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What's In a Name? — Honor and Emotion

Last week, two native Alexandrians, recognized for their internal and external success stories, could also be characterized as the modern personification of words written by Athenian historian Thucydides some 2,400 years ago.

"We are lovers of beauty without extravagance, and lovers of wisdom without unmanliness. Wealth to us is not material for vainglory but an opportunity for achievement; and poverty we think it no disgrace to acknowledge but a real degradation to make no effort to overcome."

Their recognition came at the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new development to be known as Chatham Square, formerly Samuel Madden Homes (Downtown) or "The Berg." It had been their home for the majority of their younger lives.

Each is a living example of the American dream. They are Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille and Deputy Chief Earl Cook, Alexandria Police Department, Investigations Bureau.

They were each presented with a plaque that contained the address plate from their childhood home in The Berg and each will have a street within the new Chatham Square development named after them. This special recognition and honor came as a complete surprise to both.

"It brought me to tears when they said they were naming a street in my honor. It's one thing to be mayor of this wonderful city, but it's quite another to have something so lasting named for you," Euille said.

"I'd like people to look at it as much more than just the street name and plaque. I hope it serves as an incentive to young people in public housing to know that success can be had through hard work and dedication. Hope lies just around the corner," he said.

"The first thing I thought about when it was announced was my parents. I had two parents, my mother is still living, who worked seven jobs to make life better for us. How lucky I was," Cook remembered. "I was very honored and totally surprised when they [ARHA] did that."

Cook noted, "The Berg was intended to be transition housing back then. And it truly was. Most of the households there when I grew up were two parent households. And we had pride in our homes there as people did everywhere."

Euille said, "We were proud of our yards and our homes. They were well kept. We planted flowers in the yards and kept them looking nice. I spent the majority of my first 22 years in Samuel Madden Homes."

THE IDEA FOR the honor came from Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority chairman A. Melvin Miller. "The developer asked me for a suggestion for names for streets in the new development," Miller said.

"I felt it would be significantly more meaningful to have the streets named after people who are success models rather than just historic type names. Both Bill and Earl grew up in The Berg and are certainly success role models today," Miller said.

"Keeping it a secret was no easy task," Miller admitted. "Since there was going to be a model of the development at the groundbreaking we had to put fictitious names on the streets. Very few people knew what we were going to do."

They also had to do some secretive research. "I had been asked what my address was when I was growing up in The Berg. But I just figured they were going to mention it in the ceremony since I was now mayor," Euille confided. "When they announced the street naming I was overjoyed, elated, excited and very honored."

Euille's address had been 510 N. Royal St. and Cook's was 420 Princess St. Wording on the plaques states:

"The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority [ARHA] Board of Commissioners, Staff and residents recognize (Mayor William E. Euille/Deputy Chief Earl Cook) as a former resident of the Samuel Madden Homes Downtown soon to be Chatham Square and who previously resided at (individual address), who has accomplished great things, while serving as a role model to other residents of public housing and to other citizens of Alexandria, and for providing exemplary service to the City of Alexandria."

William Dearman, ARHA executive director, explained, "Each house address plate was taken off the property where each had lived before demolition, preserved, and made part of the plaque for each of them." The named streets will run perpendicular to the Potomac River.

COMMEMORATIVE bricks from the demolished homes are now being offered by ARHA as a way to raise funds for the Authority's scholarship fund. Each brick sells for $25 "with 100 percent of the proceeds" going to the fund.

The bricks, most of which were made in the 1940's, were cleaned and a brass plaque commemorating the groundbreaking ceremony was attached.

ARHA's scholarship program is designed to assist students, who are residents of public housing or assisted housing in the city, with college expenses.

Recipients are eligible for $1,000 per year, according to Dearman. To order a commemorative brick or for additional information on the program contact Richard Lloyd at 703-549-7115 ext. 365.