Dr. John William Alwood, longtime principal in Fairfax County, Va. (Edison HS ‘66-‘72, Lake Braddock Secondary School ‘72-‘86), bookshop proprietor (Lewes ‘88-‘00) and resident of Lewes; Tucson, Ariz.; and Oakton, Va., 2000-present, passed away peacefully in the early hours of Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Oakton.
Born Dec. 22, 1927, in Indiana, John grew up in a Midwestern family with a rich legacy of Christian missions and faith and faithfulness to one another, and was 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; eight grandchildren, Kasey (Caleb) Fristoe, Paige (Caleb) Burr, Moses Alwood, Allison Corpe, Mallory Corpe, Hailey Corpe, Jack (Rachel) Colston, Mitch (Jess) Colston; and three great-grandchildren, Peter and Samantha Fristoe, and 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. 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 at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 27, at McLean Presbyterian Church, 1020 Balls Hill Road, McLean, Va. 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.