Vera Punke moved to Arlington at the ripe old age of 95 to be closer to her daughter. That was 13 years ago.
Punke, who turned 108 on Tuesday, has lived through 19 presidential administrations.
She was honored by the county for becoming a centenarian during the Obama administration. Her first grandson married during the Clinton administration, five years after she married her late fourth husband, Chester Punke.
A first-generation Italian who is described — accurately — as a “spunky lady” by staff at The Jefferson, Punke proudly dresses “to the nines,” owns more than 40 pairs of shoes, and has all the social energy of someone a fifth of her age.
Punke was delighted by the packed house and the line of well-wishers at her birthday celebration Wednesday afternoon. Among those in attendance were elected officials like Del. Patrick Hope and Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey, as well as multiple TV stations and other members of the media.
Poster board displays around the event space at The Jefferson recounted key moments in Punke’s life and U.S. history from the 1910s to today. Flapper dresses adorned a few Jefferson staff members in honor of Punke’s childhood and adolescence during the Roaring 20s, a century ago.
Inevitably, she was asked about her secret to longevity.
“My secret is to look ahead,” she told gathered reporters. “Because if you look back, you’ll think of all the bad things.”
“Also I was a good organizer getting people together — when you do that and think of other people, you forget your problems,” she added.
What’s better than celebrating a birthday? Celebrating a dog’s birthday, of course.
Walter the Bernese Mountain Dog is turning 4 and his parents are inviting all dogs and their humans (and pet-less people) to celebrate with them.
Walter has lived in Arlington since the fall of 2019 with his dog parents, Nick and Kayti Goebel. Now “135 pounds of pure muscle” as Nick likes to say, Walter has become a local celebrity. While walking around Clarendon and going to local restaurants with his parents, Walter attracts lots of attention.
“It’s amazing how people stop us to meet and pet Walter,” said Nick. “He gets a lot of attention and love.”
One day while they were sitting at one of their favorite local restaurants, the staff persuaded Nick and Kayti to make Walter an Instagram account. After leaving the restaurant, they met a writer from The Dogist, a website and social media account dedicated to pictures and stories of dogs around the world. The writer asked to take some photos of Walter and posted them to their 3.9 million followers on Instagram, tagging Walter’s new account.
In the first 24 hours of Walter’s account, he had 2,000 followers.
Now his account is up to nearly 4,800 followers. Nick and Kayti asked his Instagram followers if anyone in Arlington would want to celebrate Walter’s 4th birthday with them and they got lots of interest.
This Sunday, April 25, from 3-5 p.m. at The The Pinemoor in Clarendon (1101 N. Highland Street), the couple will be celebrating on the back deck and welcoming any humans and dogs to come party with them.
There will be Walter-inspired cocktails and a raffle items, the proceeds of which will go to the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.
“With so many people wanting to attend, we saw an opportunity to do some good,” said Kayti. “So we reached out to the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation to see if they would like us to turn the party into a fundraiser.”
There is a sizable crowd expected, but the back patio is limited to 50 people so the couple encourages people to come early in order to celebrate and see Walter on his big day.
Photos via @this.is.walters.world/Instagram
On Sunday afternoon, the Green Valley community celebrated the 104th birthday of Ms. Mary Sheppard Lockett with a drive-by parade of cars.
A line of nearly 40 cars plus Arlington police and fire vehicles drove by her house on S. Kenmore Street, honking and blaring sirens and shouting congratulations.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) February 8, 2021
It was all a surprise for the centenarian, according to Green Valley Civic Association President Portia Clark.
Sheppard Lockett’s son and daughter brought her out on the porch, surprising their 104-year-old mother with a parade dedicated to her.
“She very much enjoyed it,” Clark says.
Sheppard Lockett is one of the oldest residents in Green Valley. Born in 1917 down the road in Bailey’s Crossroads, she moved to Green Valley in 1939. The house she currently lives in was built by her late husband Edward Lockett.
According to Clark, Sheppard Lockett remains pretty self-sufficient.
Several of her children live close by to assist, but she continues to make her own meals, clean her own house, and iron her own clothes. Waking up at 5 a.m. every day, Sheppard Lockett usually heads off to bed at 7:30 p.m., after Wheel of Fortune.
“She likes her independence,” says Clark.
Until she was 90, she drove her 1976 blue Chevy station wagon while, according to Clark, never receiving a ticket. Sheppard Lockett was particularly elated to have been able to witness the first Black U.S. president and his family living in the White House. She has also remained a member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Alexandria for more than eight decades.
Sheppard Lockett’s words of wisdom include “eat your blueberries daily.”
