By Friends of Stephen Sprague
(Ed. Note – The following comments were authored and assembled collectively by Falls Church City Councilman Phil Duncan, Citizens of a Better City chair Sally Ekfelt and F.C. Revenue Commissioner Tom Clinton, who delivered them at last Saturday’s funeral for long-time Falls Church resident Stephen Sprague.)
We are long-time members of the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), one of the many organizations to which Steve belonged. These comments are about Steve from the community perspective over many years of all the organizations he was involved with, including the Housing Corporation, the Housing Commission, the Falls Church Education Foundation, the English as a Second Language Advisory Committee, Citizens for a Better City, and the infamous group called the “ROMEOS” (Retired Old Men Eating Out).
Steve Sprague was a gentle giant, a dedicated community activist, but one who never sought the limelight, or any type of recognition, being a very modest, a very gracious man.
In any volunteer organization, it’s vital to have at least one person who is completely dependable. Steve was our guy. He could always be counted on to give a little extra, to pitch in when help was needed and was in short supply. He was unfailingly, quietly supportive. Kindness was second nature to him.
Steve served in leadership roles in all of our organizations, and it’s no wonder, as he was a touchstone and a mentor for many of us. We appealed to him regularly for his wisdom, good judgment, and thoughtful, level-headed perspective. He was very patient with all of our passionately expressed long-winded opinions, and our debates that frequently continued far into the night, often at his house. Steve was very generous in allowing us to meet at his house, which we loved to do, and frequently did.
Many members of Steve’s organizations wanted to share their thoughts with us for our gathering today. We would like to share just a few of these with you.
Steve was a breath of fresh air on the board of the Falls Church Housing Corporation. Many of the existing board members, by the time of his appointment, had served continuously for a decade or more, and were pretty battle weary. But Steve was always optimistic, and had the patience of a saint. He was a voice of reason when it came to the Housing Corporation’s relationship with the City’s Housing Commission, and when it came to explaining the nuances of federal housing programs.
He was always willing to take on whatever task the board asked of him, even when he knew it would involve conflict. I don’t think Steve ever said “no” to anything he felt needed to be done on behalf of affordable housing. It was a privilege to serve with him.
I (Tom Clinton) have been thinking of how to describe my experience with Steve. The words that come to mind are: integrity, commitment, personal involvement, emotionally present. I had an experience where we disagreed over an issue that I deeply cared about. I respected his judgment so much that I trusted his perspective to be the one which should be followed. He saw or valued something that I did not, and I trusted his heart sufficiently that I concluded that we were both working toward the same goal, but with different tools. It’s easy to like and respect people when they agree with you; it’s much rarer to admire a person with a different perspective which you do not share. Steve was that kind of guy.
Steve and I worked together on the City’s Housing Commission. He truly was an advocate for all things for affordable housing. When he first joined our commission, I was instantly calmed by his presence and knowledge. He continued to impress me as he became our fearless leader chairing the commission. Steve took his role very seriously, while not taking himself too seriously. We all know and loved him, and miss him so.
Steve was an excellent and educated resource for the Falls Church Education Foundation, as we reviewed complicated investment policies and strategies. He was always rational and reasonable with his expectations for staff. He always attended meetings, participated, contributed much, and did so without expectation of recognition or any fanfare. He was always a steady source of humble service.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sprague family, especially Rob, Hayley, and Ellie. We want you to know we loved and admired both of your parents, Steve and Nancy. It was a privilege to have known them. Their passing has left a large hole in our community and in our hearts. They aspired to make their community a better place, and they succeeded. That is something we all should try to accomplish.