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King George politician dies from lung disease

Shawn Lawrence, the candidate who challenged the veteran member of the King George Board of Supervisors in November—and lost the race by only 135 votes—died Thursday.

The 61-year-old Lawrence had developed fibrosis of the lungs last month, then got pneumonia the day after Thanksgiving, said his wife, Dorothy. He developed another infection while hospitalized, she said.

He had been at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C., from Dec. 2 until his death on Dec. 19, 2013.

Lawrence was born in Manhattan and served in the United States Army from 1974 to 1976. He had retired this year from the Disability Resource Center in Fredericksburg, where he worked as a community action specialist for seven years. His job was to keep current on local, state and federal issues regarding the disabled and to educate staff and the public on how to bring about changes.

“Shawn was an advocate for all people, particularly those with [a] disability,” read a posting on the center’s Facebook page. “He loved his family and his church, and he will be missed by many.”

Lawrence helped his wife raise her three children, who are grown and have two children of their own, Dorothy Lawrence said.

The Lawrences also have a 13-year-old daughter, Yasmeen.

After Dorothy Lawrence’s sister and brother-in-law died recently, Shawn Lawrence had become a “pseudo father” to their son, said Fred Howe, a member of the Fredericksburg City Council who became friends with Shawn Lawrence.

“He leaves a huge void in his family,” Howe said. “He was just a down-to-earth, genuine guy that would do anything for you.”

The Lawrences lived in Fredericksburg, where he was elected to the Planning Commission in 2010. They moved to King George County in October 2012.

He decided to run in the November election against incumbent Cedell Brooks Jr. in Shiloh District. Brooks garnered 746 votes in the race; Lawrence got 611.

Lawrence spoke openly about his past, which included a 1979 felony conviction in Virginia Beach. In a letter to the editor in July, he said he was “a young man who felt he knew it all … and wanted to be popular.”

He let his friends talk him into stealing sheets from the hospital where he worked, then passing them out to people in the neighborhood.

“My parents were devastated,” Lawrence wrote. “They had worked hard to raise me to know better than that.”

He paid his fine and served five years of probation, but forever had the felony on his record. He asked people to look past the mistake and see him for the family man he had become, a person active in his church and community.

“He was a truly honest and caring individual who was not timid to take on the cause for those who did not have a voice,” wrote fellow King George resident Jeff Bueche on Facebook. “Shawn will be missed.”

Arrangements are being made by A.L. Bennett and Son Funeral Home and were incomplete Saturday night.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425