According to the 2010 census, Virginia had about 1,200 residents over the age of 100, with that number going up in recent years. In 2018, Arlington County recognized and celebrated 19 centurians, including Lockett.
Clark says that over the last several years, the Green Valley community alone has celebrated 100th birthdays of four local residents.
She laughs, “There must be something in the water.”
Photo courtesy of Portia Clark
Arlington resident Trudy Ensign turns 100 years old this Sunday, and she is “not ready to give up.”
Ensign, who was born on Oct. 4, 1920 in her family’s farmhouse in southwest Iowa, left her new teaching job there to work in communications for the Army Security Agency during World War II. She has lived in Arlington ever since, most of it in her current home in Ashton Heights.
Just a few days shy of her centennial birthday, some might think she is ready to move into a retirement home or move in with family.
“Somebody may be looking at this real estate,” she said, and stops to laugh. “But I think I’ll keep telling them how the roof leaks and they’ll go someplace else.”
Ensign attributes her longevity to her clean life (she was never a heavy drinker) and her uncomplicated adolescence on an Iowa farm.
Her 100 years could also be attributed to her sense of humor. She says it is “the best thing you can have in life” because she always sees the good in situations and people always treat her well.
She gives a great deal of credit for her position in life to her older siblings, who practically raised her.
“You had a lot more parents than everyone else did,” she said. “You were actually raised by your family.”
One of her older siblings paid for her to go to Simpson College, where she studied to be a teacher. After graduating in May 1941, she moved home and began teaching.
Her career dramatically changed, however, when a Department of Defense recruiter came to town.
“He came into my classroom with a suit on, and so he got my respect, of course,” she said.
He offered for her to work for the Communications Section of the Army Security Agency, processing communications from all over the world.
Ensign knew she did not have a home to go back to after her father remarried, and her older brothers and sisters encouraged her to get out of Iowa and try something new.
“They pushed me out of my nest, and it was good for me,” she said. “At the same time, I knew I had their support.”
She stayed with the agency for the entire World War II effort and for the rest of her career. Her memories of that work are recorded in an oral history at the Arlington Public Library. In 1946, she married William Brown and soon after, they moved to Arlington and bought a house in which to raise their growing family.
“This was a little village at the time,” she said. “There was almost no negative part about it.”
Everyone lived there for the same purpose — government work — and had small weekly salaries.
“You didn’t have to pretend you had money because you know you didn’t and they didn’t either,” she said, laughing.
She and her husband William joined the Clarendon United Methodist Church, where she held numerous leadership positions over the years. After William died of cancer in 1977, she married Allen Ensign, another member of the church and the head usher, in 1984. He died suddenly in October of 2000.
Dealing with the death of a husband is “always tough,” she said, after a long pause.
“[William], he had cancer, you knew his time was limited, but with [Allen], he just came down one morning and was walking through the dining room to the kitchen, and fell and was dead, right like that,” she said. “Those kinds of things are tough when you’re not expecting any problems because no one is ill. The first thing you do is call on your neighbors to help you get through it.”
Those neighbors are her church community. After so many years of volunteering with the church, tracking births, baptisms, weddings and new memberships as secretary and keeping congregants caffeinated during social hours, she considers the parishioners to be her family.
Clarendon Methodist recognized her contributions in 2015 and dubbed her “a faithful servant.”
On the day of her birthday, the church is celebrating with a pandemic parade, cookies for neighbors and friends and a food drive. Her daughter in Florida will come up with her husband and two grown sons, and her daughter living in Alaska will celebrate from afar.
Although she thinks about moving to the Sunshine State, Ensign is not ready to go south just yet. But that does not matter.
“It’ll be sunshine wherever I am,” she said.
