Keith de la Cruz (Photo via Facebook/AtlasVetDC)Friends and coworkers of a well-liked veterinarian on the H Street corridor who died in July are slated to hold a celebration in his honor this weekend.

Former clients and friends of Keith de la Cruz are invited to attend the gathering at Quincy Park in Arlington (1021 North Quincy St.) near the Virginia Square Metro station at 4 p.m. Sunday.

De la Cruz was an animal doctor for almost three years with AtlasVet at 1326 H St. NE before he died in July. Prior to joining AtlasVet, he worked for ten years at Caring Hands, a family of veterinarian clinics in Virginia. The celebration was organized by friends and former coworkers of de la Cruz’s at Caring Hands.

“We want it to be more of a tribute to his life than a memorial service,” said Michelle Vitulli, a Caring Hands veterinarian, who helped set up the event. “We want to celebrate Keith and all that he brought to each of us: his coworkers, his friends, his band members and the community.”

De la Cruz was very well-regarded by his clients at AtlasVet, many of whom have taken to the hospital’s Facebok page to share fond memories of him. De la Cruz was 42 when he died, according to a page posted by Dignity Memorial National Funeral Home in Falls Church, Va., where friends and family can share memories.

The cause of his death is not clear, and de la Cruz’s coworkers at AtlasVet and Caring Hands declined to say how he died.

In addition to de la Cruz’s former clients and friends, pets are welcome at the gathering in his honor. But a Facebook post by AtlasVet notes they must be “licensed, vaccinated and well-behaved” and remain on a leash.

Photo via Facebook/AtlasVetDC

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A local woman is trying to raise money for D.C. animal charities in memory of her popular Capitol Hill beagle.

Pat Leitner is encouraging locals to donate to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, People Animals Love and other animal charities in remembrance of her dog, Sandy, who died last Monday. The dog was believed to be about 14 years old.

Over the past two years, Sandy could be spotted at many local parades, sporting events and neighborhood sidewalks. She was also a certified therapy dog with People Animals Love and a Hill Pet of the Week.

“I am grateful for every minute I was able to spend with her, even the last one,” Leitner said in an email.

Leitner’s college friend, Michael Rudolf, wrote an obituary for Sandy. He said he visited her and Sandy a few times each year.

He wrote:

Sandy came from North Carolina, where it is believed she was orphaned by Hurricane Sandy (hence her name) and struggled to survive among the rubble for weeks. Eventually she was taken in by a small, overcrowded shelter — dehydrated, underweight, anemic and suffering from a hernia. Homeward Trails Animal Rescue brought Sandy to the Washington area, giving her a much better chance of being adopted. There she met Pat, and a bond was formed instantly.

With Pat’s help and dedication, Sandy went from being a frail little animal who could barely move, to a robust, lively dog who loved to run and play. Once she was healthy enough, Sandy began her training to be a certified therapy dog with People Animals Love. She completed her training just under a year after she was adopted, and celebrated with a party joined by many of her canine and human friends.

In the months that followed, those friends became more numerous, extending throughout the Hill. Sandy could be found helping patients at Specialty Hospital of Washington, visiting with children in Stanton Park, enjoying a treat at Eastern Market or shopping along Barracks Row. (She especially loved going to Howl To The Chief and Metro Mutts!) She befriended the Marines guarding the barracks, the restaurateurs and shopkeepers and everyone she met along the street.

Sandy was also a Washington Nationals fan, attending as many “Pups in the Park” games as she could. From her seat in right field, she would watch the action, enjoy a box of Cracker Jack and socialize with other fans.

Rudolf said Leitner like will host a memorial for Sandy, but plans have not yet been made.

“Not having Sandy on the Hill will be a loss noticed by many,” Rudolf said. “But no lives are emptier because she is no longer with us. Rather, they are fuller because she shared with us a short bit of her time on Earth.”

Photos courtesy of Michael Rudolf and Pat Leitner

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Keith de la Cruz (Photo via Facebook/AtlasVetDC)A well-regarded veterinarian on the H Street corridor has died.

Keith de la Cruz, an animal doctor with AtlasVet at 1326 H St. NE, died “suddenly and unexpectedly” this week, his clinic said last night in a Facebook post. His age and the cause of his death weren’t immediately clear.

De la Cruz advised and assisted pet owners at AtlasVet for almost three years. Prior to his time at the pet hospital, he worked with a family of clinics called Caring Hands.

