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Remembering Dan McGuire, Proud Restonian

This week, I'm paying tribute to former RCA Board member Dan McGuire, who recently passed away. Dan's bold thinking, good humor, and pride in the community were an example to us all.

Reston lost one of its proudest citizens this week.  On Sunday morning, former
RCA Board member Dan McGuire lost his long struggle with cancer.  It was not an unexpected piece of news, but still a sad one.  I lost a friend, but more importantly, Reston lost a long-time, hard-working community leader.

If you spent more than five minutes talking to Dan, you knew exactly where he stood and what was important to him.  He was a proud Catholic, a proud Republican, a proud University of Maryland grad, and a proud military veteran.  Not all of those identities were always the most popular around here (a Terp in Reston?  I mean, really), but Dan never shied away from speaking his mind.  And although he was outspoken in his opinions, Dan was warm and friendly to everybody.  Even if you didn’t share his beliefs, he would happily talk and joke with you and share his stories.  You may have disagreed with Dan, but it was very hard to dislike him.

Among his other identities, Dan was a proud Restonian.  He loved his community so much that in 1988, as President of the Reston Homeowner’s Coalition, Dan nominated Reston for the National Civic League’s All-America City Award.  Dan’s application celebrated Reston’s “diversity and dynamism,” and described the ways in which we are “a city that cares.”  He described Reston’s volunteer efforts to open the Embry Rucker Shelter and to bring an obstretics unit to Reston Hospital Center.  In the space of a few short pages, he managed to capture many of the elements that make Reston a special place.  There’s no question that Dan was proud of his community.

It was Dan’s pride in Reston that made him such a forceful advocate for self-governance.  He supported RCA’s pushes to get Reston incorporated as a town, but he urged us to think bigger: Why settle for being a town when you could be an independent city?  And if the General Assembly or the County wouldn’t go along, he had a plan that was typically Dan in its boldness: Organize a citizen government that would provide the functions and services of a city.  In other words, fake it ‘til you make it.  We haven’t tried it yet, but it might not be a bad way to demonstrate our ability to govern ourselves.

Dan served the community for decades as a volunteer and leader, and he tried to serve it as an elected official as well.  Those of you who have been in Reston for a while may remember Dan’s campaigns for the House of Delegates.  He was unsuccessful, but I admire him for even making the effort.  It’s not easy to run as a Republican in a place like Reston, especially against a popular incumbent like Ken Plum, knowing that you’re almost certain to lose.  But our electoral system
depends on offering choices, and I salute those, like Dan, who stand up for what they believe in, even in a doomed effort.

I served with Dan on RCA for several years.  He ran a write-in campaign for the Board in 2008 and won.  He wound up serving as RCA Vice President for a couple of years, and as Second Vice President during my first year as President.  His experience and counsel were invaluable to me during that first year. He served as the Board’s conscience, ensuring that we maintained the highest moral and ethical standards in our activities.  But he was not a scold or a wet blanket; rather, his easy smile and good humor helped strengthen the Board’s camaraderie. 

For years, he was the driving force behind RCA’s Reston license plate campaign, campaigning in commuter lots and meeting with his many friends in business and community circles in an effort to achieve critical mass and get the plate on the road.

Despite these and Dan’s many other contributions to RCA, my strongest memories of him date to college football season.  As soon as Dan found out I was a UVA grad, he turned this into the basis for a friendly rivalry between us.  We frequently compared our team’s (usually mis)fortunes on the gridiron, and we rarely resisted the opportunity for a playful jab at each other’s schools.  And I will never forget the many meetings when, with the agenda at its end and everyone ready to head home, Dan would use the “other business” item as an opportunity to launch into a soliloquy about the Terrapins’ football woes.  It’s a testament to Dan’s natural charm that we all liked him in spite of this.

As RCA prepares to tackle a bold agenda in 2013, I’ll be inspired by Dan’s example and seeking ways to honor his memory.  For starters, I can think of two.  First, we will find a way to get the license plate campaign over the finish line, and build on the work that Dan began.  And second, we will continue searching for a path to self-governance for Reston.  I know that Dan will be smiling down from heaven on the day we can finally dedicate the Town (or City!) of Reston.

If you were one of Dan’s many friends, I hope you’ll attend the celebration of his life that will occur next Monday, January 28th, from 6 to 8 PM at Money & King Funeral Home in Vienna.  I will be there, and I look forward to celebrating Dan with the people whose lives he touched and whose community he helped build.  And I hope that somebody there talk about what Maryland’s football team will do in 2013.  It seems like a fitting tribute to a leader, an exemplar, a friend, and a very proud man.  Godspeed, Dan; I miss you already.

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Tammi Petrine January 24, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Thanks, Colin, for honoring Dan McGuire in your column this week. My heart is heavy, knowing that Dan is gone. I got to know Dan when I first began serving on the RCA board some years ago. I thank RCA for introducing us and for forging a strong board from a variety of Restonians of different perspectives and experiences who become none-the-less dear friends. Dan and his friend George Kain formed what I characterized as the “old guard.” Unfailingly polite and accomplished retired military officers, they were both pure gentlemen with panache who instantly made me feel welcome. As a newbie on the board, I, on the other hand, soon became known to mince no words and “tell it like it is.” Dan instantly became a favorite, not because our stances meshed as they often did not, but because of his kindness, his grace and the twinkle in his eye. We loved to kid one another and frequently he would ask me to tell him what I really thought. We never entered or left a meeting without bidding one another the best. I think the qualities that really bonded us were our mutual love for Reston, Dan’s creativity and his generosity. In short, he was a prince of a guy and a friend whom I will dearly miss. Oh, Danny boy, oh, Danny boy, we loved you so…
Ken Fredgren January 24, 2013 at 09:54 PM
This acknowledgement of Dan was most thoughtful and loving of you, Colin. Thank you. Dan was a member of RCA's Reston Accessibility Committee until his ill-health would no longer permit. He was everything you said - and that's a lot!
Bill Bouie January 26, 2013 at 01:43 AM
I am so sorry to hear this about Dan and thanks Colin for such a nice article. Dan and I agreed on almost nothing, but he was a gentleman and we always had great conversations. I will miss him on Sunday at 7:30 mass when he would always tap me on the shoulder as he was going up to communion to say hello. He was a man of conviction and I respected that very much. Rest in peace Dan, knowing that you gave it your all and you will always be remembered.

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