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Longtime Arlingtonian, housing advocate and local leader Cecilia Cassidy dies at 75

Longtime Arlingtonian and local leader Cecilia Cassidy passed away yesterday in Frederick, Maryland, at the age of 75.

In Arlington, she was best known for her housing advocacy and her leadership of two local organizations: the Rosslyn Business Improvement District and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, now the Columbia Pike Partnership.

“Cecilia was a connector and leaves many friends, old and new,” her obituary says. “She will be missed.”

Cassidy was born in Brooklyn, New York on Aug. 20, 1948, and grew up on Long Island. Cassidy got her start in journalism, reporting for the Susquehanna Sentinel in Oneonta, New York, and went on to have articles published in The Washington Post, USA Today and Newsday, among other newspapers and literary journals.

She lived in Arlington for 45 years. She kicked off her housing career tenant organizing in Arlington Village, where she lived along Columbia Pike, during a condo conversion in the 1980s, according to her obituary. Together with Arlington County, she helped establish the first limited-equity housing co-op in Virginia and she later went on to head up community relations for the affordable housing developer AHC, Inc.

Cassidy was also instrumental in standing up the Rosslyn BID — Arlington’s first such organization — and serving as its executive director for more than a decade.

“It was her work that really made the BIDs work here in the county,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said when Cassidy retired from this post in 2013.

Cassidy then served for three years as the interim leader of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization after the sudden resignation of former executive director Takis Karantonis, now an Arlington County Board member. She retired from CPRO in 2018, after overseeing the organization’s largest period of financial growth in 30 years and the adoption of a strategic plan, per a press release at the time.

“CPRO is grateful for Cecilia’s leadership and her contributions to the organization but even more grateful for the spirit, enthusiasm, and friendship Cecilia has shared with us,” then-board president John Snyder said at the time.

Cassidy was a member of the Leadership Arlington Class of 2000 and was named to the board of directors of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, or APAH.

But her other great love was to travel, according to her obituary.

“Her junior year abroad had her hitchhiking all over Europe,” it says. “She did her first of many cross-country trips at the age of 21 in a refurbished telephone truck with Tara’s playpen in the back and her sister Carol sharing the wheel. Over the years she visited friends in Poland, Russia and Puerto Rico, and after an extensive genealogy search, found long lost relatives in Ireland.”

Cassidy moved to Frederick in 2019 to be close to her daughter, Tara. Cassidy is survived by three siblings, her daughter Tara and a grandson and four nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, people can make a donation in Cassidy’s name to APAH, AHC, the Writer’s Center in Bethesda or the Wroxton College of Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she studied abroad.

There will be a public viewing on Saturday, Nov. 11 from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Rollins Life Celebration Center in Frederick. A service will be held the following day, Sunday, from 12-1 p.m. followed by a repass in the hall. The service will also be livestreamed.

A memorial Mass and inurement will be scheduled sometime next spring or summer at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Arlington.

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