Meet Arlington's Centenarians

Published on July 18, 2018

"Our centenarians are a living link to our history and we admire the spirit, inspiration, and endurance represented by our oldest residents," said Arlington County Board Member John Vihstadt, highlighting the importance of 18 residents aged 100 or better at the third annual County Centenarian Celebration.

[caption id="attachment_17682" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Three people sitting around table John Vihstadt, County Board member and the event's keynote speaker, looks on with Vera Punke (right)[/caption]

The celebration, hosted by the the Arlington Aging and Disability Services Division on June 29 was a chance to recognize, celebrate and honor the County's centenarians for their contributions to the community.

One such honoree, Vera Punke (pictured above), remains active, engaged, energetic and decisive in her community. She continues to live by her personal motto: "If I have helped ease one ache or pain, I have not lived in vain."

Similarly, Thelma Russel (pictured below) continues to enjoy life, and has been an active member in the Macedonia Baptist Church in South Arlington for over 50 years.

[caption id="attachment_17776" align="aligncenter" width="580"] County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey presents a certificate to Thelma Russell.[/caption]

Meet the Centenarians 

Clive Watson - 104

Mr. Clive Watson was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. He earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Wichita and a master of business administration degree from George Washington University. He served with the Army Air Corps (now US Air Force) during World War II and attained the rank of Lt. Colonel. He worked as Finance Officer for the Veterans Administration in Utah, served in the Air Force during the Korean War, and was then transferred to the VA Central Office in Washington.

Mr. Watson met and married his wife, Geraldine (also from Kansas) in Washington, DC. They moved to Arlington in 1957 and raised two children. Mr. Watson is an avid sailor and enjoys golf.

Gert Friedman — 103

Gert attributes her longevity to "Good genes and good friends—friendship is terribly important, having a support system." Growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, her parents, while not physically demonstrative, were "entertainers, with a generous, open home." Gert "liked people" and "enjoyed social occasions, and we had a lot of them," she said. Born in 1915, she is the youngest of four (she had three older brothers).

Gert attended "a tiny one-room schoolhouse with an outhouse," where her left-handedness got "slapped" out of her. Gert "never wanted to go to bed at night." Still the night owl, she is up around 3 pm, has "breakfast" around 4 pm, and goes to bed at 2 or 3 am.

Gert graduated from Tilden High School, class of 1932. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in speech pathology, both from Brooklyn College. She met her husband Herb at the "advanced" age of 23— "I was getting on in years." Pen pals at first (he was completing his doctorate in physics from Johns Hopkins University), they married August 18, 1940.

Gert has achieved some celebrity of late. For her 101st birthday, she and her family were guests of the Washington Capitals at the Eastern Conference Semifinals. At halftime, she rode the ice resurfacer, and was later dubbed "A new good luck charm for the Washington Capitals" in a WJLA-TV segment. She was also featured on the cover of her insurance magazine, InSideExtra: "70 years loyal."

Allan Matthews - 102

Mr. Matthews was born on May 27, 2016 in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and a master of science degree from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Mr. Matthews worked as a geologist, a career that allowed him to travel to many countries. Throughout his career he received awards and commendations for his work. He is the author of several books and numerous articles in professional journals. In 2007. he participated in the Global Exchange Reality Tour supporting grassroots social justice.

Vera Punke - 102

Ms. Punke was born on August 29, 1915. She managed a family gift shop, participated in bowling leagues, hosted fashion shows, and has always been an avid bridge player. She has been a highly successful businesswoman, community organizer, co-founder of the Woman's Youth League of Rhode Island, Den Mother, Brownie and Girl Scout Leader. Mrs. Punke remains available to anyone needing a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic listener to anyone just wanting to talk, an inspiration to anyone who knows her life's story. Mrs. Punke has lived in Rhode Island and Florida, and visited many countries around the world. She has chosen the County of Arlington in the beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia to be her retirement home. Ms. Punke has a daughter in Northern Virginia, two grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

[caption id="attachment_17681" align="aligncenter" width="580"] Honorees and guests listen to opening remarks at the centenarian celeberation.[/caption]

Mary Lockett - 101

Ms. Lockett was born on February 7, 1917, to the late Edward and Annie Sheppard of Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia. She is 101 years and 4 months young and has been an Arlington County resident living in the Nauck ("Green Valley") community since 1939. She is #6 of 8 siblings and the only sibling living today. Ms. Sheppard Lockett was married to the late Edward Lockett of Red Oak, Virginia, and to this union, four children were born; two of whom are deceased. She has three grandchildren, one deceased, and six great-grandchildren. She was a domestic worker for many years and later worked at the Pentagon in the 1940s.

