John W. Alwood

john alwood
Dr. John William Alwood, long time principal in Fairfax County, VA (Edison HS ‘66-‘72, Lake Braddock Secondary School ‘72-‘86), book shop proprietor (Lewes DE ‘88-‘00) and resident (Lewes, DE; Tucson, AZ and Oakton, VA ‘00-present) passed away peacefully in the early hours of Saturday the 18th of September 2021 in Oakton, VA.

Born December 22, 1927 in Indiana, John grew up in a Midwestern family with a rich legacy of Christian missions and faith, faithfulness to one another and consumed with a passion for education and sports. John is survived by his wife of 65 years Betsy Alwood (resident of Arden Courts Memory Care Fairfax), four children Bruce (Kathy) Alwood, Karen (Rich) Corpe, Brad (Tim Wallace) Alwood and Kris (John) Colston; 8 grandchildren Kasey (Caleb) Fristoe, Paige (Caleb) Burr, Moses Alwood, Allison Corpe, Mallory Corpe, Hailey Corpe, Jack (Rachel) Colston, Mitch (Jess) Colston; 3 great-grandchildren Peter and Samantha Fristoe, Halle Burr.

John Alwood lived a rich and blessed life. Whether experiencing the thrill of playing for his alma mater Western Michigan in a basketball game against Notre Dame, meeting his future wife on a blind date in Japan while docked as a U.S. Naval Officer (’51-‘55), opening the largest secondary school in the state (Lake Braddock) in 1973 as principal; coaching, umpiring and refereeing hundreds of games of baseball and basketball over the decades; serving in leadership roles at his church (Mclean Presbyterian Church) or serving on the committee in the early days of Young Life’s youth ministry in Northern Virginia (late 60s) John embraced every aspect of his life with passion and joy.

Maybe most poignant was the way his Christian faith sustained him in what became a national hostage crisis story in 1982 at Lake Braddock. Reason and compassion are what he used when an 18-year-old, rejected by his girlfriend, took 10 people hostage in the school with a deer-hunting rifle and held them all night. The boy threatened to turn the violence on himself, John says. ``I told him he'd made a bad mistake, but he could overcome it and make a life for himself.'' John was the last hostage to leave, ``and instead of being worried about himself or those waiting for him, he was worried about the boy,'' recalls his wife Betsy. The boy threw out the rifle and came out alive.

He made the extraordinary decision to step down as principal of Lake Braddock in 1986 and teach one final year at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology before retiring and moving to Lewes DE. In John’s words, teaching is ``the only important thing -- everything else is pretty incidental,''. Much of the good he did as a principal, he says, came from raising four children. In his words, ``You don't know how traumatic it is to be cut from a team until you've lived through it as a parent”. His parenting greatly informed his leadership in the school setting.

John gave his family an amazing legacy of opportunity and support in his encouragement to pursue faith, education and a personally compelling and satisfying vocation. Generous with his resources, faithful with his presence and always affirming in his reflections toward his family. Grandpa, Dad and John will be missed. Yet in a mixture of both sadness and joy his family celebrates his homecoming with his Lord Jesus and awaits the day of being united with him in body and spirit.

A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, October 27, 1pm at McLean Presbyterian Church 1020 Balls Hill Rd. McLean VA 22101. All are welcome to attend. Memorial Donations may be made to Capital Caring Health, Philanthropy, 3180 Fairview Park Dr., Suite 500, Falls Church, VA 22042

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  1. The Owners and Staff at the Money and King Funeral Home, wish to express our sincere sympathy to you. It is our hope that we may be able to make a difficult time more bearable. Please feel free to call us anytime as we are always available to you. Bob Gallagher Funeral Director

  2. John W. Alwood was an extraordinary man and an inspirational principal. I was one of the lucky ones who got to work with him for many years and I grew as a human being and as a teacher under his guidance and support. I love this man and will be grateful to him forever for all that he taught me. I am so glad I had the opportunity to tell him that personally many times.

  3. John Alwood gave me my first teaching position at Lake Braddock. He was a wonderful man and an extraordinary administrator . I feel blessed to have worked for such a decent, special man Jane Grier Layman

  4. I taught at Lake Braddock for a year and it amazed me how well Dr. Alwood ran that insanely large school. It had a larger population than my hometown. He was a true leader.

