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Summer Luncheon Celebrates 30 Years

Thelma’s lunch crew has grown into a 30-year tradition, drawing guests from across the country.

From the front porch, Johnnie Johnson of Sterling blew into his trumpet, playing a theme from Exodus as people arrived at Roosevelt and Thelma Calbert’s home on French Horn Lane.

A procession of guests started filing into the couple’s Reston home around 10:30 a.m. when, as if on cue, the morning rain last Thursday stopped.

“This is the second time it’s rained in 30 years,” said Roosevelt Calbert, one of a handful men at the Summer Luncheon, which his wife started as a back-to-school shindig for a small group of teachers.

“I talked with some teachers at Herndon High School, about eight friends. We weren’t ready to go back. We called it the Friendship Luncheon,” said Thelma Calbert, describing how a small lunch grew into a traditional yearly event. “By about the third year, the news got out that we were having some fun.” Now she says the event grows “bigger and wilder” each year.

NOT EVEN BEING on vacation kept Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) away from the 30th anniversary. “You can’t miss this,” said Hudgins, who kicked off this year’s program. “The interesting thing is the number of people that’s joined it and how it’s grown over the years.”

In her opening remarks, Hudgins thanked all the educators, many of whom have retired, for their continued efforts to help students and young people.

The rest of the program was led by Mistress of Ceremonies Hasiba Ali, who kept the mood light with comedic intervals.

Just before the luncheon chorale prepared to sing its set, Ali, who is also the chorale’s director, which involved holding a large spoon in place of a conductor’s baton, requested of the audience one thing: “Do not try to sing along with us. You’re not good enough,” she said, joking.

GUESTS HAILED FROM as far away as Texas, Los Angeles and Chicago.

“We’re expecting over 200 people,” said Roosevelt Calbert, who retired in 2000 as a division manager at the National Science Foundation.

Jamet Pittman, an opera singer who grew up in Adelphi, Md. but now lives in New York, happened to be in town to attend the luncheon because she was performing at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. as a member of the 3 Mo’ Divas.

“I’m the niece of a good friend of Thelma’s,” said Pittman, acknowledging that some way or another the Calbert’s have a knack for bringing people together for the luncheon.

“Each year it becomes more exciting with the same familiar faces,” said Reston resident Ellen Graves.

For the past few years, the nearly all-female luncheon has expanded to include men, according to Roosevelt Calbert. During the men’s portion of the program, longtime Reston resident Thomas Wilkins helped honor special guests Lou Phillips, a TV producer; Anthony Gaskins, owner of the Hattery in Georgetown Park, and Warren M. Thompson, CEO of Thompson Hospitality.