Former C&O superintendent Doug Faris dies

Faris was superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historic Park for nine years.

Faris was superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historic Park for nine years.

July 13, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Less than a year after leaving his job as superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, Doug Faris died Friday at the age of 58.

Faris' nine years as C&O Canal superintendent - the culmination of a nearly 30-year National Park Service career - were marked by progress and resilience, those who knew him said.

One of Faris' greatest achievements was organizing a tremendous park restoration after two damaging floods hit during his first year, said Robert C. Perry of Woodbridge, Va.


Through his leadership, Faris coordinated a "staggering" number of volunteers and organizations to rebuild the park, said Perry, the first vice president of the C&O Canal Association, a volunteer advocacy organization.

Faris and his wife lived in the Hagerstown area while he was superintendent.

Those around him knew that cancer forced him to give up his job. Faris stopped working on Sept. 12, 2003, and used up his medical leave Jan. 3, 2004, Kevin Brandt, who replaced Faris, has said.

Faris and his wife, Jean Spears Faris, retired to Arkansas to be near family, but kept in touch.

On May 1, a handwritten letter from Faris touched dozens of people gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas' famous walk along the C&O Canal.

The banquet room fell silent as Faris' heartfelt congratulations and reminiscences were read aloud.

"Not only did we respect the man, we loved the man," Perry said.

Shortly after Faris moved away, Karen Gray of Hagerstown - first vice president of the C&O Canal Association at the time - described Faris as "very diplomatic and cool and objective, even (for) issues that were very controversial."

She recalled how Faris was "genteel and polite" in arranging for the Park Service to take over property along the canal's towpath, yet "rather daring" for other initiatives, such as removing all trash cans from the park.

Faris, a Virginia native, joined the Park Service full time in 1974. He held positions in several states, including Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Mexico, before becoming the C&O Canal superintendent.

He received several national honors for his Park Service work.

Ed Miller served on the C&O Canal National Historical Park Advisory Commission for 20 years. He said it's sometimes difficult for a park superintendent to please the commission, but Faris often succeeded.

"I think he was a very professional superintendent," said Miller, who lives near Hagerstown.

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