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Longtime Reston Activist Dies

Beverly Sharp, 62, died Friday after a long battle with cancer.

One of Reston's first African-American residents and a longtime community activist died early Friday morning after a second bout with cancer and a lengthy illness.

Beverly Sharp, 62, first moved to the Hunters Woods neighborhood with her husband in 1968 and almost immediately became involved with the burgeoning community, according to her friends and family.

"Bev was all about getting things to happen that fostered the whole idea that Reston should be a good place for everyone to live an work together," said her husband, Ed Sharp.

As a founder of Reston Black Focus, which helped bring African-American families into the community, Beverly Sharp was an early advocate for racial and economic integration in Reston.

"Her work back then helped shape Reston into what it is today," said Ed Sharp, who affectionately referred to his wife as a "constructive agitator."

In the early days of Reston, Bev Sharp could be found working at Common Ground coffee house at Lake Anne Plaza.

She also drew the notice of her neighbors for being a strong advocate for moderately priced housing in Reston, an attribute that helped convince the U.S. Geological Survey to move its headquarters to Sunrise Valley Drive in 1973.

Later in the 1970s, Bev Sharp's vocal cheerleading was instrumental in helping to establish the Reston Community Center, which opened in 1979.

"She was vibrant, exciting, interested, curious," said Reston founder Robert E. Simon. "The breadth of her interests is what knocks me out."

Simon said he was impressed that she played on a soccer team, was a member of the Virginia State Parliamentary Association, was a crossword puzzle aficionado who traveled each year to crossword conventions and was a licensed pilot.

"And did you know she was a great cook?" Simon said. "She was a fantastic cook."

IN THE 1980s and early 90s, Bev Sharp devoted much of her time to volunteering with Herndon Success Campaign, a program at Herndon High School which partnered teenagers with mentors to encourage academic success.

Over the years, Bev Sharp had become close friends with the program's founder, Thelma Calbert, also a longtime African-American Reston resident.

If a student in the program performed particularly well, Calbert said, Bev Sharp would take them to the Andrews Air Force Base air show or for a ride in her twin-prop airplane.

"It let the students say, 'Here's a lady who not only flies, but has her own plane,'" Calbert said. "They looked up to her."

The last time Calbert spoke with Bev Sharp was a few days before her death in a conversation about Sharp speaking at this weekend's Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance. At the event, Sharp was going to introduce her friend Ezra Hill, an airman with the Tuskegee Airman in World War II.

In that conversation, Bev Sharp said she hoped to create a fund to encourage young women to become pilots. Calbert said she hopes to continue with those plans.

"It's been a beautiful experience knowing her," Calbert said. "I call her a visionary, an organizer, a real leader. She was about doing good. She was about doing what's right."

BEV SHARP was known internationally as president of the Ninety-Nines, a world-wide organization of 7,000 female pilots.

A pilot for the past 15 years, Bev Sharp often flew with her husband out of an airfield in Warrenton.

In recent years, she was also known in Reston for her work with the Alliance for a Better Community, helping to recruit candidates to serve on Reston's elected bodies such as Reston Association and the Reston Community Center's Board of Governors.

At the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said Bev Sharp was a pillar of the Reston community and said they would "keep her family in all our thoughts."

Bev Sharp is survived by her husband and two sons, Edward Sharp Jr., 42, and Sam Sharp, 36. Sam Sharp lives in Ashburn with his wife and two children.