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Fond Farewell to Eleanor Presgrave

A friend to children dies at age 94.

When Eleanor Nevitt Presgrave died last week at age 94, the local area lost a great friend to children. Whether volunteering at three elementary schools, helping to babysit or rooting for her greatgrandchildren at athletic events, her presence was always welcome.

But her warm and generous heart finally gave out, last Tuesday, April 25. She'd been taken to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital's emergency room, two days earlier and later succumbed to heart failure.

"She'd been sick, about a month, and we thought she was getting better," said her daughter-in-law Becky Presgrave of Centreville's Country Club Manor community. "But we were glad she didn't have to suffer, and we're happy we were able to take care of her here at home for so long."

PRESGRAVE had lived with her son Robert and his wife Becky for the past 12 years. She had a full life with them, as she'd had previously as a wife and mother. She lived in Chantilly's Pleasant Valley community for 50 years and was raised on a small farm where the Pepsi Cola plant now stands.

After she married, she moved just slightly west on Route 50, close to the Loudoun County line. There, she and her husband Gilbert raised two sons, Robert and Don (who lives in Manassas). They belonged to Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church and, said Becky, "Her husband's family, Lutie and Walter Presgrave, were among the founding members of the church."

Eleanor and Gilbert were married nearly 50 years, until his death in 1987. She was a reknowned Southern cook, with a reputation for terrific fried chicken, biscuits, spoon bread and a pound cake called "plain cake."

"She opened her home to all the stray friends my husband and his brother brought home, and she always had enough food for everyone," said Becky. "If she only had two pieces of pie and two people to feed, suddenly she wasn't hungry."

Eleanor was always active in her church and, for the past 50-60 years, she worked in the kitchen every summer during Vacation Bible School, giving juice and cookies to the children. "She was planning to do it again, this year," said her daughter-in-law. "She asked me, 'I wonder who's going to work with me in the kitchen, this year?'"

She also liked going to church services and seeing her friends. "It was so cute," said Becky. "She and a girlfriend of hers used to hold hands and tell secrets to each other, right up until the minister started talking."

And for the past six or seven years, Presgrave volunteered at London Towne, Deer Park and Navy elementary schools. She and other senior citizens worked three hours a day, three mornings a week, cutting, pasting, sorting and organizing various materials to help the teachers.

"She was a diligent worker and she loved those children," said Becky. "She worked in the schools up until the day before she got sick. The children sent her almost 100 handmade [get-well] cards, and she enjoyed reading them all."

Spry and in relatively good health, Presgrave also helped babysit her three grandchildren and five greatgrandchildren. "She enjoyed anything having to do with them," said Becky. "She loved going to her greatgrandson's baseball games and her greatgranddaughters' gymnastic meets and dance recitals. And she was a surrogate grandparent to other children in the area, as well."

Presgrave even had a special nickname, which she answered to proudly. Said Becky: "When one of our grandsons was just learning to speak, he called her 'Mocha,' and that's been her name, ever since."

She would have been 95 in July, but she leaves her loved ones with a wealth of fond memories that bring them comfort. "She had a smile for everyone," said her daughter-in-law. "And she never wanted to be a burden so, if you tried to open a door for her, she'd rush to get there first. She was a wonderful, good and happy person."

Funeral services were Monday, May 1, at Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Will White officiating. Burial followed at Chestnut Grove in Herndon. Fittingly, in lieu of flowers, donations in her name for the church's Children's Ministry may be made and sent to Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, 43987 John Mosby Hwy., Chantilly, VA 20152.