Burleith Bids Adieu

By Forrest Bachner

It is always sad to say goodbye to good friends. Saying goodbye to two sets of good friends is that much worse. Kathie Hepler and Rich Field along with Mario Bravo and Brandel France de Bravo have been long-time residents of Burleith and active participants in our community. Before wishing them a fond farewell, we asked them to tell us a bit about themselves, their time in Burleith, favorite and not-so-favorite memories, as well as current plans.

Kathie Hepler and Rich Field
By Kathie Hepler

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Rich and I moved to Burleith in 1983 and had our wedding reception in our new house a few months later. Back then the family consisted of the two of us, our seven-year-old son, Mike Bachman, two dogs, and two cats. Mike is now a MD-PhD researcher at the University of Michigan; his wife, Sara, is also a doctor. They have two daughters—and so we are grandparents now living in Ann Arbor Michigan ... with two dogs.

Rich served on the BCA board for a number of years as vice-president and board member, and sat on the Georgetown Community Partnership. He headed the Friends of Ellington Field and was instrumental in creating the new Burleith website. Rich’s favorite aspect of Burleith was being able to walk down the street at any time and always encounter a neighbor with whom to start a friendly conversation. Rich recently closed his video production company, Richfield Productions, after producing and directing hundreds of productions shot all over the U.S. and around the world for over 40 years.

What fun it has been to live in Burleith. I especially loved the work we all did together on Ellington Field and all the conversations over the fence or on the sidewalk. Who can forget storming the Zoning Commission and actually accomplishing something? Perhaps my least favorite—yet most spectacular—moment was standing in the alley behind 37th Street and watching a Georgetown student throw a keg from the roof of his house on St. Patrick’s Day!

We made great friends in Burleith and shared many wonderful moments with them. It was small town living in the big city—and we hope it retains that character for many more years.

Mario Bravo and Brandel France de Bravo
By Brandel France de Bravo

 Mario Bravo, Brandel France de Bravo, and Amaya Bravo-France.

Mario Bravo, Brandel France de Bravo, and Amaya Bravo-France.

We (Mario Bravo, Brandel France de Bravo, and Amaya Bravo-France) moved to Burleith in the summer of 2000—just in time for Amaya to start in the Children's Garden at the Washington Waldorf School. She was four years old when we joined the Burleith community; now she is in her last semester at UNC Chapel Hill, majoring in Environmental Science. We arrived after five years of living in Los Angeles, and before that, Mexico City, where Mario is from. Brandel, however, is a native Washingtonian: born and raised in NW DC. Mario began work at the World Bank in the fall of 2000, and Brandel began giving parenting classes based on her book Trees make the Best Mobiles: Simple Ways to Raise your Child in a Complex World, published in 2001. Brandel and Mario were also busy remodeling their Burleith home, a process that began in 2001 and took several years.

Brandel returned to full-time work in 2008, joining the National Center for Health Research. In addition to being a public health professional, she is a poet and essayist. She has two prize-winning books of poetry: Provenance and Mother, Loose, both of which are available on Amazon, along with her parenting book and a bilingual anthology of Mexican poets she edited, Mexican Poetry Today: 20/20 Voices. You can read samples of her work at www.brandelfrancedebravo.com.

A favorite memory of Burleith for Brandel was seeing us all united over Georgetown University's 10-year plan—strategy meetings and testifying downtown. I also have wonderful memories of walking around the track at Duke Ellington Field with our dog, Darshan, and various Burleith friends with dogs, like Forrest Bachner, Sophie Smyth, and Shinok Park.

Least favorite memories revolve around confrontations with neighbors. One time, a young woman a few doors down showed up on our doorstep screaming about the noise we were making at 9 am on a Saturday morning removing a diseased elm tree in our backyard.
As a family, we participated in many activities, such as the meetings about GU and slum landlords, the summer picnic, and the winter gløgg party. Amaya delivered the Burleith Bell for many years.

Why we left: we left Burleith and DC for California for 18 months to participate in a non-degree program at Stanford, which we enjoyed greatly. While in Palo Alto, Mario, Brandel, and our dog lived successfully in 500 sq. ft. and realized on our return to DC: a) we didn't need so much space; and b) we wanted to sell our house so we could be ready/flexible for whatever life and work might bring next (back to California or back to Mexico? We're not sure yet!). After selling our Burleith home, Brandel and Mario moved to a small apartment in Georgetown that belonged to Brandel’s mother. It’s a place we can hang our hats for now—and so close that it allows us to remain in touch with all our dear friends in Burleith.

We loved our village-in-the-city experience and will try to re-create it wherever we may end up.