Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the ARLnow Press Club weekend newsletter. Thank you to Press Club members for helping to fund our in-depth local features.
When Claremont resident Connie Freeman met her father last summer for the first time, it all started to make sense.
“This may sound kind of crazy and you may only know if it’s happened to you, but I felt like a puzzle piece fit,” she tells ARLnow. “I felt like I had the wrong piece in there my whole life.”
Connie Freeman is a 62-year-old county employee, working as a community outreach specialist for nearly three decades, and has lived in Arlington most of her life. And, up until last year, she had never known her father.
Her mom had gotten pregnant as a teenager in the late 1950s and her father had just never been part of their lives. But with her mom getting older, it became clear that now was the time for Connie, along with her own son Noe, to rediscover their family’s history.
Using AncestryDNA testing, together they discovered some surprising clues. For one, she was a quarter Lebanese. Considering that her mom was not Lebanese — “my grandmother has green eyes and blond hair,” says Noe — that was an interesting development. Their DNA results also turned up a name that was unfamiliar.
“At 11 o’clock at night, [my son] is emailing me, texting me, and calling me,” Connie says. ‘”Mom, I think I found your brother.'”
Using social media, Connie tracked down that person and a number of others the DNA results had cited as connected to them. Then, she made an unusual decision, at least, by today’s standards.
She reached out by handwritten letter, believing that the extra personal touch was more likely to get a response.
“The letter was very specific and it said I’m trying to find my father and, if he’s alive, I’d like to meet him,” she says.
Also included in the letter were some possible genetic and identifying details. Like, for example, her love of black olives and Noe being a fantastic soccer player. She additionally included where she was born, where she lived now, and that her mom always told her that her dad was in the military.
The letter worked. Within days, she got a call from an 84-year-old man named Richard Ziadie.
She admits getting that call was a bit surreal and hard to comprehend, but she made plans to meet Richard at his home in New Jersey on August 16, 2021 — on his 85th birthday.
When they met, it was immediately evident to Connie that this man was her father. He loved to spend time outside, in his garden, and had quite a green thumb.
“My son loved to garden as a kid and now owns his own landscaping company. Now, I know he got that from his grandfather,” she says.
He was also a people person and a fantastic host, just like his daughter.
“That’s something my mom does consistently, she always has people over,” Noe says. “They are both very charismatic.”
In photos of the three, the resemblance is also striking. Further DNA results confirmed that they were truly family, Richard was Connie’s dad.
“It all made sense,” Connie says.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Just over 2,000 Dominion customers were without power in Arlington this morning.
Though there are small, scattered outages around the county after last night’s storms, the main outage is affecting the Shirlington, Fairlington and Claremont neighborhoods.
More than 3,500 Dominion customers were also in the dark across the border in Alexandria as a result of the outage. No restoration time was given on the Dominion Energy website.
— Debby Bowman (@bowmandj626) May 27, 2021
As of 10:45 a.m., the number of Dominion customers without power in Arlington had dropped to just over 1,000.
An incident involving a county vehicle along S. Walter Reed Drive near Four Mile Run may have contributed to the outage.
“At approximately 9:17 a.m., police were dispatched to S. Four Mile Run Drive and S. Walter Reed Drive for the report of a traffic complaint,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the bucket of an Arlington County Government truck struck wires connected to a utility pole.”
The incident caused the utility pole to topple onto some nearby trees.
Dominion crews are currently working to replace the pole and fix the lines. The crash happened a block away from a power substation.
(Updated at 3 p.m.) A portion of Old Dominion Drive is closed after a large free fell and landed on a passing car.
The incident happened around 1:30 p.m. just east of the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and N. Thomas Street, near Dorothy Hamm Middle School and The Horizons Apartments.
The tree fell on a car heading eastbound on Old Dominion Drive, crushing most of the frontend. The driver, who suffered minor cuts and some chest pain, told ARLnow that he did not notice the tree falling until it was too late.
“It was very shocking,” said the driver, Michael. “If I did not have my seatbelt on, we would not be talking right now.”
