Van METRE, Albert Gleaves died March 2, 2008

  Albert Van Metre, 82; Builder, Philanthropist

By Patricia Sullivan Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2008; Page B08

Albert G. Van Metre Sr., 82, a real estate developer and philanthropist who built more than 15,000 homes and 500,000 square feet of commercial space in the Washington area, died of interstitial lung disease March 2 at his Arlington County home.

Mr. Van Metre was chairman and chief executive of Van Metre Cos., the Burke-based business that he founded in 1955 and that became one of the largest privately held real estate companies in the area.

The firm's planned communities include Broadlands in Ashburn, Stone Ridge in Loudoun County and Lansdowne on the Potomac. It also builds custom homes, apartments, condominiums and townhouses. Its commercial properties include Fairfax Square, Burke Professional Center and Hayfield Center in Alexandria.

Mr. Van Metre also was a world-class yachtsman who won just about every major event on the East Coast and a major philanthropist. He combined those interests when he helped found the Hospice Cup Regatta, which has raised $8 million for nonprofit hospices in the region. His firm also raised and donated millions to Northern Virginia charities, including the Children's National Medical Center, the Loudoun Community Free Clinic and Prince William Interfaith Caregivers.

His primary philanthropies were hospices, Children's Hospital and the Naval Academy Foundation, but Mr. Van Metre supported everything from youth sports teams to homeless shelters, fire and rescue departments to high school post-graduation parties. In 1986, he had a 45-ton rock moved from one of his developments to West Potomac High School in southeastern Fairfax County, which one of his sons attended. The 15-foot-wide boulder was to be used as a student meeting point.

A man who never distinguished between work and leisure, Mr. Van Metre's goal each year was to double the number of homes he'd built the previous year.

"Al was a driven man, full of integrity and a thirst for life and success in life," said Laurence Bensignor, trustee of the family trust. "He never did anything halfway. When he decided to enter the competitive ocean-racing world, he ended up winning 200 races over a 10-year period. . . . On a Sunday afternoon, you'd find Al driving [around] the jobs, and there'd better not be so much as a cigarette lying on the lawn in front of the model homes."

He was born in the District, the son of a Navy commodore and descendant of three admirals, and grew up around the country. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated from George Washington University.

He enlisted in the Army during World War II. After graduating from Officer Candidate School, he served in postwar Europe. Returning to the Washington area, Mr. Van Metre worked as a surveyor for several builders until he started his own firm.

He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 1995 and received a lifetime achievement award from the Finest for Family Living Award in 2004. Last year, his firm was recognized by J.D. Powers for having the highest overall customer satisfaction in the region.

He was a member of the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation and the Naval Academy Foundation. He was a past board member of St. Stephen's School in Alexandria.

His marriages to Charlotte Crofford and Patricia Rogers ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Joan Harmon Van Metre of Arlington; two children from his first marriage, Albert G. "Beau" Van Metre Jr. of The Plains and Alison Van Metre Paley of McLean; a son from his second marriage, Thomas Earle Van Metre III of McLean; five stepchildren, Brad Gable of Manassas, Jeff Gable of Markham, Julie Gable of Sterling, Randall Wade Everett III of Nokesville and Whitney Williams of Severn; a sister, Evelyn Thompson Hoermann of Alexandria; 17 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Albert was the son of Anne Heap Gleaves and the grandson of Admiral Albert Gleaves.