Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

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Our placid residential enclave in East Falls Church was rocked July 24 when news broke of an apparent murder-suicide.

Around 2:45 in the afternoon, police responded to a welfare call on the 2400 block of North Quantico St. When I arrived two hours later, a dozen officers and a mobile crime lab were in front of the red-brick home cordoned off with yellow crime-scene tape.

Terry Lynn Matsumoto, 82, police said in their statement that evening, was the victim of gun shots. Also found dead was her husband, Masao Matsumoto, 81. “This appears to be an isolated incident and there is no indication of a larger threat to the community,” police said.

Neighbors in the days following expressed puzzlement. Several left flowers in bottles on the front stoop, along with messages scrawled in magic marker on cardboard to “the best neighbors and dog owners in the neighborhood,” as one said. The couple’s cars remain, variations on their names on vanity plates, a porch light still on.

“It was such a shock,” said Lex Schembri, who regularly chatted with the couple while walking her dogs. “It’s surprising that people like that would have a gun. They were so anti-violence and peace-and-love types. He was quiet, but his wife was very friendly and always asked me about the pets.”

Terry and Masao Matsumoto were seen by many as “aging hippies,” he with the gray goatee and long hair. Their highly private manner endured through a half-century in the neighborhood. Both were retired from the federal government, she with the Federal Communications Commission, he as an economist for the Agriculture Department and the University of California at Davis.

They had two children: daughter Kim, who left Arlington, and son Tosh, a tow-truck driver who was seen at his parents’ home when police arrived. Tosh, who has fathered the couple’s grandchildren, posted Facebook photos of his parents on vacation riding an elephant, along with the front-stoop tributes.

Neighbors who gathered Sunday to remember the couple said they had a sense of humor, as in applying black tape to a yellow car to make it look like a giraffe. Husband and wife were tightly bonded. “He was a Japanese-American who defied convention in life and death, and they didn’t fit the North Arlington upper-class norm,” said Amy Sebes.

The wife’s Alzheimer’s had made her look increasingly ill, several said.

That was confirmed by clientele who frequent the Forest Inn bar-restaurant in Westover, where the Matsumotos were regulars. “They were wonderful,” said bartender Liz. But when Terry came in the week before, she looked unkempt. Because she had alcohol issues, no liquor was kept in the home, Liz added, showing me a photo of the couple just sent by their grieving son. Masao was an artist whose paintings occasionally showed up in the bar.

“They were a couple in love,” I was told by Ray Allen, a locksmith who noted that their visits to the Forest Inn had become less frequent. “They held hands when they got out of the car and were very cordial. It was one of those `can’t live without you, can’t live with you’ ” situations, he speculated.

Detectives continue to investigate, police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed on July 30. Final determination of cause of death lies with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

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Triple whammy last week at the site of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike. Its eight-decade-old building was demolished—part of a deal to build low-income apartments by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. County officials came by July 27 to break ground for the 173-unit project.

And the determined congregation – temporarily at the Arlington United Methodist Church on South Glebe Road – rushed to broker a last-minute good deed.

On learning a slice of land was left over, parishioners wrestled permission from the church’s regional authority and raised $700,000 to snatch it from a developer. The purpose: to preserve green space, perhaps for a garden.