It was a night of laughs, stories and memories as the McLean Citizens Association honored its own at the annual Awards Banquet Dinner Friday at the Tysons Marriott.
The dinner, attended by Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Gerald Connolly, Senator Janet Howell, former MCA board members and presidents and members of the McLean Volunteer Fire Department, is an annual event to acknowledge those members of the MCA who have demonstrated outstanding service to the community in the past year.
“I wanted to give my congratulations to the board members and the MCA,” Connolly said. “I know how important it is for citizens to have a civic voice and how much it is appreciated.”
“Our home extends from the shores of the Potomac River to the edge of one of the largest downtown areas in the country,” said MCA president Susan Turner in her opening comments. “There are countless citizens who’ve given thousands of hours to make this a great place to live, and tonight we honor a few of those citizens.”
The Citizen of the Year award went to Bill Strauss, founder of a theater competition for high school students that now boasts branches across the country and two performances at the Kennedy Center each year.
“I want you to know the Bill Strauss who has given his all to the vision that teenagers are the next generation of the theater. It all started with a phone call I returned to a man who wanted to give scripts to middle school students,” said Judy Brown, who helped work with Strauss to found and organize the Cappies several years ago.
Despite having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Strauss was so dedicated to giving high school students the guidance and encouragement they needed to succeed in theater that nothing held him back, she said. “It was his health hobby, it just got in the way from time to time,” she said. “I remember we went to a meeting with a group of community players and he was so ill he was literally draped over a chair to give his impassioned plea. Maybe that’s why they didn’t agree to work with us,” she said to a round of laughs from those in attendance.
The Cappies program is now a national one, with students and theater groups from across the country participating in competitions and coming to Washington in the summer to put together three performances in three weeks at the Kennedy Center, Brown said.
“Bill, you are the spirit of the Cappies, its driving force,” she said. “You let the kids know you’re there for them and that they are capable of accomplishing their dreams.”
During his acceptance speech, Straus poked fun at his daughters and their spouses, flipping the letters of words around and making it difficult to understand the code in which was speaking, something those at the dinner seemed to not only expect but love and admire in him.
NEXT, JACK HANNON was honored with a Special Recognition award for his work in fighting to create, preserve and protect Lewinsville Park.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Jack for many years and he is one of the most generous men I’ve ever met,” Turner said.
“Thirty years ago, Jack was in the park business, taking Lewinsville away from the hands of a developer,” said longtime friend and MCA board member Bill Byrnes. “He’s spent the past few years working to protect that park again,” he said, referring to the longstanding lawsuit over the use of Lewinsville Park by Marymount University that was recently taken by the Virginia Supreme Court.
“In addition to his public activities, he’s help many individuals throughout the community, including myself,” Byrnes said. “After my wife died and I wanted to return to the theater, Jack jumped into the breach to practice lines with me, becoming Count Dracula, Maggie the Cat and even Satan himself,” he said.
“Having worked in civic offices for so long, I think goodness for the people of the MCA,” Hannon said, accepting his award.
He urged those in the room to bring all sides of an issue to the table as soon as possible to avoid conflict and arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement faster, in light of the Lewinsville Park case. “Be inclusive, get the word out, work together and we will not fail you,” he said to the current MCA board. “The harder the issue, the sooner you bring all of the stakeholders to the table, and be sure to stay and work until all parties have had a chance to be heard.”
As Fire Chief for the McLean Volunteer Fire Department since 1989, “with the exception of one year,” Turner said, Clyde Clark has served McLean’s fire protection needs, training all of the men and women of the department for several decades. He received the Distinguished Public Service Award.
“Clyde has been a volunteer since the 1960s,” said Reza Golesorkhi, department president. “This will mark the 84th year of the McLean Volunteer Fire Department’s existence. It will also mark the 45th year Clyde’s been a member, which is an outstanding accomplishment.”
The only office Clark has not held in those forty years is treasurer, he said, “and if you ask his why about how he balances their checkbook, you’ll know why. But he is the heart and soul of the department.”
“I can assure you, I am surprised, I am pleased, I am flattered,” Clark said of his award. “It dawned on me that we’re talking about the things that are attributed to me by an organization I serve. What I’d like to do, with your blessing, is accept this award on behalf of those volunteers who have passed through the doors of the fire station over the past 84 years,” he said, receiving a standing ovation.
THE OUTSTANDING Service Award had been selected for John Fredricks prior to his death in January after a brief illness. The award presented to his wife, Elsie, who attended the celebration in his place.
“When I presided over the MCA meeting last week, I half expected John to show up…I can’t remember him missing a meeting before last fall,” Turner said. “He worked tirelessly to help improve McLean.”
Board member Herb Becker spoke of Fredricks as a “passionate advocate for the Dark Skies initiative,” which works to reduce or eliminate light pollution in McLean and throughout Fairfax County. “We all seek to be of value, and John Fredricks was of great value to all of us.”
Fredricks “wanted to save Lewinsville Park, to ensure that the people of McLean could gather together there as a community, at least once a year,” Becker said. “He helped enrich our lives by promoting what he thought was a good, great place,” he said, referring to a book that defined such a place as an area where people can meet to enjoy each other’s company and share ideas.
Alluding to Fredricks’ work in having utility wires buried underground in McLean, Becker said “I’m sure if heaven’s downtown still has utility poles, John will be called upon to take care of them. He was of great value.”
Supervisor DuBois read a measure declaring March 11, 2005 as John Fredricks Day on behalf of the residents of the Dranesville District, then presented the proclamation to his widow, who simply accepted it silently from her seat.
“When I first met John back in the 1980s, we’d banter back and forth about everything, and many times we’d disagree,” DuBois said. “But we had a lot of good laughs together and leave with a smile on our faces.”
The Holly Hill Garden Club was recognized with the DuVal Environmental Protection Award for their work beautifying the intersection of Chain Bridge and Ingleside Road, including a recent day’s work in bitter cold weather conditions.
“You may not know their names, but you recognize their work to beautify McLean,” said MCA board member Adrienne Whyte. “The next time you see these ladies up to their elbows in dirt, pulling weeds or planting plants, why not roll down your window and say thank you because they’re doing it for us,” she said.
“We love to see things grow,” said Alma Kasulaitis, who accepted the award on behalf of the club. “When you see us out there, please do say hello. Maybe you can bring out your garde