Robert “Bob” Alfandre, a prominent D.C.-area homebuilder and philanthropist who contributed to LGBT rights and AIDS-related causes, died June 12 in his home in Washington following a long battle with cancer. He was 87.
Alfandre is credited with working in collaboration with his brother to transform a modest construction company they inherited from their father into a major homebuilding enterprise.
During the post-World War II economic boom, his Aldre Construction Company built thousands of single-family homes and apartments in the Washington suburbs, according to biographical information from his family and from the Rainbow History Project, a D.C. LGBT group that interviewed Alfandre in 2012.
“Bob used his wealth to become a major philanthropist for the LGBT community,” the Rainbow History Project says in its 2012 write-up of Alfandre’s contribution to LGBT and AIDS-related causes.
Biographical information from his family released through the Joseph Gawler funeral home in Northwest Washington, where a visitation will be held Friday, June 20, says Alfandre’s philanthropic endeavors included generous support for D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Clinic during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and early 1990s.
He also supported the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was an active member of the French Heritage Society, the Cosmos Club, and the Washington Club, and was a Knight of the American Order of St. John, information released from the family says.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who served as executive director of Whitman-Walker Clinic in the 1980s and early 1990s, said Alfandre became an active supporter of the clinic following the death of his partner, Carroll Sledz, to AIDS in the early 1980s.
“He was a very substantial contributor and a great source of support for me and others in the early years,” Graham said. “You couldn’t overstate the significance of what he did.”
The Rainbow History Project’s biography of Alfandre says he was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Washington, D.C. with his family in 1935 at the age of 8. He attended Anacostia High School, served in World War II, and graduated from Swarthmore College with financial help from the G.I. Bill, the Rainbow History Project bio says.
It says Alfandre worked briefly for the CIA after finishing college.
“He left the spy agency during the early days of the McCarthyite witch hunts, convinced that his life as a gay man would make career advancement impossible,” the Rainbow History Project bio says. “Instead he focused on the modest construction company he inherited from his father, Joe Alfandre. With his brother, he became a major participant in D.C.’s postwar economic boom.”
The Rainbow History Project bio, which is based on interviews with Alfandre, says Alfandre – like many gay men of his generation – married a woman and had a family, raising two daughters, one of whom runs the family business. When he met Carroll Sledz and the two fell in love, he and his wife divorced but remained friends, the bio says. It says that in recent years he and his former wife, Priscilla Alfandre, remarried.
Rev. Jerry Anderson, an Episcopal priest, said he met Alfandre in the 1980s through All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church in D.C., where Alfandre was a parishioner and Anderson served as director of the D.C. group Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS. He said he and Alfandre became friends and kept in touch after Anderson moved to Miami and later to Los Angeles.
“He was a wonderful human being,” said Anderson. “He was one of those gay men who responded immediately and wholeheartedly to the AIDS epidemic. He was a very generous, passionate advocate for the AIDS cause.”
Anderson and Rev. John Beddington, current pastor of All Souls Episcopal Church, said Alfandre had a wry sense of humor and became admired for lifting up the spirits of his friends and associates, including people with AIDS.
Anderson said Alfandre often hosted fundraisers and social gatherings at his home in D.C.’s Kalarama section and often invited AIDS patients. He said he has especially fond memories of a party Alfandre hosted for residents of the Carroll Sledz House, a Whitman-Walker facility that Alfandre initiated and funded in honor of his late partner.
“In spite of the fact that it was an AIDS party, everyone was having a great time,” said Anderson. “And Bob was at the center of the party. He always made life fun.”
Added Anderson: “I have two memories or two associations for Bob. One is he took the epidemic very seriously and got seriously engaged and was very generous as a contributor to the cause. But he also wanted us to have fun in spite of it all. Those are the two images of Bob Alfandre that I have.”
Alfandre is survived by his wife, Priscilla; daughters Dominique Palmer and Nicole Alfandre Halbreiner; four grandchildren; his brother Jack Alfandre; and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews and many friends.
A visitation was scheduled for Friday, June 20, from 6-8 p.m. at Joseph Gawler’s, 5130 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.
A funeral service was scheduled for Saturday, June 21, at 11 a.m., at All Souls Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.