Community Activist Barbara Riehle Dies at 65


Community Activist Barbara Riehle Dies at 65

by Larry Janezich

Community activist Barbara Riehle died on April 18 at George Washington University Hospital after a long illness. 

She spent her career working for Senator John Chafee and his successor, Senator Lincoln Chafee.  After retiring she became active in community and local politics.  In 2008, she founded the Eastern Market Metro Community Association to oppose an early concept for the redesign of Eastern Market Metro Plaza which would have diverted east-bound traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue around the north side of the proposed “Town Square” past her front door. 

After those plans were shelved, EMMCA took on developers of the Hine Project to oppose the mass, density and design and the cozy political relationships which many suspected led to the selection of Stanton/EastBanc as the developer.  EMMCA had advocated for a smaller development proposed by another developer, DSF/Street Sense/Menkiti. 

As part of that effort, she and her husband, Thom, recruited a slate of ANC6B candidates to challenge what they saw as an entrenched Commission which in its support for Stanton/Eastbanc was out of touch with some in its constituency.  That effort resulted in the election of several reform candidates and new leadership for the ANC. 

EMMCA subsequently fought for several years for a better design for the project and to reduce the height of the building.  They also pushed to require developers to provide an education component, prohibit retail on 8th Street, minimize parking, and eliminate the segregation of affordable housing. 

Barbara Riehle was also active in education and local school issues through MOTH – Mothers on the Hill and the Capitol Hill Montessori School.

She was a native of Providence, RI, and came to Washington in 1974 – marrying Thom Riehle in 1986.  She was preceded in death by her husband Thom, and her son, Peter.  She is survived by a daughter, Anna, and numerous siblings and relatives in Rhode Island.

According to the family, a memorial service in Washington will be held at a date and time to be announced.  Donations in her memory may be made to Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian’s Community Action Group, Capitol Hill Village, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, or Capitol Hill Montessori.  For more information and to leave condolences, here’s a link to the Providence Journal obit on the Legacy website:


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2 responses to “Community Activist Barbara Riehle Dies at 65

  1. Karen Kimball

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Barbara was a lovely woman. She and Thom were such incredibly warm people and are a big part of the reason we have such a great neighborhood to live in. My heart goes out to Anna. RIP Barbara.

  2. Elizabeth Eby

    I met Barbara when we worked on an ANC task force. Her intelligence and independence were inspirational. Her family made huge contributions to our community maintaining the “human touch” in government.
    Best wishes and prayers to her family and friends,