Nobody’s perfect, of course. But when it comes to leaving a good impression on almost everyone one has come across, accomplishing that is getting about a close as one can hope for. Falls Church’s very own, very original Gary LaPorta passed away suddenly last weekend just when we all least expected it. He had, after all, survived a heart attack in December and most often these days the surgical and rehab measures for one who survives that normally means he will subsequently outlive almost everyone else around. He seemed in excellent health and even more sparkly than ever, loving life and everyone in it for the extra lease he’d been provided.
So the close call in December proved to be a trial run, too, for all who cherished his role in the Falls Church community when it happened. Many were profoundly impacted, made more conscious of his positive role among us, even as he played it down, in his modest fashion, and tried to convince us that his quick return to work, and his tireless volunteer and local engagement efforts, meant that nothing had really happened at all.
For all the wonderful impressions he made on people in Falls Church, and evidence of that is found in the news article published in this week’s edition and in the scores more comments posted on social media since the news of his death was reported last Sunday, Gary lived alone in an apartment right in the center of the Little City. He had for years since his wife’s passing, and as tough as that can be for some, especially when distress might strike, for Gary he turned the entire city into his living room from the 8 a.m. Chamber board meetings to the late night final curtains on the Creative Cauldron’s stage. At every step of the way, he was lighthearted, humorous, genial and welcoming, even as he held to his firm views.
He fit the prevailing ethos of Falls Church to a tee, and as a result he contributed significantly to it. He was for economic growth, for improving the schools, for free and fair elections, for equality. As a Chamber board member in 2006, he stood out for his outspoken support when the Chamber board became the only in the state to take a formal stand against the Marshall-Newman amendment that called for installing prejudice against same-sex couples in the state constitution.
Gary was best at greeting people, which was why he enjoyed volunteering to do just that at innumerable public events, including welcoming and handing out name tags at the monthly luncheons of the Chamber of Commerce. He was the one who made sure attendees placed their business cards in the basket for the drawing at the end of each luncheon to dole out the table centerpieces.
There are lots of ways in life to be the best. We almost all agree that he was.