He was also the treasurer and secretary of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association and a former president of the Northern Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. He was unmarried, but lived with a girlfriend and a rat terrier mix in Virginia, according to his biography on AtlasVet’s website.

“Keith was a friend to all and a valued colleague,” VVMA president Terry Taylor said in a statement on behalf of the VVMA Executive Committee and Board of Directors. “Our profession has lost a wonderful member. Keith selflessly contributed to veterinary medicine and he will be greatly missed.”

AtlasVet was closed Tuesday and Wednesday for a “hospital emergency,” but did not say whether the closing was related to de la Cruz’s death.

A representative at AtlasVet could not be immediately reached for comment.

Image via Facebook/AtlasVetDC

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(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) As Eastern Market was closed to customers on Monday, beloved neighborhood grocer Maria Calomiris died among family.

Calomiris, who helped run her family’s produce stand in the market for more than 50 years, died of cancer. She was 76.

Her son Leon said at Thomas Calomiris & Son’s last night that his mother learned she had cancer in August 2013. But she continued to work until April at the stand she opened in 1963.

Maria Calomiris was “my anchor and many people’s,” her son said.

“She had a way with people,” he said. “She had a way with children,” often giving them pieces of fruit.

Several customers visited the market on Monday to offer their condolences, some crying, Leon Calomiris said.

A banana with a black bow hung from the stand Monday night, with a note that said, “Thank you for always being so wonderful and gracious. Rest well.”

Eastern Market vendors remembered the Maryland resident’s smile and generosity.

“She was a sweet lady,” said florist Yolanda Turner of Eastern Market’s Blue Iris. “All the little kids loved her.”

Calomiris is survived by three children and five grandchildren.

Her funeral will be held 10:30 a.m. Monday at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral (2815 36th St. NW). In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Juan Jose Canales, who owns Canales Deli, said she was grateful to Calomiris for making him feel welcome when he opened his stand in 1983.

“It’s a great loss for the market,” he said.

Photos of Maria Calomiris via Facebook/EasternMarketDC

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Woody "Mr. Fuzzy" Short (Photo courtesy of Richard G. Stoll)Woody “Mr. Fuzzy” Short, the beloved shoeshine man found dead last month off the Southwest waterfront, will be remembered at a memorial service being planned for this month.

Downtown law firms and a Maryland funeral parlor are teaming up to fund a service for Short, his brother Robert Short Sr. said.

“It’s very nice. Whatever they do for me, it’s going to help,” said Short.

Glenda Freeman, the owner of Freeman Funeral Services in Clinton, Maryland, offered to provide the service at a discount. She said she was contacted by a law firm that was a longtime customer of Mr. Fuzzy, offering to cover the costs.

“We’re here to make money, but were also here to do community service,” Freeman said. “Sometimes it’s time to step up.”

The law firm could not immediately be reached.

Woody Short’s body was found near the Tidal Basin, close to the 1300 block of Maine Avenue SW on April 11, police said. The death is being investigated as a homicide.

Police initially asked for help identifying the body, which was found with a laminated business card that read “Fuzz W.S. Fuzzy Shoe Shine Doctor.” A lawyer and a marketing director who work on I Street NW recognized the name — Mr. Fuzzy had shined shoes in their office for decades. They contacted police and Short was identified.

Police called Robert Short and told him they found a message in his brother’s home.

“The investigating officers said they found a note: ‘If anything happens to me, call Robert Short Sr.,” he said.

Woody Short’s cause of death has not been determined, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said today.

Last week, customers of Mr. Fuzzy remembered him as relentlessly upbeat. He wore his hair in an Afro for years and whenever anyone asked how we was, his reply was “Great like those Frosted Flakes,” they said.

Short said he was moved to hear people spoke fondly of his brother. The brothers, from a big family of “about 10″ siblings,” lost touch and had spoken to each other only a handful of times since the early 1970s, he said.

Woody Short was creative, outgoing and a “sharp dresser,” said Robert Short, who lives in Forestville, Maryland.

“He was all about writing books and writing movie scripts,” he said. “He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke. He wasn’t the person chasing around this person and that person, this woman and that woman.”

Woody Short never married or had children, according to his brother, and he wasn’t homeless, as customers believed. Rather, he lived in a sparse unit in the Capital Plaza Apartments (35 E St. NW) for more than 20 years.