Arlington Riot Cops Sued by ACLU — “Defendants John Poe 1 – 20 are officers of the Arlington County Police Department and other non-federal law enforcement officials who participated in the attack on peaceful protesters in and near Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. They are sued in their individual capacities.” [Associated Press, Washington Post]
Washington Monument Struck By Lightning — As seen from the Crystal City / Pentagon City area, the Washington Monument took a direct lightning strike last night. [Twitter]
Marymount Apologizes for Removed BLM Tweet — “One specific concern we heard in the Listening Session referenced the removal of a social media post last Saturday which included the message, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This was the wrong decision. We apologize and acknowledge the impact this decision has had on our Marymount community.” [Marymount University]
Arlington Unemployment Spikes — “The COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent government-imposed lockdown and resulting economic freefall cost nearly 17,000 Arlington residents their jobs between mid-March and mid-April, according to new state data… The county’s unemployment rate, which in March had been a miniscule 2.2 percent, ballooned to 7 percent, knocking the county off its longstanding perch of having the best jobs picture in the commonwealth.” [InsideNova]
Local Centenarian Gets Neighborhood Parade — “Right around 5 p.m. on her 100th birthday, her usually quiet neighborhood in North Arlington was shaken up by loud sirens and flashing lights. A caravan of vehicles blaring sirens, tooting horns and shouting greetings snaked down the street for several blocks. The parade of sorts was led by two Arlington County Police officers on motorcycles followed by countless police vehicles, Arlington County Fire Department engines, sheriffs’ vehicles and several private cars and trucks, one sporting an inflatable unicorn on its roof.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
APS Welcomes New Superintendent — “This is Dr. Francisco Durán’s first week as Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools. Welcome aboard! As a reminder, there are several Virtual Town Halls scheduled this month for our community, students and staff to get to know Dr. Durán.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Trash Collection Still Facing Delays — “Arlington’s trash/recycling contractor continues to experience staffing issues due to COVID-19. As a result, some routes recently have not been completed on their scheduled day, requiring a follow-up run the next day. If trash and/or recycling is not collected on your service day, leave the carts at the curb the next day. If carts have not been serviced by noon the second day, submit a missed collection ticket.” [Arlington County]
It started with a post on Nextdoor, which was then cross-posted on a popular local Facebook page.
“In need of a MAJOR favor from all who are willing!” wrote the poster, Columbia Pike resident Ashley Johnson. “I have a sweet sweet kid I met while volunteering at a homeless shelter 4 years ago. The shelter closed and his family was forced out but I still pick him up and try to give him good experiences.”
The post continued: “His 6th birthday is today and sadly I didn’t get to host a party this year BUT I just got a last minute reply from the fire station, and they’re willing to do a drive by and lead the way for a mini birthday parade… My family all lives out of state, but if anyone is free and willing to line up tomorrow around 5:15p, on 16th Rd. and Walter Reed, next to Pupatella, to jump in behind the fire truck when it passes to do the drive by Walter Reed Community Center, where we’ll be waiting, please let me know!”
Little did Johnson know, but Arlington residents and first responders would show up in a big way for 6-year-old Jessiah.
Friday night, several fire department vehicles, 16 Arlington County police cruisers and about 50 cars full of local residents paraded down the street, in perhaps the biggest traffic jam the Columbia Pike corridor has seen since the start of social distancing.
ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott was there to capture the moment.
The coronavirus outbreak may have curtailed traditional birthday parties, but it could not curtail kindness among neighbors and the big smile on Jessiah’s face.
Next week an Army Navy Country Club employee will celebrate her 100th birthday.
Hattie Louise Jones will turn 100 years old on Sunday, Sept. 22, and the centennial will be celebrated at the golf club with a party for her family and friends.
For nearly 40 years, Jones has worked as a coat room attendant for the country club, where she greets guests — many of which she has known for decades.
“Turning 100 years old is unbelievable to me,” said Jones, as quoted by her family. “I can still work, drive and exercise, which are my favorite activities. My life is so blessed with a wonderful family, friends and coworkers.”
(Jones’ son, Clarence McGill, was one of the Syracuse 8, who spoke up against racial discrimination at the cost of their football careers.)
Jones was born on September 22, 1919, in Florence, South Carolina. She grew up in Ithaca, New York and worked at IBM before retiring and moving to D.C. Shortly after moving, she left retirement to begin working at the country club.
“Hattie is one of our longest serving employees,” said Captain John C. Tuck, chairman of the golf club, in a press release. “Her dedication to the club and her genuine love for so many of its members helps make Army Navy such a very special place.”
