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Kenneth M. Haggerty, 85, Dies; Arlington Dentist Was Hospital President

Dr. Haggerty helped bring hospice care to Northern Virginia, along with Arlington's emergency medical service and a home for abused youths.
Dr. Haggerty helped bring hospice care to Northern Virginia, along with Arlington's emergency medical service and a home for abused youths. (The Washington Post)
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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kenneth M. Haggerty, 85, an Arlington dentist for 47 years who served as president and board chairman of the old Arlington Hospital, was a six-year member of the Arlington County Board and former chairman of the Virginia State Board of Health, died April 3 at his home in Arlington. The cause of death was listed as failure to thrive.

Dr. Haggerty was credited with erasing the hospital's $12 million debt during the late 1970s, more than doubling its annual budget and opening its doors to 15 percent more patients, as well as raising enough money to pay for a new auditorium. The hospital is now known as Virginia Hospital Center.

As his family considered whether to use hospice services for him recently, Dr. Haggerty joined the conversation, pointing out that he was one of the people responsible for bringing hospice care to Northern Virginia. In 1978, he was quoted in The Washington Post when the state government was debating how to change its laws to allow the operation of hospices.

"Who could argue with a place where the dying get solace?" he said. "It's kind of like being against motherhood."

While on the County Board between 1966 and 1974, he persuaded the county to buy land to create a safer and shorter way for black students from the Halls Hill neighborhood to walk to their newly integrated neighborhood school. He also appointed Marguerite Syphax, an African American, to the board of the previously segregated Arlington Hospital.

He was inspired throughout his life by a motto he'd seen scrawled on a wall in a poor neighborhood: "Make the odds even." He took the plea to heart, and while on the area's Drug Abuse Task Force, he helped start the first methadone clinic in Washington as well as the first group home for emotionally abused youths in Virginia.

He also helped establish Arlington's emergency medical service, and, while chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, negotiated the locations of Arlington's first three Metrorail stations.

Dr. Haggerty was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for a Virginia U.S. Senate seat in 1970.

Born Kenneth Matthias Haggerty in Queens, N.Y., he went to Fordham University on a basketball scholarship. During World War II, he was sent to Cornell University as a part of the Navy's V-12 college training program. He was assigned to San Diego and trained as a hospital corpsman working with amputees and paraplegics, and organized two basketball teams whose players were amputees and paraplegics.

After the war, he enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where he was co-captain of its 1947 NCAA championship team. He also helped recruit his boyhood friend, Bob Cousy, who led the team to subsequent championships and then turned pro, becoming a Boston Celtics legend.

Dr. Haggerty, who was later inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, went on to dental school at Georgetown University, where he received a degree in 1951. He began teaching prosthetic dentistry there and established his own practice. He also chaired the Northern Virginia Dental Society and the Virginia Dental Association's executive committee.

His marriages to Jean Haggerty and Betty Daly ended in divorce.

Survivors include his third wife, Penny Haggerty of Arlington; five children from his first marriage, Kevin P. Haggerty of Alexandria, Peter A. Haggerty of Bethesda, Brian M. Haggerty of Chantilly, Maura Haggerty King of Damascus and Kelly Haggerty Stock of Chantilly; and 15 grandchildren.

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