Acknowledging the Passing of Commissioner Rebecca Coder
May 2, 2018
It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Commissioner Rebecca Coder, who has served the residents of district 2A02 on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A for ten years. We would like to pass along the following acknowledgement from Gary Griffith, President of the Friends of Francis Field, regarding Commissioner Coder's passing:
Rebecca Coder, our neighbor and dear friend, died peacefully on May 1st after a long battle with cancer. She was 49.
Rebecca and Chris Haspel, her husband, moved to the West End, at 2501 M Street, in 2002. Most of us knew her—and loved her—through one or another of her service roles, rather than through her professional career in finance and economic development. For the last 15 years she was a senior vice president at National Cooperative Bank, which she joined in 1995.
Rebecca loved food and wine and friends ... traveling to Italy and France and the British Isles... and living in this urban neighborhood.
She was a founder of our Friends of Francis Field group, and our first president. In 2008, when we needed some political muscle to get things done, she ran for public office—a seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for the Foggy Bottom/West End district, known for short as ANC-2A.
In that first election, Rebecca defeated a do-little incumbent in a write-in campaign. She was re-elected in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.
This was her tenth year in office. As both a member and chair, she helped to launch a new era of intelligence and civility into local government. A friend, describing her collegial style and warmth of spirit, called her “a bottomless well of goodness.”
The photograph below shows her at our tree-planting event on Francis Field in May 2017, only a year ago. It’s the way I’ll remember her best: Rebecca dug in and did the work, and she let others give the speeches. She smiled through life, and made the rest of us smile with her.
When first elected, Rebecca’s “single-member district” on the ANC included the entire West End, which was rapidly becoming more residential and up-scale.
She was heavily involved in the zoning case for the WestEnd25 building on 25th Street, and in the redevelopment of the West End Library, which is now a part of the fancy Westlight condominium. Our new fire station at 23rd and M was another of the projects that she shepherded through the approval process. She introduced the legislation for the creation of Duke Ellington Park in 2010, and helped to keep what was then Francis Junior High School from being closed.
Perhaps more importantly, Rebecca also spent countless hours on the mundane, and little-noticed things: public-space hearings, zoning variances, liquor-license applications and challenges—things that meant the world to some obscure constituent or another, but were otherwise ignored.
I always thought she should run for Mayor ... with the District Council as a ticket-punch along the way. She had the perfect record and resumé for it.
Rebecca grew up in Chevy Chase, D.C., and graduated from Woodrow Wilson Senior High ... a public school in the District! At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she majored in political science. Then came a successful banking career ... years of non-paid, non-partisan service on the ANC ... and in 2013, in her mid-40s, she became a founding board member of the Foggy Bottom West End Village, a non-profit organization that helps its members age in place.
When I’d mention higher office, or stuff like that, she’d tilt her head and squint her eyes a little, as if she was really thinking about it. I realized early on, though, that Rebecca’s heart beat to a more beautiful rhythm.
She wasn’t a politician. She was something much more rare—a volunteer—and a good neighbor ... the best, I think, that one could ever wish for.