As of 2 p.m. the road was still closed in both directions, as VDOT crews with chainsaws, a front loader and dump trucks were working to clear the large tree from the roadway. Police are also on scene, helping to direct traffic.
Elsewhere in Arlington, there have been numerous reports of downed trees, branches and wires amid today’s gusty winds.
A tree that fell this morning near the intersection of 23rd Street S. and S. Dinwiddie Street, near Wakefield High School, closed the road and knocked out power to the neighborhood. As of 2 p.m. Dominion’s website reported 124 customers in the area were still without power, with no estimated restoration time.
A Wind Advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m.
Up our street – this isn't good. pic.twitter.com/6jATfuzryz
— Michael Neubert (@BikesBooksOther) April 10, 2020
Map via Google Maps
(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) Nearly 400 Dominion customers are reported to be without power in the area around Wakefield High School on this snowy Tuesday night.
The outage follows a report of a live wire that fell across S. Chesterfield Road, prompting a road closure near the high school, according to police radio traffic. Dominion says the outage is caused by a tree on a power line and the estimated restoration time is between 7-10 p.m.
Currently, the outage is mostly affecting the Claremont neighborhood. Earlier, some 3,500 customers were said to be without power in Claremont and portions of surrounding neighborhoods like Shirlington and Fairlington.
Arlington County Police tweeted video of power lines sparking and an apparent transformer explosion on Chesterfield Road near Route 7, encouraging residents to “stay clear of downed trees and power lines.”
WATCH: ACPD officers respond to a downed tree on a power line at S. Chesterfield Road and King Street. Stay clear of downed trees and power lines and report hazards to the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency. More: https://t.co/YKHd1X8XNm pic.twitter.com/Qk4isBW534
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) January 7, 2020
A man who was running around naked near Claremont Immersion School was taken into police custody this morning.
Police responded to S. Buchanan Street around 11:15 a.m. for a report of a man who was possibly suffering a mental health emergency in the neighborhood around the elementary school. Officers reportedly observed the man running down the middle of the street without clothes on and jumping atop at least one vehicle.
The man was “safely taken into police custody” after a few minutes, according to the Arlington County Police Department. There were no reports of any violent or threatening behavior during the incident.
ACPD responded to a mental health call for service. The subject has been safely taken into policy custody. There is no known threat to the community related to this investigation. Expect police presence in the area.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) October 10, 2018
Map via Google Maps
An Alliterative Arlington Agency Announcement — Per the Dept. of Environmental Services on Twitter: “Monumentally massive municipal mulch mounds must move momentarily. Mooch munificent mobile masses. Magically metamorphosing. More message…” [Arlington County, Twitter]
Arlington to Participate in Drug Take-Back Day — “On Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 15th opportunity in seven years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.” [Arlington County]
Claremont Neighborhood Profiled — “In the quiet community of Claremont in southwest Arlington, Va., there is little turnover in homes — one of many indications of how much residents love living there.” [Washington Post]
Tenth of Metrobus Fleet Pulled From Services — “Metro has temporarily removed from service 164 buses – representing approximately 10 percent of its fleet – following two incidents in which the engines cut off at low speed… The 164 buses were manufactured by New Flyer in 2015 and 2016. The buses are all 40-foot compressed natural gas models that operate out of Metro’s Bladensburg Bus Division in Northeast DC and Four Mile Bus Division in Arlington.” [WMATA, WTOP]
ARLnow Featured on Disqus Blog — ARLnow is one of the publishers selected to provide direct feedback to the product managers behind the commenting system we use, Disqus. We were also just featured on the Disqus blog for our annual reader survey, which was cited as a way for other publishers to “get to know your engaged users.” [Disqus]
This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!
Where is it? Claremont is one of Arlington’s southern-most neighborhoods, conveniently located a mile from the intersection of Rt 7 and 395. Host to Claremont Immersion School (dual language), Wakefield High, and Barcroft Park, it’s made up of very well constructed cape cod and colonial homes built in the late 1940s and is a National Historic District.
