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Democratic Faithful Honor Herlihy

Ed Herlihy, a Democratic Activist, died in November.

People didn’t have to know Edward T. Herlihy long before they found out he was diehard Democrat. Once the long-time Reston resident told a friend that he chose his financial advisor because he was a Democrat.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, about 130 people filled the conference room at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne to remember Herlihy, who died in his home over the weekend of Nov. 12-13. He was 63 years old.

“His passing was a real shock to me,” said Kathy Herlihy-Paoli, a cousin from Montana who attended the memorial. She recalled how Herlihy bought her exotic toys when he returned from the Far East, where he was stationed during his time in the Air Force. “He bought me these Chinese pajamas. We were 8 years old and we thought we were the coolest,” said Herlihy-Paoli.

MANY PEOPLE, including a procession of local elected officials, who attended the memorial offered anecdotes and stories about Herlihy.

“I got to know Ed through the Universalist Church,” said state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32). According to Howell, Herlihy was a “great friend” of local candidates. In Howell’s first campaign for the state Senate, Herlihy managed her lists on computer.

“When I won, he said the most amazing thing,” said Howell. “‘All I want from you,’ he said, ‘is good government.’ And to me, that just summed up Ed.”

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) remembered how Herlihy routinely attended community meetings.

“I knew Ed for many years,” said Hudgins. She said many will remember Herlihy for all his work for the Democratic Party, but she said there was more to Herlihy. “Ed was equally a community activist,” said Hudgins. Often, Hudgins said she would pull up to a meeting and know which car was Herlihy’s because “it was full of signs and buttons.”

“He lived the democratic model. He got involved,” said Hudgins.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-At-large) shared a New England origin with Herlihy. “Ed was a key member of our family here in the community as well as the Democratic Party,” said Connolly.

For Del. Ken Plum (D-36), Herlihy’s life could be remembered as a series of lessons. “He taught us how to stand up,” said Plum. “He truly did show up at every event. We could always count on Ed.”

While Herlihy was best remembered as a “Yellow Dog Democrat,” he is credited with being a driving force behind the creation of the Reston Community Center. In 1974, he served on a task force that “made the center a reality.”

Leila Gordon, a member of the Reston Community Center staff, remembers the 20-year anniversary of the center in 1999 when Herlihy was recognized for his work to create the RCC. Gordon reminded the crowd that the community center where they were sitting “was an extension” of the ideal Herlihy put forward 31 years ago.

Reston Citizens Association President Mike Corrigan got to know Herlihy when he ran for Congress five years ago. Corrigan recalled the last time he saw Herlihy. “It was election night,” said Corrigan. “Ed was on a great high that night because of the gains of the Democratic Party.”

HERLIHY WAS BORN Jan. 28, 1942 in New Jersey. His parents died when he was young, and his aunt and uncle took him in and raised him.

In 1964, he graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in civil engineering. For many years, Herlihy worked for MCV, a local engineering consulting firm in Annandale. He was about to start a new consultancy with MCV a few days after he died.

In the early 1970s, Herlihy moved to Reston, where became very active in the community. He was an active member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and in the last year he helped form the Dulles Area Democrats. This past political season, Herlihy worked on numerous Democratic campaigns, including the successful campaign of David Poisson, who defeated veteran Del. Richard H. "Dick" Black (R-32).

For the past few year, Herlihy was also very involved in the Reston town issue and Lake Anne revitalization. Herlihy attended the most recent public meeting on township two month ago, advocating that Reston become a town.