Watch Caps Practice in Ballston Today for Free — The Washington Capitals will be preparing for their playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins this morning at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston. The Caps’ practice starts at 10:30 a.m. and it’s free to attend and watch. The Iceplex, the Caps’ administrative and training home base, is owned by Arlington County and leased to the Capitals. [Arlington County]
Garvey Turns 65 — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey celebrated her 65th birthday yesterday. Garvey’s reelection campaign wasted little time in using the occasion to ask for donations of $65 as “a special birthday gift.” [Reelect Libby]
Yorktown’s Efforts to Narrow Achievement Gap — Yorktown High School has been working with the Minority Student Achievement Network, a project of the University of Wisconsin, to help it narrow the school’s achievement gaps. The program at Yorktown specifically focuses on minority boys, a relatively small group at the school. [University of Wisconsin]
Advisory Board Wants Birthday Cake Banned from Schools — Student birthday celebrations are getting out of hand in Arlington Public Schools, with too many sugary treats being consumed as a result. That’s the view of the Student Health Advisory Board, which made its case to the School Board last week. Some individual schools in Arlington have banned birthday celebrations or, at least, sweet birthday treats. The overall school system, however, does not currently have a formal policy on the matter. [InsideNova]
Del. Hope Wants to Ban ‘Conversion Therapy’ — Del. Patrick Hope (D) has introduced a bill to ban so-called conversion therapy for minors in Virginia. Practitioners of the controversial “therapy” claim that it can change the sexual orientation of individuals from homosexual to heterosexual. [Washington Blade]
The Corner Tex-Mix Lives? — Despite being pronounced dead by ARLnow and Google, it appears that The Corner Tex-Mix at 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive was open last night, at least for a short period of time. A tipster said lights were on and an employee answered the phone and confirmed they were open, shortly before a power outage sent everyone home. The county health department confirmed to ARLnow this morning that there have been no health code violations that would have closed the restaurant temporarily. The tipster said The Corner Tex-Mix seems to just be keeping “odd hours.” [ARLnow]
‘WeLive’ Apartments to Feature Free Cleaning, Sunday Supper — Details of a new apartment building in Manhattan from co-working company WeWork have been released, and they’re likely to also apply to the company’s second “WeLive” building, in Crystal City. The apartments will be fully furnished and will have cable TV, monthly cleaning and a communal Sunday supper included, among other amenities. [UrbanTurf]
$5 Ribs from Texas Jack’s Barbecue — Ribs at the recently-opened Texas Jack’s Barbecue in Lyon Park will cost you around $5. As in, nearly five bucks per rib. The restaurant, in the former Tallula and EatBar space, features a menu of smoked meat created by Executive Chef Matt Lang, winner of the Food Network’s Best in Smoke 2011 and formerly of Hill Country Barbecue in D.C. [DCist]
Va. Voter Registration Deadline Approaches — The deadline to vote in Virginia’s March 1 presidential primary is Monday, Feb. 8. On the GOP side, the election will feature a somewhat controversial loyalty pledge requested by the state party. “Voters who wish to vote in the Republican Primary must first sign the following non-binding statement, which is permitted under § 24.2-545.A of the Code of Virginia: ‘My signature below indicates that I am a Republican,'” county officials note. In-person absentee voting, meanwhile, starts Friday. [Arlington County]
County Board Race is Anyone’s Guess — The outcome of the Arlington County Board race between incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze is far from certain. While Vihstadt is winning the fundraising battle, Howze is expected to benefit from far greater turnout than the 16 percent who voted in the special election this year. The last general election with a Senate race on the ballot saw a 55 percent turnout in Arlington. [Washington Post]
Vihstadt Peeved at ‘Pro-Streetcar Narrative’ — At yesterday’s County Board meeting, John Vihstadt complained about the county government’s pro-streetcar PR efforts. He suggested that he and fellow streetcar critic Libby Garvey, who make up 40 percent of the Board, should have their views heard through county government channels. Board Chair Jay Fisette slammed that idea, saying “it doesn’t make sense” for the county government to expend resources arguing against its own official policy. [InsideNova]
Cyclist Struck on Lynn Street — A bicyclist was struck by a vehicle on Lynn Street in Rosslyn, between Wilson Blvd and 19th Street N., just before 9:00 this morning. The cyclist was transported to Virginia Hospital Center with an apparent dislocated collarbone.
Bank Robbery in Falls Church — The FBI is looking for a man who robbed a BB&T Bank on West Broad Street in Falls Church yesterday morning. [Federal Bureau of Investigation]
Zac Hanson’s Birthday — On this day 29 years ago, “MMMBop” singer Zac Hanson was born in Arlington. [Hello!]
Could New Theater Become a Financial Drain? — As a condition of its site plan for a new nine-story office building on the site of the old Arlington Funeral Home in Virginia Square, developer Crimson Partners agreed to build a new $3.7 million black box theater inside the building, at the request of the county. But given the financial problems at Artisphere, some are questioning whether the theater will be a financial “black hole” for Arlington County. [Arlington Connection]
Army Celebrates Birthday — The U.S. Army is celebrating its 237th birthday today. On June 14, 1775, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress authorized the creation of the Continental Army. To mark the occasion, Army Secretary John McHugh will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery at 9:30 this morning. [Associated Press]
Mary Marshall Scholarship Recipients To Be Honored — The seven 2012 recipients of the county’s Mary Marshall Memorial Scholarships will be recognized at this Saturday’s County Board meeting. “These young people epitomize the civic spirit of Arlington — just as Mary Marshall did during her decades of service to our community,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said of the recipients. [Arlington County]