Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington




We received the call early in the afternoon of Thursday, January 8.

Ellen Bozman had died earlier that day at Virginia Commonwealth Hospital after an agonizing bout with cancer.

We had visited her at the hospital just a few days before. She was pale and wan, getting ready to get a stint inserted into her lungs to improve her labored breathing. She was hopeful that she would soon move into the Goodwin House just across the Arlington line in Bailey’s Crossroad with her husband of 59 years, Bill Bozman.

Ellen was one of those remarkable Arlingtonians who have spent their lives in remarkable public service and literally created the world-class community in which we live.

She moved to Arlington soon after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in political science. Politics was never a “science” to her, however. It was a living, breathing organism that allowed her to put into effect her calling to profound public service.

The focal point of her remarkable career was her service on the Arlington County Board. She served an unprecedented six terms on the board and served as chair of the board an unprecedented six times. Ellen Bozman became the heart and soul of Arlington County in ways too numerous to list here today.

She was a leader in creating a host of community services that now define Arlington: affordable housing, urban design along the Metro corridors, after-school programs, nursing homes, public education, our nationally-recognized social service programs, and creation of Arlington’s first farmers market at the county’s courthouse.

We are just scratching the surface here.

Ellen was the benevolent Madame LaFarge of Arlington – knitting needles clicking away at County Board meetings while she absorbed everything that was going on. Then she would lay down her creation and’ in a soft voice, deconstruct and reconstruct every issue to produce the best possible solution. Hers was a great public persona.

She was also a dedicated Redskins fan and joined with a group of us equally dedicated fans every Sunday the Redskins were playing to watch and cheer on the ‘Skins. It was even more fun when they were winning Superbowls.

Several years ago, I was the communications director for one of her campaigns for the Arlington County Board. A focal point of all local campaigns in those days was the letter that outlined in excruciating detail all of the reasons our candidate should be elected. I puzzled over the structure of Ellen’s letter for some time, until it came to me in a flash.

The opening paragraph simply said “Ellen Bozman.” The second paragraph succinctly summed it all up. “That’s all you need to know.”

And indeed, it really was all you needed to know.

Up to the moment of her death, Ellen remained very active in Arlington civic and political affairs, particularly as a member of the Arlington Community Foundation, which she once headed (as she in fact headed at one time or another every community organization of which she was a member). Name a significant issue in Arlington community affairs, Ellen was there.

We will miss her.