About the interviewee: Merryl Burpoe, an energy consultant, moved to Claremont in 1988 where she and her husband raised three children (cute kids pictured are Merryl’s grandchildren). They purchased an original colonial home and like many families in Claremont, instead of moving away for more space, they expanded in place, including a beautiful wrap-around porch! They chose Claremont for the commute, school system, Barcroft Park, and affordability.
What makes Claremont unique? Our neighbors are so friendly, active, and diverse. It has a small town neighborhood feel with all of the benefits of being minutes from city amenities. It’s a “front-facing house” neighborhood; people spend time interacting from the front porch and kids play in the front yard/street. It’s incredible how many families choose to expand their home in order to stay here.
Where do you usually go out to eat? We usually go to the Village at Shirlington. I just hosted a girls’ weekend there and it was a blast! My favorite restaurants are Osteria Da Nino, Carlyle Grand Café, T.H.A.I., and Samuel Beckett’s for a drink!
Is it walkable/bike-friendly/family-friendly/dog-friendly? Yes, we regularly walk the park and to Shirlington. Yes, many neighbors commute to D.C. by bike. Yes, the biggest change in the neighborhood is the number of kids. The neighborhood hosts family-friendly events like a 4th of July and Halloween parade, chili cook-off, block parties, holiday lighting contest, and a garden club! The Claremont mini-park is very popular with kids. Oh my god yes, there are tons of dogs because of the lot sizes, nearby trails, and Shirlington Dog Park.
How do you feel about the local school system? South Arlington schools are very under-estimated. We had wonderful experiences with all three of our children and they felt the benefits of Arlington schools when they went to college.
What about public transportation? It’s great. Very easy access to bus stops, including the Shirlington Bus Station, and I often use the Pentagon City metro for trips into D.C. You’re also about 10 minutes from the airport.
What’s been your overall experience? It was the perfect place to raise a family and continues to be a wonderful location for my husband and I. We love being so close to the Kennedy Center and Old Town Alexandria too! Claremont isn’t as well known as other Arlington neighborhoods, but people should really come see the community, they’ll love it.
A quick look at some Claremont housing statistics:
- For Sale: There are currently two homes on the market in Claremont
- 5 year history: Lowest sale = $335,500, Highest sale = $759,500 (beautiful blue, expanded cape cod), Average sale = $558,000, Average days on market = 21 days (fast!), Average floor plan = 4BR/2BA
- Heating up: The average sold price from 2014-Today increased by $56,000 (over 10%) compared to the average sold price from 2011-2013
- Low turnover: In the last 10 years, there have been only 4 months with more than two homes sold
This is my first Neighborhood Profile and I’d love to hear what you think. Is there any information you’d like to see in future profiles? Send me an email with feedback or if you’re interested in being interviewed about your neighborhood! You’re not required to include your name or a photo.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.
Update at 11 a.m. Wednesday — Pumpkin Pie was found last night after authorities were able to act on a tip quickly enough to catch her near an apartment building in south Arlington.
Harry Puente-Duany thanked the ARLnow.com readers for their support and help in finding Pumpkin Pie so quickly after this article was published. He said except for some scrapes and her being a bit underweight, Pumpkin Pie is healthy and safe at home.
Earlier: An Arlington resident is asking the community to keep their eyes out for his dog, which went missing more than a week ago.
Pumpkin Pie is a seven-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier mix who ran away from her home near Virginia Square last Sunday evening, Dec. 6. She has a white and light brown coat and is described as very timid.
According to her owner, Harry Puente-Duany, Pumpkin Pie was first spotted north of his home toward Lee Highway and Old Dominion Drive on the night she ran away. Since then, sightings have been reported in parts of South Arlington.
Most recently, Pumpkin Pie was seen on Sunday afternoon in Claremont near the Four Mile Run Trail.
“We’re kind of stuck right now praying for another lead,” Puente-Duany said. “She’s on the move, but we don’t know where she’s headed.”
Puente-Duany rescued Pumpkin Pie about five years ago from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington shelter. He added she can be finicky and very afraid of people because her previous owner treated her poorly.
Despite his dog being missing for several days, Puente-Duany is staying optimistic.
