Nancy Dunning’s murder has left a shocked community in mourning for a woman who made many lives better for having known her.
"It’s hard to quantify just how much Nancy meant to this community,” said former City Council member David G. Speck. “She played a significant role in the revitalization of Mt. Vernon Avenue, of course, but she did much more. She really made a difference in the quality of life in Del Ray. She will be missed.”
Dunning, 56, was found shot to death in her West Mt. Ida home last Friday. Police have not identified any suspects nor do they have a motive.
Dunning was the wife of James Dunning, the Alexandria sheriff, and a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Alexandria and a resident of Del Ray for the past 30 years. Since 1998, she has been consistently awarded the Most Referred Realtor Award, receiving one just this year. More than 52,000 Realtors were surveyed and asked who they would recommend to their friends for honesty, integrity, professionalism and market knowledge, if they themselves were not available to sell real estate in Alexandria. Dunning was one of the top three Realtors in Alexandria as a result of this survey. Her son, Chris, recently began working with her at McEnearney.
Lonnie Rich, a former member of the Alexandria City Council and a close family friend, has known the Dunnings since the late 1970s. “Nancy was energetic and played a significant role in the revitalization of Mt. Vernon Avenue. I got to know her when I was president of the Del Ray Citizens Association and then when I ran Jim’s first campaign for sheriff in 1985. Nancy championed many of the businesses on Mt. Vernon Avenue but always kept neighborhood concerns in mind.
“I loved reading her column in the Gazette because it was always filled with interesting things about life in Del Ray. We will all miss her,” he said.
THAT COLUMN, Dunning On Del Ray, began about three years ago. “Her style of writing really gave the neighborhood column some punch,” said Dale Smith, editor of the Alexandria Gazette. “She had a way with words that gave the Del Ray community a lively feel, a happening place. She was always praising businesses and residents in her community. She was proactive in promoting school events and was always collecting items for needy organizations. It wasn’t uncommon to see boxes of clothing on her doorstep from neighbors who responded to her call for items to help the needy.
“Her weekly column spun folksy news everyone could relate to and I believe it was this style of writing and promotion that made for good turnouts at events in her community,” Smith said.
That community has gone through many changes during the three decades that Nancy Dunning lived and worked there. Rod Kuckro, a former president of Del Ray Citizens Association and the host of a cable television program on Alexandria, knew Dunning well.
“Nancy was an early and dedicated ally in the effort to establish the Town of Potomac Historic District in 1992, when I was president of Del Ray Citizens Association,” Kuckro said. “Her credibility was instrumental in helping to allay concerns that some homeowners and many businesses had about the effects a historic district could have on their property rights. She was trusted and that trust people had in her helped a gr3eat deal. Even after the designation was granted, Nancy was a tireless champion for the neighborhood and its potential. There was no one else quite like her.”
Virginia Senator Patricia S. “Patsy” Ticer (D-30) also knew Dunning. “She was a great supporter of mine and a great supporter of this community,” Ticer said. “We have recently started a political action committee called Voices for Women. Nancy was very generous in her contribution to this effort and many others. She will be missed.”
DUNNING IS survived by her husband and her two adult children, Chris and Elizabeth. Her funeral will be held at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, Dec. 11. Those who would like to remember her are asked to make contributions to Higher Achievement Program, 19 1st Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20001; Catholic Relief Services, 209 W. Fayette Street Baltimore, MD 21201 or the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, 3330 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314.