Vinson Hall commemorated it’s 35th anniversary with a celebration marking past achievements at the retirement home and honoring the longevity of many staff and residents. Lois Smith has lived at the facility for 28 years and credits the warmth of those living and working at Vinson Hall as the main reason she is happy there after nearly three decades.
“There’s a lot of love, happy people, and a lot of intelligent people who live here. That all makes it a beautiful place to be,” said Smith.
The celebration was kicked off by a variety of patriotic selections played by the President’s U.S. Marine Brass Quintet, which the retirees from each of the branches of the military quickly turned into fight songs. There was also a posting of the national colors by the Armed Forces Color Guard.
VINSON HALL CAME out of an idea developed by the Welfare Committee of the Naval Officers Wives Club back in 1959. The club wanted to do something to create a safe, dignified and companionable home for Navy widows. According to Rear Adm. and Vinson Hall CEO Donald Guter, it took 10 years of international fund-raising to make the facility possible.
A foundation was developed, and the site in the Chesterbrook section of McLean was soon identified. Even though the campus property was offered at a reasonable price to the foundation, just $300,000, the foundation didn’t have the funds to purchase the land.
Adm. Arleigh Burke stepped in and helped the group finance the purchase. In 1965 Fairfax County granted a land use permit, and the property was purchased the next month.
In the beginning Vinson Hall was occupied by regular and reserve Naval officers with 20 years of active service of more, and their spouses. Over the years those criteria have relaxed to include members of the Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Nurse Corps officers.
Vinson Hall was named for Carl Vinson, who served in Congress from 1914-63. Vinson is often credited with being “the father of our two-ocean Navy.” While a member of Congress, he served on the Naval Affairs Committee and at one time chaired the Armed Forces Committee.
During the ceremony’s opening invocation, Chaplain Andrew Tibus said that Vinson Hall was the culmination of years of hard work. “It was a step that began many years ago, the first of a thousand steps, that has seen Vinson Hall become a place of prosperity, dignity and friendship.”
The longevity of the residents and staff, he said, is “an encouragement to us all.”
REAR ADM. EDWARD WALKER has been instrumental in many of the physical improvements made to Vinson Hall over the years, including the addition of the Arleigh Burke Pavilion and the award-winning Silvestry, which serve residents with memory impairments.
“It was a spotty course for a while with Arleigh Burke,” said Walker of the construction dilemmas that were overcome. Those difficulties were tempered by the success and recognition experienced during the construction of the Silvestry. “We have really rung the bell collectively with the Silvestry,” he said.
Walker and Guter both acknowledged that the comfort and caring experienced by the residents of Vinson Hall would not be possible except for the sacrifices of hundreds of people who worked to make the facility a reality and to continuously improve the campus for those living and working there.
“The debt of gratitude, we clearly owe to those who went before. Those people really had vision,” said Walker. “We still meet annually to determine [residents’] needs,” said Guter.
Walker summed up Vinson Hall saying, “The ambiance that we have here, we are a family. There’s something very special about the people who live here. They are self-supporting, but they are also collectively supporting of each other.”