« Washington Business Journal | Main | Pruning Summary »

April 8, 2008

Ralph J. "Whitie" Hubert

The Virginia wine industry lost a true pioneer yesterday, and we would like to pay our respects by saving a copy of his obituary here. As members of a new generation of winery owners we are indebted to the Hubert's vision and entrepreneurial spirit.

From the Leesburg Colonial Funeral Home Web site:

Ralph J. "Whitie" Hubert
(May 28, 1924 - April 7, 2008)

Ralph J. "Whitie" Hubert, 83, founder and chairman of the Gaithersburg, MD-based Hubert Construction, LLC and co-owner of Tarara Winery LLC, passed away at his home in Leesburg, VA on April 7, 2008. He had prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease.

Whitie was born in Avon Lake, Ohio in 1924 and was raised on a fruit farm that included a vineyard. He attended college at Bowling Green University before joining the Marines during War World II. Following his military service, during which he participated in several Pacific amphibious landings, he attended John Carroll University for a year before transferring to Catholic University, where he was a wrestling champion and the University football team quarterback. It was there that he received his nickname "Whitie" from a football coach who had trouble remembering his name and identified him by his light blond hair.

Between his junior and senior years of college, Whitie took a bicycle trip from Paris over the Alps to Rome. Returning to the U.S. in 1949, he met his future wife Margaret on the English Channel. He graduated Catholic University with an Architectural Engineering degree in 1950 and married Margaret in 1951 in Washington, D.C.

Whitie has been an icon in the Washington, D.C. area construction industry for over 40 years. With just $1,000 in start-up capital in 1959, following the birth of his fifth child, he founded Glen Construction Co. Inc. with then-partner Frank Darcey. In 1969, he bought out his partner and began building a reputation as one of the metropolitan area's largest contractors. For several years, Glen was included in Engineering News Record's list of the top 100 contractors in the nation.

By the 1980's, Glen was building over two million square feet of commercial space per year, including many of the area's landmark buildings such as the J.T.L. Tycon Towers office building in Tyson's Corner and the Radisson Mark Plaza in Alexandria. During this time, he served as President of the Metropolitan Washington Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and was National President and Fellow of the American Institute of Constructors. In the late 1990's, Whitie reduced his involvement in Glen Construction and sold his interest to his son, Michael Hubert. In 1998, realizing that he missed working in the construction industry, Whitie founded Hubert Construction, LLC. In 2002, he won the DC Metropolitan Subcontractors' Association Pinnacle Award for lifetime achievement in the building and construction industry.

Whitie believed that working in the construction field was a "great sport." He was proud of the "Glen Graduates," many of whom who started their construction careers with him and went on to positions of industry leadership. They shared a camaraderie and set of ethics unique to the construction industry. Known for his energy, integrity, and intense "type A" personality, Whitie often would say after a heated exchange: "I'm not mad at you."

Like many World War II veterans, Whitie developed an interest in flying. He received his pilot's license and owned several airplanes, one of which met its' demise in a crash landing. Whitie managed to walk away from that crash and from multiple other moving vehicle incidents, some of which he left while the vehicles were on fire. Friends and family learned that it was better to be Whitie's driver than his passenger, even while riding in a golf cart.

In 1985, Whitie and his wife Margaret bought a 475-acre farm on the Potomac River in Loudoun County, Virginia and named it Tarara. There they built a home and winery, planting 50 acres of grapes, fruit trees, and nursery stock. They opened Tarara's tasting room in 1989. Whitie was actively involved with the Virginia Wineries Association, encouraging state support of Virginia's nascent wine industry, which is now the nation's fifth largest.

Tarara Winery today is one of Virginia's most recognized destination wineries. It became Whitie's "sandbox" for an unending series of projects that precluded a slow-paced retirement. With Tarara, Whitie returned to his Ohio roots, living a life focused on family, farming, and growing grapes for wine.

Whitie is survived by his wife of 56 years, Margaret, five children: Karen Harvell of Atlanta, GA; Martha Hubert of San Francisco, CA; Steven Hubert of Bethesda, MD; Janet DuBois of Minneapolis, MN; and Michael Hubert of Gaithersburg, MD; and nine grandchildren: Andrea, Daniella, Casey, Jaime, Andrew, Melanie, Peter, Richard, and Erica. He was predeceased by his grandson Neil.

Family and friends may call on Thursday, April 10, 2008 from 2 to 4 PM and from 6 to 8 PM at Colonial Funeral Home. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 AM on Friday, April 11, 2008, at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church (King & Union Streets), Leesburg, VA. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in his memory to the building fund of St. John the Apostle Catholic Church, 101 Oakcrest Manor Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176.

Posted by Stephen at April 8, 2008 8:27 PM