Ms. Sheppard Lockett drove her 1976 Blue Chevy Station Wagon until she was 90, and never ever received a ticket. She was elated to have the opportunity to witness the first African American President, No. 44, Barack Hussein Obama serve two terms in office, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama & their family living in the White House. She enjoys her independence and likes it that way -- "her way or the highway." She is self-sufficient — living alone in her own home, preparing her own meals, cleaning her house and washing and ironing her clothes. She believes in hard work and is up at 5:00 a.m. and ready to retire at 7:30 p.m. (after "Wheel of Fortune"). She has a sharp mind, a keen sense of humor-wit, and can vividly remember and recall details. Ms. Sheppard Lockett is grounded in her faith and loves attending church services at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, where she has been a member for the past 77 years. She was an usher for over 50 years, a member of several church clubs, and recently received the honorary title of Deaconess Emeritus.

Last year, her family celebrated her 100th Birthday in grand style with over 215 invited guests. Mary's words of wisdom include "eat your blueberries daily."

Raymond Renola - 100

Mr. Renola grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from West Point and served as Lieutenant Colonel with the United States Army and as Commanding Officer, 375th Field Artillery Battalion. He fought in France and Germany during World War II. He earned a masters of business administration degree and continued to serve his country through appointments at the Pentagon, Fort Leavenworth, and Heidelberg, Germany. He met his wife, Lucille, in Arlington and they spent their years together playing tennis, golf and traveling.

Ms. Helen Gee — 100

Mrs. Helen A. Gee is the oldest of three daughters born to Clara and Willie Bawl, on June 7, 1918. She had one brother Booker; her sisters were Bessie and Gertrude. Helen was raised in a rural community in Virginia called Haynesville.

She met and married Littleton Gee; they were married for more than 53 years, at his death. Helen birthed four sons, Lewis, Larry, Homer, and Elmer. She was employed at the Hecht's Company and worked in the linen department; she retired after more than 25 years of distinguished service. Helen is and was a resident of Arlington County, Virginia for more than 75 years.

"Grandma Helen" or "Mama Gee", as she is fondly called, was very busy in the community. She was a Past Worthy Matron of Arlington Chapter No. 178 of the Eastern Stars, and the Past Illustrious Commander of the Daughter of Isis. She was a long time member of Saint John Baptist Church in Arlington, where she was active in the choir and Spring season activities. Helen was an active member of the local senior citizens club, held at the Hoffman-Boston Elementary School. She and her friends grew well acquainted with the buffet spots in Arlington, after their weekly meetings.

Helen now resides at the Regency Health Care Center, in Arlington. You will find her most often at her "post" watching all of the daily activities of staff, residents and guests. Her daughters-n-law, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, and nephews all come to celebrate her large annual birthday celebrations and is loved by all.

Col. Charles Schudt - 100

Col. Charles Schudt was born and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He earned a bachelor of business administration degree from St. John's University and worked for five years as an accountant for a large public utility company before being drafted into the Army in 1941. After one year of enlisted service, Col. Schudt attended the Finance Officers Candidate School and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Finance Corps. This was the beginning of a career in the Army specializing in Finance and Accounting. Through the Army, Mr. Schudt completed a master of business administration degree at Stanford University and also graduated from the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania.

After retiring from the military, Mr. Schudt continued his career in finance in the Washington, DC area. Even in retirement he served on the board of directors of his community organization.
Col. Schudt enjoys attending cultural events and visiting local restaurants.

Mary Nash - 100

Mary O'Rourke was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1918. After moving to Washington, DC in 1937 she lived in a Catholic women's boarding house in Logan Square and found work in the Solicitors Office of the U.S. Post Office. Mary met Fred Nash, the love of her life, soon after and they enjoyed a lively social life including literally dancing the nights away. Mary and Fred were married in June 1942 in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Washington, DC.

