If anyone deserved the title, “Mr. Falls Church,” it was Ed Strait.
Mr. Strait died after a short illness Monday at age 88. It is awkward for anyone who knew him well in Falls Church to call him “Mr. Strait.” Friendly and collegial, he was just “Ed” to all who knew him, and in the context of Falls Church community life, when you referred to “Ed” everybody knew who you meant.
The same is true for his long-time dear friend, Edna Frady, former chair of the Falls Church City Democratic Committee. Ed’s health was being discussed by Edna at a typical Falls Church party just Saturday, a large and happy gathering of volunteers and supporters of President Obama’s successful re-election campaign. Ed normally wouldn’t have missed such an occasion, but he wasn’t feeling well, Edna said.
Then, only two days later, Edna broke the news that “Mr. Falls Church” had passed away.
Moving to Falls Church in 1958, Ed Strait served on the Falls Church City Council during the 1980s. He was defeated in 1988 by an upstart group known as the Falls Church Citizens Organization, and while he didn’t run again, his civic activism wasn’t diminished in the slightest.
He was tireless working for the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), the City’s venerable non-partisan political association set up to help elect quality candidates to the City Council. He was also active on the Democratic Committee, the Historical Commission and the American Legion. He maintained and often provided amazing historical and statistical details about City elections and events.
Ed Strait was the first-ever recipient of the CBC’s Jane and Wayne Dexter Award for Meritorious Service in 2001, and in 2007 recalled that in a piece he wrote entitled, “Falls Church, My Athens.” He quoted a News-Press account of his receiving the award: “Truly surprised by the honor, he had no prepared remarks. But that resulted in his telling an eloquent off the cuff story of a brief essay he wrote upon applying to Columbia University as a youth that earned him acceptance at that school and has clearly guided his life ever since. His 250-word treatise was about the Athenian Creed, which, paraphrasing, affirmed that the true purpose of one’s life is to leave society in better shape than one found it.”
He then quoted from Athenian Creed, an oath taken by young men in ancient Athens when they reached the age of 17, which included, “We will strive increasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
Ed concluded, “When I moved to Falls Church in 1958, Falls Church became my Athens. And it still is.”
It certainly was, and we’re all the better for that, and for him.