“The fact that we’ve continued to have sightings has helped me to remain hopeful,” he said. “It makes be believe she’s still out there, on the move and safe, for the most part. She could be going anywhere next, but I’m trying to continue to keep the faith.”
Puente-Duany said all the sightings so far have been reports of Pumpkin Pie running down a street or through wooded areas, suggesting she’s scared and spending most of her time running away or hiding out of sight.
He asks that anyone who sees Pumpkin Pie doesn’t chase her or call after her, or risk scaring her more or encouraging to run further away.
“If possible, give us a call and try to keep an eye on her,” he added. “People have been very active doing that so far, but it’s been hard to keep track of her. I’m still amazed by the amount of support from people in Arlington, giving me suggestions and letting me know they’re on the lookout. It’s been so encouraging.”
If anyone sees Pumpkin Pie, they can call Puente-Duany at 301-467-0433 or Animal Control at 703-931-9241.
This pothole, on N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon, is one of the biggest we’ve seen in Arlington.
It’s about two feet across and several inches deep. But is it actually the biggest in Arlington, which is being plagued by potholes as a result of the especially cold and damp winter?
If you’ve seen one that might be bigger, let us know in the comments. And post a photo, if you have one.
The incident happened on the 1200 block of N. Herndon Street, about two blocks from the Clarendon Metro station, according to the crime report.
“At 12:20 am on January 31, a 28 year-old male victim was stopped by two subjects on the sidewalk. One of the subjects held the victim’s throat while the other subject went through his pockets,” the crime report states. “The suspects fled the scene on foot with the victim’s keys.”
“Suspect one is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’9” tall and 160 lbs. He was wearing a red Under Armour sweatshirt and blue jeans at the time of the incident,” the report continues. “Suspect two is described as a Hispanic male, 5’9” tall and 160 lbs, wearing a black sweatshirt and jeans.”
It’s not every day that a new church starts in Arlington, but musician-turned-pastor Scott Maurer of newly formed West City Fellowship has a background even more unique.
Maurer, 46, was raised Jewish, played in a rock band for five years in the mid-Atlantic region and worked in the D.C. tech industry for 10 years before deciding to join the ministry.
West City Fellowship, which is a nondenominational Christian church, held its first official service Sunday morning in a lecture hall at Wakefield High School, where it will continue to hold weekly services at 10:30 a.m.
Raised in Alexandria, Maurer’s father was a “very religious Jew,” but his mother wasn’t observant, so when they divorced, Maurer said he was drifting spiritually. As he grew up, he had a natural curiosity; studying Eastern philosophy and several other Western religions, but shunning Christianity.
“I was extremely hostile to Christianity, very cynical to anyone that claimed to be a Christian,” he said. “I had the idea that you couldn’t be an intellectual and believe any of that nonsense.”
As Maurer got older and entered graduate school, he met a lay pastor and began gravitating more toward Christianity. In his late 20s, after marrying his wife, Julie, Maurer finally “gave his life to Christ.” He said he woke up in the middle of the night and realized he was meant to be a member of the ministry. He trained and was ordained at Fair Oaks Church and moved to South Dakota, where he led a church for four years. A few years after Maurer’s conversion Julie, also Jewish and a one-time groupie of Maurer’s band, converted.
“Not exactly what I signed up for, this Jewish girl, a Pastor’s wife?” she said.
Scott, Julie and their two children moved to Arlington in June and decided to start his own “plant church.”
“This area in general, it’s not a Bible Belt by any means,” Maurer said. “It’s just the opposite. A lot of people share the attitude I had for a long time. Anywhere from a skeptical hostility toward Christ, or more just a neutral, apathetic condescension, with not too much interest. I get it, I really do, I understand where they’re coming from, I understand the hostility.”
“I’ve come to believe,” Maurer continued, “that the really most important question that anyone can ask is, ‘is God real and can I know him? What does he want from me and what can he give me?'”
Maurer and his small congregation have gone around the neighborhoods near Wakefield High School and left flyers on doorsteps and “prayed for the people inside,” he said. He said he plans on writing a blog to draw interest from those skeptical or curious about the church.