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Fond Farewell to Fran Blair

Westfield High's Fran Blair isn't moving away, but she is retiring, and on Sunday some 75 friends, colleagues and family members honored her with a retirement party at the Century Oaks Clubhouse.

In a lighthearted vein, Westfield High Principal Dale Rumberger feted her with gag gifts, such as shorts and shortening because of her short stature, but then he got serious and spoke from the heart.

"She's small, but she walks with the shadow of a giant," he said. "She's also very religious, and I'm absolutely sure God walks next to her — that's why her shadow's so large." Saying Blair always did what was best for children, he added, "We're going to miss her, big time."

She worked 11 years for the Fairfax County school system and, for the past two years, has been the mainstream coordinator for special-needs students at Westfield. In that role, she advocates to make sure these students receive the services they need.

Prior to Westfield, Blair spent seven years at Chantilly High and two years at Lanier Middle School, and she started and ran the Saturday-morning tutoring programs at both Chantilly (STEP program) and Westfield (BITS program). She's also been an active participant with the Chantilly Pyramid Minority Student Achievement Committee (CPMSAC).

Besides Rumberger, attendees at Sunday's event also included: former Sully District School Board representative and now 67th District Del. Gary Reese, CPMSAC founders Shirley and Johnny Nelson, Westfield High PTSA president Lynn Terhar and Blair's husband Tom and two sons, Jayson and Todd.

Blair received several gifts, including a plaque from Shirley Nelson in recognition of all her hard work for CPMSAC. And Ray and Debra Lukowicz, who teach Sunday School with Blair at Centreville Baptist Church, gave a replica of a historic painting, "Forgotten Heroes," to Westfield in her name so the school could write the names of retiring teachers on it and thus remember them.

Both of Blair's sons spoke of what a wonderful mother she is and how she's always inspired and supported them in all their endeavors. And husband Tom said how much he's enjoyed their 29 years together. "Her two years at Westfield have been very joyful for her, and the years at Chantilly and Lanier were tremendous for her, too," he said. "And the students she met will live on with her forever."

Also speaking was Reese, who'd appointed Blair to the school system's Advisory Committee on Students with Disabilities. Said Reese: "Fran has been a wonderful friend of mine, and the students of Fairfax County are so much the better because of [her]."

Thanking everyone, Blair said, "My philosophy has always been to do things for the benefit of the child." She said she's been delighted to know "so many people who care about kids and what kids do." Although she has no immediate plans for her free time, she's looking forward to retirement. But, she added, "I'll always have each of you in my prayers. As I retire, I have so many memories to take with me."