Fred and Mary moved around the country with his job in the Army before settling in Alexandria in 1946 and Arlington in 1948. They landed in their beloved Arlington Village, although Mary thought the first townhome was too dark so they moved to her current home in 1953. Mary worked for the Air Force Judge Advocate General's office and later the Office of Secretary of Defense, OASD/ISA. Mary and Fred had the opportunity to travel for their jobs, including several trips to Europe. She retired in 1977 to take care of her mom who was in declining health. Fred planned to retire in mid-1983, but sadly passed away in January.

Mary has immersed herself in Arlington. She is sustained by her faith and has been an active member of Our Lady, Queen of Peace since the 1960s. She has organized a weekly bridge game at Walter Reed Center since before the current building was built, welcoming all and often still outplaying most of the players in any given week. Mary is surrounded by a large group of wonderful friends.

Mary lives on her own and drives to close by destinations. As a result of Mary's doctor prescribing exercise after her heart bypass in the early 1980s, she has been actively involved in Arlington's 55+ classes and is the carpool liaison for her friends and neighbors. Mary credits her long and happy life to her friends, her faith and exercise.

Thelma Russell - 100

Ms. Russell began this journey when she came into the world on October 18, 1917 where she joined her mother and father, Robert and Daisy Cross. She grew up with four sisters (Marion, Vivian, Lois and Majorie) and four brothers (Haywood, Richard, Charles and Horace). While still a young girl, she moved with her family from Durham N.C. to Alexandria Va. When they arrived in Alexandria, they were met by a welcoming family - Mr. and Mrs. Russell and their children. The Russell's young son Dennis would become her husband.

Ms. Russell enjoys life, loves to entertain and over the years, has made many friends. When Ms. Russell moved to Arlington VA, she joined Macedonia Baptist Church in South Arlington and has been an active member in the church for over 50 years. She and her husband sang in one of the church choirs for years, until he passed away and her vision started to fail. She conceived two children, Roger W. Dundas (deceased) and Inga D. Russell. She has one Goddaughter, Shelia Cross-Reid, and four step children: Gwendolyn (deceased), Marilyn, Thelma and Dennis Jr., who joined her when she married in later years to come. As far as we know, she is the longest living relative in the Cross family. Ms. Russell use to be a member of the Elks in Alexandria VA, was a homemaker, seamstress, and a companion for the elderly. She is still very independent, has lived to see many things change in the world, survived many challenges and obstacles, and met them while standing strong.

Dr. Robert Maddin - 99

Dr. Bob Maddin moved to Arlington from Charlottesville, Virginia, after the passing of his wife, Odell.

Dr. Maddin received his Ph.D. in materials science from Yale University in 1948. He taught at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for approximately six years and then at the University of Pennsylvania for 30 years. Following his retirement, he joined the faculty at Harvard University as Visiting Professor in the Anthropology Department and became curator of Archaeological Science at Harvard's Peabody Museum for 10 years. Dr. Maddin wrote three books and edited 71 relating to his field. One of his notable selections is "The Beginnings of the Use of Metals and Alloys," which was published in 1989 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Maddin is still active in archaeological projects and visits "digs" in various Aegean sites. In 2002, he visited locations in Cyprus and Crete. Dr. Maddin has two daughters, Leslie who resides in the District of Columbia and Jill who lives in Tennessee and has two children.

Recognized but no bio available:

Ms. Betty Etzell - 102
Ms. Patricia Robbins - 102
Ms. Vera Dean - 102
Mr. David Vandusen - 101
Ms. Janet Platzer - 101
Ms. Elenor Byrnes - 100
Mr. William Ownes - 100
Ms. Elizabeth Coles - 99

If you are a centenarian, or know someone who is, contact Rachel Sparico to be included in future events.

Aging and Disability Services

The Arlington Aging and Disability Services Division emphasizes aging in place through care coordination, home care, and supportive services to ensure Arlington residents can live at home and in their community. Services are provided to individuals over 60 years of age and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Arlington County prides itself as a great place to live for all ages, and the Centenarian Celebration shows appreciation for our most senior and esteemed group, and allows the community to pay tribute to their greatness and legacy by recognizing, celebrating and honoring their contributions. Through government programs and community partnerships, Arlington offers a variety of support to older adults and their caregivers:

  • Accessible transportation

  • Opportunities for socialization,

  • Affordable housing like Culpepper Gardens and programs including Real Estate Tax Relief

  • Quality nutrition through our Social 60 plus cafés and senior farmer's markets.

Contact the ADSD Customer Service Center at 703-228-1700 for information on programs and services.