Local Commentary

Editorial: The Commander

A most remarkable man passed away last weekend. U.S. Navy Commander Robert S. “Hap” Day was a leader, a fighter, a charmer, a person of good humor, cordial, and a great friend of the News-Press and many in Falls Church and considerably beyond. As a retired U.S. Navy commander who was, some say, the youngest man ever to command a submarine, operating in the Pacific theater during World War II where fully a third of U.S. submarines were lost, Hap Day commandeered his ship of life for 93 plus years, a remarkable thing to witness as many of us did in Falls Church, before a sudden turn for the worse two weeks ago threw him to the rocks, sending him to an assisted living facility in Fairfax for a swift yet peaceful demise.

Hap, as everyone knew him, was Mr. Chamber of Commerce in Falls Church for decades. After the war and service with Naval Intelligence, he and his wife settled on a Falls Hills home to raise their four children, and Hap launched a successful insurance business that involved a lot of teaching. Upon joining the Falls Church Chamber, he rapidly took command, and was named winner of its first-ever Pillar of the Community award in 1968. In 1966, he served a year as Chamber president (back in the day when a single year term was normal), and in the mid-1980s he took over as the organization’s executive director, a position he held for 14 formative years until his retirement in 1999.

During most of that time, he was aided by office sidekick Lois Jones. Their bond, a bond of two persons of distinction, decorum and immeasurable charm, both from what has been called America’s “greatest generation,” was evident to all who saw them work together. Lois Jones, by coincidence or not, passed away within days of Hap last week, it is believed at her Northern Neck home.

Hap was a fiercely loyal friend to small Falls Church businesses under his care as Chamber chief. A large man with a capacity for a booming voice and eloquence (in presenting annual Chamber awards, he had an uncanny ability to maintain genuine suspense about a winner until almost the entirety of his lead-up remarks were complete), Hap was a fighter with a glint in his eye, and hearty laugh and sense of humor that never failed him. After his retirement from the Chamber, he continued to co-host the local cable TV show “Falls Church News-Press Live” with our editor for another 10 years. The two began the show in 1992 and for almost 20 years they were, indeed, live and direct with unrehearsed news and banter.

Hap was a particular friend of the News-Press, you see. He and our editor also began in 1991 a tradition of weekly lunches that evolved into Monday “power lunches” of local luminaries that continues to this day.