee Spokesman Dies

News from the Federal Eye blog here at the Post:

Richard N. Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees and a leading spokesperson for federal employee issues, died unexpectedly yesterday at his Arlington apartment, according to a statement released today by the union.
Richard Brown.

"Federal employees have lost a great spokesman who's going to be difficult, if not impossible to replace," said Ron Ault, a veteran union leader and head of the AFL-CIO's Metal Trades Department. Ault called Brown his "little brother," saying they became fast friends after meeting in 2001.

More at the Federal Eye....

Posted by Patricia Sullivan | Permalink | Comments (1)
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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 06/18/2009

From D.C. to Antarctica

Edith "Jackie" Ronne grew up "scrubbing the steps" of her Baltimore home, her daughter said, and knew one thing -- she wanted a life different from what she saw. She spent a couple of years at a college in Ohio, then moved to Washington, living with her aunt and uncle in Chevy Chase while going to George Washington University.

Fast forward a few years, and she's married to a man 20 years her senior, a veteran polar explorer who's talked her into accompanying him and his expedition to Antarctica. Her life story and obituary is in the Washington Post today. Here's a terrific documentary about her in two parts that Skeeter and Tracy Jarvis produced, with some funding from the Maryland Committee for the Humanities.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Posted by Christopher Dean Hopkins | Permalink | Comments (1)
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Metro Crash Victim: Cameron Williams

Cameron Williams was among the casualties in yesterday's Metro accident. If you knew Williams, we'd love to hear your anecdotes and memories in this space. The entry date of this post does not reflect when it was written. It was written Tuesday, June 23....

By Christopher Dean Hopkins | June 17, 2009; 07:02 PM ET | Comments (19)

Metro Crash Victim: Veronica DuBose

Veronica DuBose was among the casualties in yesterday's Metro accident. If you knew DuBose, we'd love to hear your anecdotes and memories in this space. The entry date of this post does not reflect when it was written. It was written Tuesday, June 23....

By Christopher Dean Hopkins | June 17, 2009; 06:55 PM ET | Comments (31)

Preserving History

I have to confess I had never heard of Mary Ann Kephart before I began to work on her obituary this week. Mrs. Kephart never had a paying job outside the home, was never well known beyond Poolesville, the rural community in northwestern Montgomery County, Md., and never get caught...

By Matt Schudel | June 14, 2009; 07:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

Robert Wone Murder Case

In case you haven't seen it, Paul Duggan has written a remarkable story for The Post about one of the most mystifying murders in Washington in recent years -- the killing of Robert Wone. Duggan's two-part story retelling the 2006 murder of a young lawyer in a townhouse near Dupont...

By Matt Schudel | June 2, 2009; 03:14 PM ET | Comments (0)

Barbara Ringer's Untold Story

Last Sunday, I had a Local Life feature about Barbara Ringer, a Library of Congress lawyer who was the first woman to hold the position of register of copyrights, a position that dates back to the 19th century. She was a remarkable woman who was a quintessentially Washingtonian kind of...

By Matt Schudel | April 29, 2009; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Washington Post Obituaries

It's come to our attention that some of our valued readers don't see the actual stories we write everyday, perhaps because they only follow this blog. Just so you know, you can bookmark the Washington Post obituaries web page to see these daily. So this one's for you: Headlines and...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 10, 2009; 12:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

No Dignity for the Dead

Here's a story that needs exposure and reaction: National Funeral Home in Falls Church, which acts as a regional clearinghouse that embalms and stores bodies for four other Washington area funeral homes, treated the dead with at best disregard. A witness who worked there said as many as 200 corpses...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 6, 2009; 11:37 AM ET | Comments (1)

Generations upon generations

I just wrote an obit that should appear in the next day or two about a D.C. teacher who died at the age of 103. She had two husbands (not at the same time), a son, three stepchildren, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, 10 great-great-grandchildren and a great-great-great-grandson, just three months...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 26, 2009; 01:44 PM ET | Comments (0)

Sarah Booth Conroy -- Update

With the death of Sarah Booth Conroy this week, The Washington Post lost a little of its color, culture and class. Sarah Booth -- no one but her husband ever called her just "Sarah" -- was a genteel tornado of energy who probably knew more about the ins and outs...

By Matt Schudel | January 14, 2009; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

The Spy Game

John Guilsher was a quiet, modest man who spent 50 years as an officer and consultant for the CIA. For most obituaries of CIA officers, that's about all the information we get. But the story of John Ivan Guilsher is something special. For Sunday's Local Life, I was able to...

By Matt Schudel | April 20, 2008; 05:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Between the Weather and the Elections...

... Interesting people are still leaving this frail crust of earth. I'm biased, of course, but I thought the most compelling story in the paper today (Wednesday, Feb. 13) was Joe Holley's obituary of Glenn E. Wise, an inventor and official at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Joe has...

By Matt Schudel | February 13, 2008; 05:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Variety of Life

Anyone who lived in the American West in the spring and summer of 1993 remembers the unexplained string of deaths of (mostly) rural residents. I have a vivid memory of camping in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and thinking about the ways that virus can be transmitted -- while...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 23, 2007; 12:59 PM ET | Comments (0)

Obit Sleuthing

... it may not be as dramatic as Bob Woodward lurking in parking garages to get the scoop on Watergate from Deep Throat, but it felt like a small investigative triumph here on the Obits desk...

By Matt Schudel | December 1, 2007; 12:34 PM ET | Comments (0)

Shades of Gray

I've just completed a relatively short obituary of an administrative law judge named John Gray. (It should be in the paper on Thursday, Oct. 25.) He had a fairly high-powered, if not exactly colorful, Washington career -- law school grad who spent 12 years as an FBI agent, then 15...

By Matt Schudel | October 24, 2007; 03:25 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Good Doctor

Sometimes when I'm writing an obituary, I run across someone who is so admirable and so humanely decent that it's hard to believe. The moment I knew there was something extraordinary about Dr. W. Proctor Harvey was when I learned that he had his medical students listen to Beethoven. He...

By Matt Schudel | October 17, 2007; 12:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

 

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