Holiday celebrations were over, yet the parking lot at Aldersgate United Methodist Church was packed with cars last Tuesday, Dec. 28, and hundreds of people flowed into the church. They were there to remember Anna Ringer, 16-year-old daughter of John Ringer and Mary Patterson. She was killed in a car accident in Fauquier County on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
“If a funeral could be beautiful, Anna’s was,” said Nancy Owen, a close friend of Anna’s mother, Mary Ann Patterson. “Hundreds of pink roses (pink was Anna’s favorite color) of all shades and the service was attended by about 350-400 people. Five people read tributes to Anna at the service: a girlfriend from her new school [Meredith Nichols], Mary Ann, Anna’s half-sister [Beverly Cauley], John [Anna’s father], and Michael [Einbinder, son of Nancy Owen and John Einbinder]. Mary Ann and John were so strong and, as John said, ‘I must go on because Anna would have wanted me to.’”
Anna and her mother lived across the street from the Einbinders in Wellington for many years. Michael Einbinder read from a piece prepared by the Einbinder family, “... I come here today to ask that when you think of Anna, you do not do so with a heavy heart. And you do not continually ask yourself ‘what if?’ For if we continue on that path, we will never overcome the grief that we must now bear. I ask that when you think of Anna, you think of how lucky we are to have known her, even if the time was not as long as we would have liked. Think instead of the joy she brought to our lives, and what a happy and beautiful person she was, inside and out.
“For the most part, Anna was a typical teenager, but in many ways unusual. She participated in school activities with no prodding — choosing herself to play the clarinet and the cello, and joining the soccer, cheerleading, and field hockey teams. She had the ‘selective hearing’ that most parents consider a natural part of teenagers, but was full of caring surprises; for one thing, that ‘selective hearing’ never got in the way of her listening to the troubles of others, and it never prevented her from helping in any way she could. She was a loyal and non-judgmental confidant. Perhaps that loving aspect grew from her love of life and everything (and everyone) in it: she learned to eat raw oysters from her father and sushi from her mother; she could beat the boys at street hockey but had a Pepto-Bismol pink bedroom full of stuffed animals.
“Anna grew up in a neighborhood of boys and joined right in — until the boys crossed the line of common sense, as we sometimes do. Anna would then turn from a willing participant into an impartial observer, but never a tattletale (which we line-crossing boys appreciated immensely).
“Last night at the viewing, I saw plenty of tears, but I saw more smiles and heard much laughter at the recollections of times gone by. So let yourselves remember the laughter that Anna gave us, not the tears. Thank you, Mary Ann and John, for bringing Anna into our lives and sharing her with us. It is a privilege to have known her and, though she has been taken from us far too soon, she will always be with us in our hearts.”
RINGER ATTENDED Waynewood Elementary School, Stratford Landing, Carl Sandburg and West Potomac High School. She and her mother moved to Jeffersonton, Virginia last September so that Ringer could attend Highland School.
“She loved that school,” Patterson said. “That school made her feel so welcome and all those girls from Highland came to the house [after she was killed].”
Ringer was a field hockey player and cheerleader at Highland; she was on her way to cheerleading practice with three other girls when the car they were riding in was struck by a box truck. Ringer was killed instantly; the other three passengers were seriously injured.
Ringer’s grandfather, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Loren S. (Pat) Patterson, said that it was a very bad intersection. He said his granddaughter “lightened our lives and kept us young.” He said that he and his wife, Ruth, were present when Anna was born and saw her almost every day.
“She stopped here every day after school,” Patterson said. “When she came into a room, it was like the lights went up. She was a remarkable child.”
Patterson said he was absolutely amazed by Highland School, and said, “The kids just kept coming to the house — dozens and dozens of them — field hockey players and cheerleaders. They each made a page and made a book about what they remembered about Anna.”
Danielle Saralegui remembers stopping by Anna’s grandparents’ house and eating cookies. She also remembers how Anna could eat so much and never gain a pound.
“She was so tall, so skinny and so beautiful,” Saralegui said. “She was very outgoing and very funny — she would do anything in her power to make people laugh.”
One of the things Anna would do was take ugly pictures of herself and send it over Saralegui’s cell phone — just to make people laugh. Saralegui has many memories of Anna, but one of her favorites was going to Disney World with West Potomac’s marching band. The last time Saralegui saw Anna was Thanksgiving.
PATTERSON SAID that people told her that she raised Anna to be a wonderful woman, but Patterson said, “She raised me to be a better grown-up. She was so funny; she always made everybody laugh. She never gave up on her friends. She was the love of my life.”
Patterson said that her daughter made the best of things, and always saw the good in people. This was despite the fact that her parents divorced when Anna was young; her father almost died when she was in sixth grade, and she had some obstacles at school.
