Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

When teen drivers cruised Arlington in the 1960s, we had to stay on the lookout for a special danger.

Shout an obscenity from your shotgun seat, or tap your bumper into the wrong car, and you could be staring in terror at perhaps the biggest, toughest streetfighter our county ever raised.

Patrick Hassan, 6 foot ‘5, 260 lbs. and trained in judo, lived a block from me, and even a mild-mannered Clark Kent such as I had scary encounters with him.

What made the drama strange was that Hassan’s father was Commonwealth’s Attorney William J. Hassan.

Pat Hassan died this month at 67, battling rheumatoid arthritis. As I reminisced with friends, his brother William and sons Keegan and Cody prepared a memorial at Stonewall Memory Gardens in Manassas.

We marveled at a man more complex than that “tough guy” image on which many memories were fixed.

C. B. Deering, a retired trucker, was his most frequent partner in mischief. “Yes, we had a ticket to ride,” he said of the fact that Pat’s dad was chief prosecutor. “Me and Pat could do what we wanted, but it wasn’t malicious.” When they were arrested and brought before a judge, the cases of “just a busted lip” were dismissed.

One night in Georgetown while cruising in Pat’s $200 car, they flipped the bird to a half-dozen loiterers. Hassan and Deering lured them tentatively across Key Bridge to an Arlington cul de sac. Then they “kicked the [expletive] out of them.”

“Pat wasn’t that athletic,” Deering said, but he fought with open hands and used “a foot sweep” to surprise his opponent by kicking his feet out from under him. “He was intelligent.”

At a carnival in Manassas, a clown taunted Hassan to toss a ball and dunk him in a water tank. It got under Pat’s skin so “he jumped the fence and threw the guy in the tank,” Deering recalled.

Their best-known Arlington escapade was when Pat fooled an undercover agent and detective trying to nail him in a drug sting. As Pat explained to his father, he had opened antihistamine capsules and substituted Aunt Jemima pancake mix. When the lab work came back negative, the cops were embarrassed.

My personal confrontations with Pat were comparatively tame. Before I turned 16, I sold him illicit beer. But he collected the six-pack without leaving me money. When I meekly confronted him at a school football game, he ponied up, I’m guessing, out of neighborhood solidarity.

The first time my friends were old enough to drive without a grownup, we picked a Friday night on Military Road to yell an insult to guys standing under a streetlight. My friend stomped on the gas just in time to escape a huffing Hassan sprinting after us.

We all grew up. Hassan joined the Marines (1969-75). He settled in Gainesville, Virginia, as a surveyor. He married Gina, and they bought a home in 1984. Her early death forced Pat to raise two sons alone. Both have successful careers.

“Pat was a loyal friend,” recalled my classmate Gregg Hoagland, whose brother joined the Marines alongside Pat. “He was intimidating in size, but one-on-one he was almost introverted. In a group he was ‘all in’ for the venture.”

“If I ever need a friend,” said Deering, “I’d want Pat Hassan in my holster.”

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A full house of firefighters and Halls Hill history devotees turned out Jan. 26 to mark the 100th anniversary of Fire Station 8.

Founded in 1918 and funded via 25-cents-a-month subscriptions, its black volunteer (and later paid) safety specialists at first worked an area with few water lines, aging equipment and exclusion from the countywide white fire-fighting association.

Saturday’s audience of station veterans and community fans of all colors thanked their heroes who came a long way. And Kitty Clark Stevenson, whose father in 1951 became Arlington’s first paid black firefighter, thanked the county for canceling its disputatious plan to close the beloved station and move it eight blocks north.

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