Coralie Farlee: 1929 – 2020

A Fighter for Southwest DC

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Dr. Coralie Farlee.

My phone rang early on a Saturday morning. “Hello,” I answered. “Andrew, this is Dr. Coralie Farlee. I wanted to let you know you have a mistake in your report on ANC 6D this month. The vote for that license was six for and one abstention,” Coralie Farlee said.

Farlee was one of my most devoted readers. She was also a stickler for details. I could depend each month on a missive from her if I got a vote wrong or misspelled a name in my monthly chronicle of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D.

Farlee died on Jan. 12, 2020. Southwest will miss one of its most zealous advocates.

Journey to Washington

Born on Sept. 13, 1929 in rural Bridgewater, N.J., Farlee was one of three daughters. A farmer’s child, she drove tractors from a young age and at 14 was driving a pick-up truck through the streets of Manhattan to deliver eggs.

At the age of 17,  Farlee left home to pursue higher education, which was unusual for women of her generation. Putting herself through Rutgers University, she earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. In 1971, she received her doctorate in sociology from Rutgers as well. Her research focused on education, organizational change and medical information systems in the health profession.

In 1975, Farlee moved to DC to take a job as the executive director of a national task force to evaluate University Affiliated Programs that trained educators to work with the developmentally disabled. Three years later, Farlee joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There, she pioneered the field of occupational toxicology, which is the application of toxicological principles and methodology to chemical and biological workplace hazards.

Farlee helped implement the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. She also administered EPA grants and contracts related to the introduction of medical information systems in hospitals and clinics. Later, she worked as a policy analyst and health science administrator at the Fogarty International Center in the National Institutes of Health, ending her career as the assistant director for planning and evaluation.

While her federal career was certainly successful, Farlee is perhaps best known for her work as an activist.

The Indefatigable Activist

In 1980, Farlee settled in Southwest DC at the River Park Mutual Homes. She lived there for the next 45 years. She served as president of the co-op’s board and sat for many years on its finance committee. She was a constant presence at River Park meetings right up until her final days.

Farlee cared about the larger neighborhood as well. In 1998, she co-founded the Friends of Southwest DC (FOS), a charity that funds projects that aid the neighborhood’s youth and seniors. Since its inception, FOS has given over $260,000 to more than 30 local organizations. Farlee matched every dollar contributed with one of her own.

Outside of Southwest, Farlee served as president of the DC chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which organized antiwar and anti-nuclear protests. She volunteered as an interviewer for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Oral History Program. She transcribed Civil War diaries for Elderhostel in Tennessee and collected oral histories of Native Americans in Washington state.

Standing Up for Southwest

Farlee’s greatest service to Southwest and Capitol Riverfront communities was her 12-year chairmanship of ANC 6D’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Committee. Under her unflappable leadership, this group reviewed every single liquor license issued by the commission, negotiating community agreements that governed the operations of each license holder be it a hotel, corner store, cruise ship, store, bar, tavern or restaurant. As the area grew explosively, this work increased exponentially.

“Coralie was instrumental in shaping alcohol policy in Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D, particularly in such areas as The Wharf and the Capitol Riverfront,”  said Fred Moosally, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).

According to former ANC 6D Chair Meredith Fascett, “Coralie was an extraordinary force. We relied on her meticulous attention to detail, her perseverance in negotiations, and her fearlessness to wrangle commissioners and applicants alike. I was always inspired by her commitment to excellence and her dedication to her community.”

The summer before The Wharf opened, for example, Farlee finalized agreements for nearly two dozen venues. In 2019, she negotiated agreements with 11 establishments in the Capitol Riverfront alone. The paperwork was detailed and tedious. It involved negotiating with attorneys and owners, who were often difficult and tardy in their submissions. Many underestimated Farlee to their eventual dismay.

“Coralie Farlee cared about her neighborhood when it came to liquor license issues. She had a remarkable eye for detail in reviewing and asking questions regarding liquor license applications,” Moosally said.

The job of chair also required Farlee to represent the commission before the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, especially in situations where it had voted to protest a license. She also followed changes to the licensing laws themselves and often advised the commission on its comments.

“Coralie also played a significant role in shaping the District’s alcohol regulations by providing helpful feedback, which included the agency’s current pub crawl regulations. She will be sorely missed,” Moosally said. Farlee resigned from the position of chair in December of 2019.

Indomitable To The End

Shortly before her death, having survived a very complicated surgical procedure, Farlee received a visit from ANC 6D Vice Chair Andy Litsky, a long-time friend. She was sharp as a tack, Litsky recalled. She insisted on instructing him on how to negotiate on two outstanding licenses.

In closing, I hope that I have gotten every detail in this obituary right, since my most devoted reader can no longer call me with corrections.

Farlee was preceded in death by her partner, Dr. Bernard Goldstein. She is survived by her sister, Ann Metch of Canton, Texas and her nieces Rebekah Bronson, of Dickinson, N.D., and Barbara Metch of Texas.

A service for Farlee will be held on Feb. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the south common room of the River Park Mutual Homes at 1301 Delaware Ave. SW. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to Friends of Southwest DC.