“She never gave up on anybody. She was so believing,” Patterson said.
Owen said that Anna was very close to her son, Tom Einbinder, and stuck with him through some hard times. Just 10 days before she died, she attended Tom’s prom at Virginia National Guard Challenge Program in Virginia Beach.
“She looked gorgeous and every time I look at the prom pictures I cry. She was such a loyal friend to Tom,” Owen said.
Mary Tobias, another former neighbor, remembers Anna fondly, and said, “It's been a terrible couple of weeks. I found out the day after the accident and our hearts have been aching since. Anna was the first person to welcome our family to the neighborhood when we moved into our house in 1997. She lived next door and just came knocking at the door the first day we moved in to say hello and asking if she could come in. She was so adorable back then and became such a beautiful young woman. She began babysitting for my two girls when she was in junior high and they truly idolized her. She could not even walk in or out her door without my daughters running over to hug her. She would invite my girls up to her bedroom periodically to see her room or watch her get ready for a dance at school. The only picture we have of Anna is from last fall when she came over all dressed up for Homecoming to show my daughters her dress. Mary Ann, John and Mr. and Mrs. Patterson were so incredibly gracious and comforting to all of us at the service at Demaine's and the funeral at Aldersgate was a beautiful tribute to Anna. Simply beautiful, just like Anna.
“The eulogies given by Mary Ann and John were both unbelievably powerful. The minister, Dennis Perry, read the poem ‘Fly, Fly Little Wing’ and talked about how Anna was too tall to fly but on her cheerleading squad and in her life in general she was able to make other people fly and reach beyond what they thought possible. This was the message both of her parents brought out in their tributes as well.”
ACROSS TOWN, another service was held two days later at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Springfield. This one was for James Edward McNulla IV. He was struck and killed by a car on the George Washington Parkway on Christmas Eve. He leaves behind a wife, Christina “Kristi” Cassell and two children, Allison and James McNulla V. Serving as pallbearers were Jeffrey McNulla, Ryan McNulla, Richard Ricciardi, Patric McNulla Jr., Paul Cassell and Todd Cassell.
“It’s a wonderful family — very involved with the school,” said Carolyn Liebeck, friend and neighbor. “His wife volunteers for everything and people raved about James’ carpentry and painting skills — he will be missed.”
Liebeck and others are organizing a meal brigade and helping out with child care for the family during this time. A viewing was held last week at Demaine Springfield and the body was interred this past week in Vermont.
“When he wasn’t working, he spent a lot of time with the kids,” said Cynthia Marr, friend and neighbor. “He was receptive to other people’s kids and always had a smile.”
Marr said that McNulla built a tree house for the boys and put up a lot of playground equipment in the backyard. He also built all kinds of chests and things for the children to store their toys in.
“He enjoyed his work and was very particular about doing it well,” Marr said. “His family also loved to go to yard sales.”
McNulla was born on Dec. 7, 1959 at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas, where his father was stationed. He contracted meningitis when he was an infant; he survived but continued to have seizures throughout his life. The McNulla family passed through Alexandria several times during the course of James’ father’s career. Jamie learned his trade of painting and carpentry while working at a hardware store in the Mount Vernon area. During the week he could be found working at various homes in the Mount Vernon area. Several serious falls from ladders restricted his ability to do some kinds of work, but he continued to do as much as he was able.
Comments in the program from his memorial service read, “He took enormous pride in his ability to apply paints, repair window framing and attach crown molding for homeowners. He developed a clientele that he served for many years, giving his customers, whom he considered ‘family,’ very high quality work.”
MCNULLA'S WIFE, Kristi, said that her husband had lived in this area permanently since 1978. He graduated from Fort Hunt High School in 1979 and started painting.
"He worked at so many homes in this area. He didn't have to advertise because people liked his work so much. They trusted their house to him and would leave him their key. He never asked for money until the job was finished and they were satisfied."
Kristi said that his disability hampered him, but he would ride his bike or get rides to his jobs.
"He made a wonderful life for us," she said. "He was a good man — there was nothing he wouldn't do for anybody. He went out of his way for people."
Another memorial service will be held for Anna Ringer at St. James Episcopal Church in Warrenton, Va. on Thursday, Jan. 6. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Highland School, c/o The Anna Ringer Memorial Fund, 597 Broadview Ave., Warrenton, Va. 20186. To view Anna Ringer’s obituary and guest book, visit www.legacy.com.
The McNulla family is accepting donations for the children’s college’s fund. They can be sent to 1803 Sword Lane, Alexandria, Va. 22308, c/o Allison McNulla or James McNulla V.