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Immeasurable Service: Murdered Couple's Legacy

Michael and Ginny Spevak, who were found murdered in their Chevy Chase D.C. home Saturday night, led lives of almost unfathomable service. In a time when so many people have drawn inward, this Washington couple turned their energies and passions to the community around them in ways that could fill a catalogue.

Ginny, who taught middle school for many years at Green Acres School in Montgomery County, was an appointed member of the District's Corrections Information Council, a failed effort to create citizen monitoring of the city's inmates. Spevak and other members of the panel resigned in frustration when the District failed to give them the tools and access they needed to provide oversight as D.C. prisoners were shifted from local to federal control.

She also worked closely with a D.C. group that sought to ease the transition back into the working world for inmates who had been released. She was a foster parent and a tutor at the Anacostia Community Outreach Center.

Closer to home, she served as an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the 1970s and 80s and was active for many years in the Friendship Neighborhood Coalition, where she remained a strong voice on development issues as recently as this year. In the 70s, she led the neighborhood commission as it struggled to deal with violence and residents' opposition to rowdy clubs on Wisconsin Avenue that featured nude waitresses.

Even closer to home, she and husband Michael turned their own house on Belt Road NW into a showcase for solar power, opening the house to public tours to demonstrate how they had added solar roof panels. Last year, Ginny Spevak traveled with friends from Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church to rehab houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

At the church, where she served as an elder and a deacon, Ginny taught a course on adopting "simpler, less exploitive lifestyles." She was active in Needlechasers of Chevy Chase, making quilts to give to needy immigrant families.

Mike Spevak, a psychiatrist who specialized in dealing with troubled adolescents, lectured on emotionally disturbed inmates, and worked from his house on Belt Road. He served for some time as block captain for his neighborhood organization and was active in fighting suburban sprawl, instead encouraging denser development near transit stations in urban areas. The couple lived just a couple of blocks from the Friendship Heights Metro station; in the early 1980s, Mike Spevak led a petition drive to press Metro to get that station up and running.

By Marc Fisher |  November 23, 2008; 12:29 PM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

There's no attribution here. I know it's a column, but come on.

Posted by: ledetokicker | November 23, 2008 2:35 PM

How very sad. It's likely that one of Dr. Spevak's patients is behind this. Awful - a real loss, and a horrible way to go.

Posted by: faygokid | November 23, 2008 2:41 PM

The loss of the Spivaks is a great loss to the community. I am thinking that they opened their doors to someone who was familiar with their kindness and empathy for others. One of the doctor's patients seem to be a likely unknown suspect. God be with their friends and family.

Posted by: alligator10 | November 23, 2008 2:58 PM

Marc, your very own newspaper says that the couple were "found dead under mysterious circumstances." The police have not said anything about murder. Aren't you jumping the gun by declaring this a murder?

Posted by: postisarag | November 23, 2008 4:39 PM

Both Ginny and Mike worked quietly in the community. For many years in the 80's, Ginny served the invaluable role of the committee chair of her son's Boy Scout Troop. There was a need, Ginny filled it. She was like that.

This is a great loss to all in the community, but especially for their family. While many reading this may not have known the Spevaks, they were an exceptional and giving couple.

The Spevaks lived what they taught. I can think of no greater praise. Rest in Peace.

Posted by: kjb631 | November 23, 2008 5:17 PM

The Spevaks were wonderful people and my condolences to their family. what sad and senseless violence.

Posted by: marla18 | November 23, 2008 6:50 PM

We need more D.C. residents like the Spevaks, because there is so much apathy in many D.C. neighborhoods and especially my Ward 4 neighborhood. Sometimes, I wonder why do horrible tragedies happen to law abiding citizens and not to the criminals terrorizing many of our communities. My sincere condolences to the family of these two great D.C. residents.

Posted by: Ward4DC | November 23, 2008 8:05 PM

A little 'sensitivity request'for readers who blogged this piece: do not so readily aim a finger at Dr. Spivak's patient pool as one of the "likely [murder] suspects." This is blatant (and gross) discrimination and I ask you to imagine how harrowing the news might have been for Dr. Spivik's clients, many of whom are stunned by his loss. And any way, did not the good doctor open up his home for green tours?

Posted by: Healthwatch | November 23, 2008 10:56 PM

Marc, Thank you so much for this rapid tribute to a remarkable couple and their contributions. I am curious whether you knew of them, had met them, or had words of your own about them. You are so well informed and connected to the city's life that I would value your thoughts about them on a personal level as well. In fact, your scrupulous avoidance of any personal note or reflection is unusual in a bylined column and particularly in your column (or blog). I am sure we will hear more from you when the time is appropriate.

We don't know now what happened in this tragedy (maybe you do, with your excellent contacts in and of local government, but we readers don't), and that is not the issue I see in this written piece. As I read your column, the issue for the moment is the immeasurable loss to the community of two people gone before their natural time, however it occurred. There are just a precious few of these "stars" in each of our communities around and inside the Beltway, and it is terrible when we lose even one, much less two, of them so abruptly.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | November 23, 2008 11:16 PM

After "acting out" in High School in yr 2000, as a condition to return to school I had to visit with Dr. Spevak for numerous "sessions".

While as a stubborn teenage, I didn't think the sessions were needed or effective I did however appreciate the dedication and effort this man put forth to rehab and instill a level of normalcy in troubled youth.

You could tell right away that he did it with passion. Eventually, I got my act together, went off to college, and moved out of DC never looking back but I am deeply saddned by this act of violence against civil servants and dedicated agents of the community.

It is my prayer that the person(s) responsible for this vile act our captured and prosecuted. I however will let the DC police do what they are trained to do before jumping to any conclusions of who might have did this although we all have our suspicions.

God bless.

Posted by: jay_cambell | November 24, 2008 8:54 AM

Mike could talk about anything with profound interest and knowledge. We had an extended conversation about sundials, and exchanged books and plans. He was great at eliciting the passion others found in living, which is what made him a great psychiatrist I imagine.
Ginny and I taught back-to-back for many years sharing a construction trailer while the school was building new classrooms. She had any number of wonderful hands-on science labs. One of the best was a simulation of classifying species using ice cream sundae toppings for categories.
This couple generated enough good will and generosity to illuminate and to enlighten any community, neighborhood or city they belonged to. What a loss.

Posted by: stephenw1 | November 24, 2008 9:42 AM

I worked with Michael Spevak for many years, he was my friend, a finer human being I have not met in my life. He helped me maintain my sanity through my trials and tribulations,as he did for so many. Over the years, I watched Mike help so many people every single day I gave up counting. He was truly blessed with Ginny in his life

Posted by: aabbasi6 | November 24, 2008 10:50 AM

My family grew-up on Belt Road and will always remain in spirit there. I want to give our condolences to the entire family. There are no words to explain what we have all been feeling.

Leah and Eli we will pray for you and wish you strength through this trying time.

Posted by: terra_jacobs | November 24, 2008 11:49 AM

Ginny was my science teacher at Green Acres School (GAS) and helped to inspire my interest in science. Over the years I have run into her several times around town or at GAS. Just the other week I ran into her in passing and although I am well out of college she remembered not only my name but what I had done since school. This is just a small example of how she was invested in all the people she taught and helped over the years. I remember fondly the field trip we took to her house and how inspiring it was to our class. Her and her husband had such a spark for life and living well. What an amazing woman lost way too early. I send my prayers and sympathy to the family. I hope that all of us touched by her and her husband are reminded that it is our turn to step up in our communities and try to live a bit more by the Spevak example since they are no longer here to lead us.

Posted by: kelkins | November 24, 2008 9:08 PM

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