SUCCESSFUL at business as David Lloyd Kreeger was, he was also a devoted amateur violinist. Mr. Kreeger once said that if he ever fell on hard times and had to sell off his worldly goods (which were considerable by that time, including works of Picasso, Monet, Renoir and van Gogh), the last thing he'd part with would be his "fiddle" -- not so much because it was a Stradivarius as simply because he loved to play the thing.
That passion and energy defined Mr. Kreeger -- perhaps more than the halls and auditoriums that bear his name and the sizable local insurance company he built up -- and made him special. Mr. Kreeger was a patron of the arts, to use a term that carries a good deal more off-putting stuffiness than is appropriate in his case. He contributed to the building of Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater, a music building at American University, the creation of a concertmaster's chair in the National Symphony, among many other things. He was president of the National Symphony in the 1970s (during which time he recruited Mstislav Rostropovich to be music director) and of the Corcoran Gallery of Art for 20 years, ending last July.
Mr. Kreeger came to Washington nearly 60 years ago to work as a lawyer in the Agriculture Department. He made his fortune here in a tough and competitive business by providing something a lot of people wanted -- low-cost insurance policies. More important, he then put much of that fortune and of himself into the community. "If you had a list of five or 10 people who turned this city around culturally, he'd be on it," a corporate executive said of him a few years ago.
That was partly a function of his money and partly of a charm and energy that were a force of nature -- as effective in wheedling contributions out of his many friends as in cajoling some of the world's best musicians into joining him in impromptu recitals at his Foxhall Road home at one in the morning. As a musician remarked after one such performance, "I never play with amateurs, but how could one resist David Kreeger?"