Alexandria: Remembering Ronald Kirby

Alexandria: Remembering Ronald Kirby

Alexandria honors slain transportation expert.

Ron Kirby’s family and friends gather at the new plaque in his honor.

Ron Kirby’s family and friends gather at the new plaque in his honor. Photo by Vernon Miles.

Originally, the Woodrow Wilson bridge was going to be a car only bridge, like the old drawbridge it replaced. So if you’ve walked or biked across the Woodrow Wilson bridge over to the trails around the National Harbor area, you can thank Ronald Kirby. Whether you’re for or against I-66 reform, you can thank Kirby for helping to introduce and research the idea. Big fan of teleworking? Kirby was one of the D.C.-area transportation experts analyzing its benefits on local traffic.

The mayor, City Council, staff and transportation planners who knew Kirby came together to remember him with a plaque, set on the Alexandria end of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Kirby was murdered in 2013 by Charles Severance, who last year was sentenced to a lifetime in jail for three murders across over a decade.

“Ron [Kirby] knew more about transportation than anyone else,” said Patsy Ticer, former Alexandria mayor and state delegate. “He was the man to go to. There wasn’t anything he didn’t know.”

“He was the expert to the experts,” said Councilwoman Redella “Del” Pepper. “He left his fingerprints on everything. He just knew it all.”

At the plaque unveiling, officials were joined by Kirby’s friends and family, who remembered a different side of the soft-spoken Australian. Aside from Kirby’s family, Albert Brown may have known Kirby longer than anyone else. On hearing about Kirby’s transportation expertise, Brown worked to bring Kirby from his home in Australia to the United States to work at the Planning and Research Corporation. Brown says the two became quick friends, both at work and socially.

At work, Brown says Kirby was a marvelous negotiator because he listened, really listened, to everyone in a discussion.

“There was no by-rote answers,” agreed Ticer. “He listened to everybody and cared about what he was doing. He had a lot of passion.”

Away from work, Brown and Kirby were passionate about sailing. Kirby’s first wife, Molly Kirby, remembered sailing with Kirby and Brown on the Chesapeake. She also fondly remembered their trips to Egypt, or back to his home in Australia, or a year spent in the Philippines where they adopted two children.

“He loved this city,” said his daughter Marilyn Kirby. “He loved its people and its history.”

His wife, Anne Haynes, said that he helped her out in so many ways, and that she wished he’d been present to help get her to the ceremony.

“He was the love of my life,” said Haynes. “His death has devastated me .… Now, I’m alone, without my love, my friend, and confidant.”