  5. It is with great sadness that we learned of Dr. Alwood’s recent passing, yet we are comforted to know that he knew where he was going; and those who knew him well knew where he was going, as his strong Christian faith, spirituality and simplicity sustained him throughout his long, good and noble family and working life. Never has a public school community been more blessed than to have Dr. John Alwood’s steady and inspiring hours and years of leadership and life example. Reflecting back nearly five decades to the largest new secondary school built in Virginia, many thousands of Lake Braddock students observed his tireless hours of devotion to them and the passing years of his gentle, remarkable, competent leadership which truly made a positive difference in the many lives he touched and influenced on a daily basis. Dr. Alwood had a remarkable way of favorably influencing his young students from all walks of life, be it visibly roaming the halls, school wings and grounds each day- engaging with and counseling students in his office or any number of other locations and settings- cheering on and supporting all of our extracurricular activities; and particularly as he engaged in education and administration while leading the Executive Committee and interacting with student leaders. In dealing with his many thousands of students spanning his career, Dr. Alwood had a truly marvelous success. The students fairly worshipped him, and deeply dreaded his displeasure; yet so kind, affable, and gentle was he toward them that all loved to approach him. Still, an official summons to his office struck apprehension into even into the most difficult. Often, these students were met with an almost fatherly advice and counsel, which usually led to their immediate and permanent reformation. With an educational originality many years in advance of his time, Dr. Alwood added immensely to the old-fashioned classical curriculum atmosphere as he gathered students, teachers and administrators under one united school family and banner, and guided for all time the institution’s founding spirit and ideals of character and decency; and bequeathed to it his ever-widening influence and his incomparable name. In his administration he was efficient and diligent, accurate and always systematic and instinctively wise. His ambition was in performing his duty, whatever its nature. He did not covet praise, yet no man was quicker to appreciate, and at the proper time, to acknowledge the achievement of others- particularly his young students. From the many stories passed down to us from his 1960s Edison High School staff and subsequent Lake Braddock Secondary School senior administrative team throughout the 1970s, Dr. Alwood had demonstrated all his life the desire to excel at the task assigned him. His very traditional values and conscience, sense of obligation, regard for detail, and thoroughness reflected the excellence he brought to his position as Principal. He endured daily interruptions of his work without vexation and met every visitor, every fellow teacher, administrator and student with a gentle smile which complemented his strong manner and deeds- no matter what the other’s station in life. Always he sought as a gentleman to make every right-minded person comfortable in his presence. With a tact so delicate that others scarcely noticed it, when he was busy, he kept conversation to the question at issue, and he sought to make his student interviews brief; but even so, his consideration for the sensibilities of others cost him many a precious hour. In the most supreme test of his decades of stable, clear thinking and faith-based leadership as the principal of the largest public school in Virginia, Dr. Alwood, on that occasion, saved numerous lives including the life of a troubled young man. Indeed, no one I have ever known was better equipped morally and mentally, and more uniquely qualified to bring about a peaceful resolution of a very dangerous situation to avert a greater tragedy. And yet, all of these traits comprised the pattern of Dr. Alwood’s daily life as I vividly recall now after the passing of five decades. There is every reason to believe it was the mirror and a window into his own soul. All of his language, his many acts of kindness to others, and his personal life were simple for the inescapable reason that he was a humble and very spiritual gentleman in all that he did. How so very fortunate we all were to have Dr. John Alwood as a most positive Christian influence in our lives- many of us at the time we knew him being in our most young and impressionable years- and today grayer with age and the unique perspective of hindsight. Dr. Alwood was that one man who was seemingly made of a different and finer metal than most other men- indelibly stamped upon my memory. I will always cherish his wise counsel and many kindnesses extended to me. He truly was one individual who made a tremendous difference in the many lives he touched. Dr. John Alwood made our world a more beautiful place because he was a part of it. Indeed, the life of Dr. John Alwood personified the very message found in Micah: “He hath showed thee, O Man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Now we make our final leave taking and farewell to our beloved former high school Principal, Educator and friend whose good name is a blessing to speak and has become an eternal memory- John Alwood has now crossed over the river and is resting safely in God’s Kingdom. It has been written long ago that to live on in the hearts they left behind is not to die. Farewell our old friend, although your gentle smile is now lost to our sight- to memory you remain forever dear.

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