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Man Fatally Shoots Wife, Self at Retirement Home

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By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 16, 2008

On a stormy night last week, former U.S. ambassador Richard Funkhouser, 90, found his frail 84-year-old wife lying in her bedclothes on a rain-soaked sidewalk. It might have been too much to bear, friends and neighbors said.

Yesterday, he apparently fatally shot Phyllis Funkhouser, whose health had been deteriorating, before turning the gun on himself, police said.

Their bodies were found in the underground garage of the Washington retirement home where they lived, Ingleside at Rock Creek, in the 3000 block of Military Road NW.

It was unclear where Funkhouser obtained the gun. Officers said they are investigating the case as a murder-suicide.

Funkhouser, a former Foreign Service officer who lived around the world and served as U.S. ambassador to Gabon from 1969 to 1970, had been his wife's caretaker for years, friends said.

"This was not a crime," said Jane Angus, an Ingleside resident. "This was an act of love."

Angus and others at Ingleside said that Phyllis Funkhouser's health had declined and that she had difficulty moving. Police said she had dementia. Last week, Richard Funkhouser found her on a sidewalk outside the retirement home.

"It had gotten gradually worse -- she became more feeble, and he was feeble," Angus said.

Several years ago, the couple were in a crash of a private plane in Europe. Although they survived, the crash left Phyllis Funkhouser "fairly crippled," said Alice McIlvaine of Ingleside.

Since then, her husband "took beautiful care of her," McIlvaine said. "They were lovely people."

The Funkhousers had lived at Ingleside for seven years and were popular in the social circles there. Richard Funkhouser was an avid golfer who accompanied his wife to dinner in the dining room about once a week, helping her as she moved slowly with a walker, friends said.

Lou Varella, Ingleside's executive director, released a statement saying that the Ingleside community was saddened by the news.


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