St. Patrick’s Day slaying ripples 76 years later

St. Patrick’s Day slaying ripples 76 years later

He got me, now you get him, Cpl. Clarence McClary told fellow police officers after taking a bullet in the stomach while tracking a notorious moonshiner in the hills of Loudoun County.
The 28-year-old Alexandria police officer died minutes later, in the early morning hours of March 17, 1935 near Old Tom Quesenberrys illegal still. Not long after, a posse of federal, state and local lawmen caught up with Quesenberry, wanted for shooting and wounding a federal agent the day prior, and arrested him.
McClarys death came just six years after his older brother and fellow officer, Charles, was shot and killed outside of a North Patrick Street home while investigating a liquor complaint.
Their deaths still linger in the mind of Lydia-Lee Owen, Charles granddaughter, some 76 years after Clarences death. She never met her grandfather or great uncle, but the absence of the McClary brothers deeply affected the family.
I guess because when they were both killed, their children were so young my father was seven the memories were kind of faded, Owens said. They can remember it being Depression time and the father is then killed, leaving a widow with five children.
At the time, the death of the younger McClary drew front-page headlines. One of nine officers voluntarily dispatched from Alexandria to Leesburg to join the roughly 150-man posse, McClary got off a few rounds with a high powered rifle before Quesenberry shot him. 
The first intimation that they had their man cornered was the bark of a rifle a few minutes after 5 oclock, The Alexandria Gazette reported the day after McClarys death. The firing did not commence until the officers were within a quarter of mile of where the old moonshiner was hiding. At the second blast McClary pitched forward on his face, his spine shattered by a bullet that ripped through his abdomen.
About 10 hours later spurred on by McClarys death, according to newspaper accounts authorities caught the one-eyed moonshiner. 
Quesenberry later pled guilty to the murder charge and was sentenced to 20 years in the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond. Despite the speedy trial and conviction, McClarys widow remained distraught and confronted Quesenberry after his sentencing, according to a Washington Post account.
You killed my husband, [Lillie McClary] cried, her voice trembling as she pointed a finger at the mountaineer. You shot him dead. Hes gone he cant ever come back. Youre going to live, but you shot him dead, just as though he had been a dog.
If I had a gun Id shoot you here. Id shoot you down now. Oh, Id kill all of you, she said, according to the Post. 
Quesenberry admitted his guilt, but defended his actions as friends led Lillie away. 
Im right sorry I shot Mr. McClary, said old Tom in a shaky voice. But I never shot anybody I didnt have to shoot. No, siree never. If they hadnt come a-shooting at me, Id never have shot Mr. McClary, nor nobody else.
The loss of the brothers hit their young children particularly hard, Owens said. Without father figures, the surviving McClary boys tended to drink. Charles widow also became an alcoholic and was convinced her husband had been set up by the Alexandria Police Department, Owens said. 
Still, the family fondly remembered the McClary brothers service and sacrifice, she said. As an adult, her father tucked a photograph of himself with one of Charles so he could have a picture of the two of them together. 
The memories [I have] were of dad talking about what it was like growing up without a father, not so much the memories of his dad, Owens said. It was the memories without his dad.
After her father died in the 1990s, Owens got a copy of the photograph. Though she left Alexandria in the 1970s and now lives in North Carolina, Owens is considering making the trip north to honor Charles and Clarence during the annual ceremony commemorating the citys fallen officers and deputies. 
Its just been on her mind lately, she said. 
I have my grandfather and fathers photo hanging on the wall, Owens said. I look up and think of how in movies they always portrayed the typical Irish cop and thats what he was, the Irish keystone cop He was the epitome of an Irish cop.