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Educator and Civic Activist Harry English, Jr. Dies at 86

(Courtesy Photo)
(Courtesy Photo)

Harry English, Jr. passed away quietly in his home in Falls Church on May 25 at age 86. Harry was born in 1928 in Washington, D.C. to Margaret and Harry English Sr. the Chief Examiner of the Washington School system and noted educator of his time. He was raised in Langley and graduated from American University in 1950. He followed his father’s career path to education teaching English and other subjects first in Loudoun County Schools and then in Washington, D.C. After marrying Madeline Watterson of Philadelphia in 1951, they moved to their home in the City of Falls Church in 1953.

Harry was known locally as a self-taught botanist amazing many with his knowledge of many rare and obscure plants and always calling them by their Latin names of phylum, class, genus and species. He would treat friends to a tour of his back yard where he collected a great variety of plants that, when in bloom, were truly beautiful. He led the effort to create the West End Park and chaired the neighborhood committee that worked with the City Arborist to plan the landscape design.

For years he visited the park daily to monitor the care of the plantings and he took justifiable pride in the results. He researched and wrote a compendium of period plantings of the Victorian Period when requested by the Victorian Society at Falls Church. He was a long time member of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society.

He loved history, documenting historical private turnpike projects, small little known place names and post offices in the region. Harry had a passion for researching issues in the City and reporting on the history, cause, effects and gaps in City code and state laws.

He was a frequent and eloquent speaker before City bodies, and his recitations were often peppered with the irony and humor of significant deviations between our legislative intents, actual results and unanticipated outcomes. His activity on City issues waned over the past several years as he faced the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease.

He is survived by Madeline English his wife of 64 years. The visitation will be this Friday, May 29 from 6 – 8 p.m. at Money and King Funeral Home, located at 171 Maple Ave. W., Vienna. The funeral service will be at noon this Saturday, May 30 at the Chapel of the historic Oak Hill Cemetery, located at 3001 R St. NW, Washington, D.C. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the Village Preservation and Improvement Society at vpis.org.