Like Woody Short told customers, his brother said he was called Fuzzy since birth, after being born with a headful of hair. Police said his legal name was Fuzz Woody Short Fuzzy. Robert Short said his birthname was simply Woody Short.

The exact date and location of the memorial service haven’t been determined yet, but it will likely be held downtown, Freeman said.

Photo courtesy of Richard G. Stoll

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Fuzz Woody Short Fuzzy (Photo courtesy of Richard G. Stoll)

RELATED: Memorial Planned for Shoeshine Man Found Dead in Southwest, May 1, 2015

(Updated at 1:45 p.m. Monday) A popular shoeshine man is being remembered today after police said a body found earlier this month off the Southwest waterfront was his.

Fuzz Woody Short Fuzzy, 70, was the man whose body was found in the water April 11, near the 1300 block of Maine Avenue SW, police said late last night. The Metropolitan Police Department asked for help April 13 with identifying the body, which had a laminated business card around the neck that said “Fuzz W.S. Fuzzy Shoe Shine Doctor.”

A D.C. lawyer and a marketing director answered the call and contacted police when they heard about that business card. “Mr. Fuzzy” shined shoes in their downtown office building for more than 10 years and was known for brightening everyone’s day.

“We are all devastated,” lawyer Arman Dabiri said this afternoon. “He was such a nice, warm, affectionate person.”

Fuzzy worked as an occasional shoeshine man at 1725 I St. NW, Dabiri and marketing professional Tracy George said.

Despite saying he stayed in a homeless shelter and had no family in his home city, Fuzzy was constantly upbeat, George said. Whenever anyone asked how we was, his reply was “Great like those Frosted Flakes,” she said.

Fuzzy was often seen in an all-blue uniform and, until about a year ago, wore his hair in a “giant Afro,” Dabiri said. “He has a very distinctive 1970s style.” His haircut changed when he told customers that doctors had found a tumor in his abdomen.

“He was going to be treated for it,” Dabiri said.

Fuzzy told customers that “Fuzz” was his first name at birth, which his mother picked because he was born with so much hair. MPD said Fuzz Woody Short Fuzzy was his legal name. But Dabiri said he believed his legal name was simply Fuzz Short. Information about any name change was not immediately available.

“He was an incredible character,” Richard Stoll wrote by email. He’s a lawyer who used to work in the office building at 3000 K St. NW.

“When you asked Fuzzy how much he wanted for a shine, he would always just tell you to pay anything you want. It was all going to be a contribution for his shoe shine university,” Stoll said. Fuzzy self-published several books, including a memoir of his childhood.

“We miss him terribly,” Marc Lippman, a vice president of the law firm Folger Nolan Fleming Douglas wrote by email. Fuzzy shined shoes at the 725 15th St. NW firm for about 30 years, he said.

“We all liked and admired him, and benefitted from his visits,” said Robert Lawrence, another attorney who emailed Hill Now after he heard about Fuzzy’s death.

Fuzzy visited Stoll’s office on K Street every Friday afternoon until February, he said.

“All of a sudden his visits stopped, and no one knew why,” he said.

The MPD’s homicide division is investigating Fuzzy’s death. No cause of death has been determined yet, according to the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Dabiri said he would miss Fuzzy’s “incredibly sunny disposition.”

“Not only did he make us look good, he made us feel good,” he said.

This story will be updated. Did you know Mr. Fuzzy? Contact us at [email protected] or in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Richard G. Stoll

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Capitol Hill donor and business owner Steve Cymrot died this weekend after he was recently hit by a car, according to media reports.

Cymrot, a longtime Hill resident, died Saturday. He was injured on Nov. 19 when he was hit by a car on East Capitol Street near 4th Street NE, The Hill Is Home reported.

The Hill real estate investor ran the used and rare book shop Riverby Books at 417 East Capitol St. He served on the board of directors of the Hill Center, and helped found the Capitol Hill Community Foundation and the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals.

“The Capitol Hill community has lost a giant,” City Councilman Tommy Wells said in a statement. “Steve will be missed by so many, like me, who have always counted on him to be there with sage advice, gentle humor or even a good book to help us make it through the next day, week or year.

“I will always cherish the times I spent with Steve and regret their ending too soon. My heart goes out to his wife and family, who I know will so ably sustain his memory and great work,” Wells continued.

Cymrot is survived by his wife, Nicky; son and daughter; and four grandchildren, according to Hill Rag, which was first to report the philanthropist’s death.

Police did not immediately respond to an inquiry about charges against the driver.

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