Virginia Lee Beall Withers, who stubbornly resisted pressure from
developers of downtown Bethesda, Maryland, to sell her home on property
that had been in her family since before World War I, died of a urinary
tract infection June 11, 2002, at her son's home in Aldie, Virginia, at
the age of 85.
Mrs. Withers lived from 1916 to 1998 on property on Old Georgetown Road
that today is surrounded by mid-rise developments. She helped to run her
family's grocery store there and later, from the 1980s until breaking
her hip in 1998, managed an antiques shop at the site, blocks away from
the Bethesda Metro stop.
She did so even as most of her neighbors sold out to developers. Mrs.
Withers, however, said she was partial to the home built by her father,
refused several offers and, in 1986, negotiated an unusual arrangement
with Chevy Chase Savings and Loan and the Montgomery County Planning
In essence, Mrs. Withers agreed to sell her development rights and some
adjoining land to the bank in exchange for an undisclosed sum and
repairs and upkeep for the clapboard home.
It now sits as part of the Chevy Chase Garden Plaza, abutted by a
gazebo, sculptures, waterfalls and walkways. The home belongs to her
family, though is being leased to a nonprofit group that runs the Deja
New thrift store there.
In a 1986 interview with The Washington Post, in which she was described
as having bright blue eyes and flowing white hair, she said: "I love
this house. It's the only house I have ever lived in. I can walk to
restaurants and the Safeway."
Mrs. Withers was born in Washington DC before her father, Leslie Beall,
a prominent local businessman, opened the grocery store on the property.
Mrs. Withers helped out in the business from the time she was a girl
until it closed in 1965, after her father died.
The store catered to the monied crowd. Mrs. Withers recalled taking
grocery orders for Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson, whose
home was farther out Old Georgetown Road, and from former actress
Shirley Temple Black, who lived in Potomac, Maryland.
She helped her son run Tucker's Old Furniture and Antiques at the home
in the 1980s and 1990s.