Andy Lawless worked his whole life, raised a family, helped his community and, finally, got to retire in January 2006. He and wife Pat then traveled the country — something he'd always wanted to do — and planned to spend all this summer in Ocean City.
So his death Monday night at age 71 took his whole family by surprise, devastating those who knew and loved him.
"No one expected this," said his daughter, Meg Crossett of Centreville's Pleasant Hill community. "It happened way too fast."
LAWLESS, who'd lived in Chantilly and Centreville for 34 years, had beaten lung cancer, 23 years ago. But this time, he fell victim to rapidly growing tumors in his lung and liver. He died Aug. 13, at 7 p.m., surrounded by family, in a hospital near their summer home in Ocean City, Md.
The Lawless name has been well-known here for decades. Both Andy and Pat were accomplished Realtors with Long & Foster, Realtors and, in 1981, Andy was one of the founders of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee.
"At the time, there was no organization out here," explained Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch. "People were selling their farms for development and we wanted to be able to control it."
"It was back when Centre Ridge was just being developed," he recalled. "We kept it from being 5,500 townhouses, instead of the approximately 3,500 units it is today — with a good mix of townhouses, apartments and single-family homes. We got the school [Centre Ridge Elementary] and park [at St. Germain and Field Encampment] sites, too, and Andy was an integral part of the negotiations."
Koch said Lawless was always there to help where needed and, in the 1980s, he served two terms on the land-use committee. "When the previous land-use chairman moved away and I was joining the Planning Commission, I asked Andy if he'd step in and be WFCCA chairman, and he did," said Koch. "He was such a wonderful guy and such an asset to the community."
On a personal level, Koch said, "I have such fond memories of him. Everyone thought the world of Andy; he was such a sincere person. And people always looked forward to his Twelfth Night parties [celebrating the Epiphany] in early January. He was a gracious host and a suave gentleman."
HE NOTED, as well, the strong partnership Pat and Andy had, not just in business, but in life. "They were just such a good team," said Koch. "They were married all these years and still loved each other so much. And they survived such adversity with the loss of their granddaughter, Rachel [Crossett's daughter, who died of cancer at age 6 in July 2001]."
"What a nice man, what a loss," added Koch. "Boy, my heart sure goes out to Pat. But he enjoyed life. If anyone ever got every ounce of happiness out of life, it was Andy."
At-Large Planning Commissioner Jim Hart knew Lawless since the early 1990s and remembered the days when he served on the WFCCA with the late Jim McDonnell, Dick Frank and Rick Korink.
"He was both WFCCA president and land-use committee chairman," said Hart. "And he was a peacemaker. He didn't like people to leave a meeting angry. He always tried to find some common ground. He tried to build consensus in the community, if possible, and he reached out to the next generation to bring other folks into community-leadership positions."
"He was a longtime volunteer for the community," said WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm. "It's sad to hear of his passing." Current land-use chairman, Jim Katcham, said Lawless was "interested in doing the best for the community and served it tirelessly."
Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) recalled that Lawless was one of the first people she met after becoming Centreville District Supervisor in 1984. "We became good friends," she said. "He was a supporter of mine and a delightful person, and I thought very highly of him."
"Both he and Pat were such a great couple and good, solid citizens," said McConnell. "I was so fond of both of them."
Parents of four children, the Lawlesses lived in Greenbriar from 1971-81, on Mount Gilead Road in Centreville's Historic District from 1981-88, and in Virginia Run from 1988-2005. Andy joined Long & Foster as a new Realtor in April 1980, and he and neighbor Don DeBragga were agents in the Greenbriar office before Lawless left to manage the Herndon office in 1988.
"ANDY WAS a mentor to Don," said DeBragga's wife, Sharon. "They started the Long & Foster office in Greenbriar together and shared the same desk. Don loved listening to Andy's stories and his wisdom on business, and he's taking the loss really hard. I cried when I heard about Andy; we're all going to miss him terribly."
Even after the two men moved to different offices, their families remained friends and kept in touch. "Andy and Pat were wonderful people, so involved in the community," said Sharon. "And Andy mentored and was friends to so many people for years and years."
Andy went on to manage the Reston, Manassas and Sterling offices, too. He then opened and managed the Ashburn office and built it up until it was successful, before retiring in January 2006. "I don't know that anyone else has ever managed five, different offices for us," said Long & Foster President and COO Brenda Shipplett.
Since she was previously in charge of the company's Northern Virginia offices, she got to know both Pat and Andy well. (Pat managed the Centreville office for many years).
"Andy was very special," said Shipplett. "Everyone at headquarters had a nickname for him — we called him the pride of Long & Foster because he just was. He had an upbeat attitude and was always willing to go the extra mile and do anything for anybody."
"He said, 'Wherever you need me, I'm there, and I'll do anything I can to help,'" continued Shipplett. "He was a consummate salesperson because of his ability to relate to people. Even as a manager, his best [talent] was helping his agents and making his office a happy place."
Calling Lawless' death a shock, she said the Northern Virginia managers were "like a tight-knit family, and he was one of us. He was blessed to have a fabulous family [of his own], but he also did great work for us."
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) knew the Lawlesses since about 1978-79, when they still lived in Greenbriar, and he attended their first Twelfth Night party.
"Andy was one of the good ones," said Frey. "No matter what he did, he got involved for the right reasons and to make things better — and he always did." Calling him a "pillar of the community," Frey said, "Andy left a tremendous legacy in his business, community and family. If I could do half as well, I'd be doing good."
BERNIE CIEPLAK, McConnell's former assistant, knew Andy as both a friend and a community activist since 1983. And he was both stunned and surprised to learn of his death.
"My wife Lisa and I and our family are deeply, deeply saddened," he said. "We've been to numerous family functions and dinners with Pat and Andy, and he was always so warm, engaging and considerate — just a true gentleman. I think that's what everyone will remember about Andy."
"He and Pat were both dedicated, community servants," added Cieplak. "MY heart goes out to the whole family; they'll be in our prayers."