Even "Ronald McDonald" put in an appearance last Friday night to honor Senior Services of Alexandria's pick for their 2004 "Senior Extraordinaire."
Although she knew well ahead of time the organization had chosen her for this initial honor, State Senator Patricia S. Ticer (D-30) did not know that her former high school classmate, NBC weatherman, and the original Ronald McDonald, Willard Scott, would pay her a special tribute via a videotaped message.
Just as she was about to give her acceptance remarks the lights went dim in the Radisson Hotel Old Town ballroom and on the screen came Scott acknowledging their long-time friendship. Buttressing the event's theme, "Honoring the Best," Scott recalled their past and concluded with "You are the best — I love You."
Although the gala dinner and dance is held annually, Ticer is the first person to receive this honor. As one of her many contributions to the city and its senior citizens, Ticer chairs the Advisory Committee for Alexandria's successful Aging Expos which began in 1999.
"This innovative series initiated the first community dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of growing older and brought together experts on aging, representatives from local service agencies and community seniors," according to Senior Services.
Touting the praises of Ticer was Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper. "Tonight, we honor one of the most popular and fairest ladies of them all," Pepper proclaimed.
"As a strong legislator and master negotiator, Patsy rarely has an unpleasant thing to say about anybody. The best word to describe her is "classy." But she also can be very tough," Pepper related to the audience filling the ballroom.
AS AN EXAMPLE of that toughness, Pepper recalled that it was Ticer that the late Jack Kent Cook, former owner of the Washington Redskins, and former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder, did not count on when they proposed to build the team's new stadium in Alexandria. "The way she handled Doug Wilder and Cook, they didn't know what hit them," Pepper said.
Pepper also revealed that, as a politician herself, she learned at least two vital lessons from Ticer. "One is that we are a family of neighborhoods. She was the first to use that term. And nothing should be chiseled in stone," Pepper emphasized.
In 1991, Ticer became Alexandria's first woman mayor, and the first woman elected to the Virginia Senate from Alexandria in 1995. She is now on her third term having been reelected in 1999 and 2003. She was first elected to City Council in 1982.
Pepper reflected that Ticer ushered in a "golden era" of women in politics and leadership positions in Alexandria. At the time she was mayor, "there was a woman as City Manager, chair of the Chamber of Commerce, and acting School Superintendent," Pepper pointed out.
Pepper also thanked Jack Ticer, Patsy's husband, and the Ticer family for "sharing her with us." She noted, "you have to stay on the good side of Jack because he's the one person who can get her to come to the phone to take your call when she's rushing out the door."
WHEN SHE CAME to the microphone, following Scott's tribute, Ticer thanked Pepper for her accolades. "That was the nicest description of what I'd like to be when I grow up that I've ever heard," she quipped. Ticer acknowledged that the last time she saw Scott was at their 50th high school reunion "one week before 9/11."
Ticer said, "I've been so privileged to represent Alexandria in so many capacities. Government has a role to help provide the infrastructure to make sure all people have opportunities and choices.
"Those choices come about by multiple partnerships. I consider myself a facilitator to broaden the opportunities for others. My husband Jack has been my role model." He also served on City Council.
A graduate of George Washington High School and Sweet Briar College, Ticer has lived in Alexandria since she was 12 years old. The Ticers have four grown children and five grandchildren.
As noted in the evening's program, "In Richmond Ticer is guarding our natural resources and protecting Citizens' privacy from technological intrusion. She believes children are our future and works to assure them the best education, health care, and child-care possible."
During her tenure in city government, Ticer chaired the Economic Development Board, initiated the Mayor's Outreach Program to aid small businesses, led efforts to create Alexandria's Early Childhood Development Commission, and served as Vice Chair of the Governor's Council on Child Day Care and Early Childhood Programs.
As chair of the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board, Ticer received the prestigious Scull Award.
Quoting Michaelangelo's pronouncement at age 89, "Thank God I can still learn," Ticer acknowledged, "I am honored and humbled by this tribute. But I am still a work in progress. This is not a farewell."
Following the presentation, Gwen Mullen, executive director, Senior Services, announced that the organization had exceeded its fundraising goal by garnering $55,000. She particularly thanked Comcast, The Mark Winkler Company, Turner Construction, and the Dawsons, for their leadership gifts. A group picture was taken of all those donating $5,000 and $2,500 to the campaign.