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Herndon Honors Community Legends

Baseball field, council work session room named for long-time Herndon community servants.

Two historic Herndon community activists will be publicly honored for their legacy of service to the town in the coming months as the Town of Herndon moves to officially dedicate two community meeting spots in the names of Raleigh Emery and Berenice Hoover.

Within the next several months, former town clerk Berenice Hoover will be memorialized at the Council Chambers Conference Room, located next to Herndon’s official town council chambers. In that same time, youth sports trailblazer Raleigh Emery will be commemorated with the naming of a baseball field at Haley M. Smith Park.

Both of the memorial measures were passed by unanimous votes at Herndon’s Aug. 14 Town Council public hearing.

"We like to recognize those people who have really made an impact on our community, and this is one of the ways that we can do that," said Town Manager Art Anselene. "It’s a way that Herndon can thank those people who have dedicated so much time to the community."

THIS HASN’T BEEN the first time that naming honors have been bestowed on Berenice Hoover. The former Herndon town clerk served the town from 1961 until her death of a sudden heart attack in 1972, and was originally remembered as the namesake of Herndon’s former council chambers, "The Hoover Building," now a local church located on Crestview Drive.

Concern that the former clerk would have her memorial status passed over with the establishment of the new council chambers in 1996 led Herndon council member Bill Tirrell to suggest naming the conference room in her honor.

"She obviously meant a lot to the community, as she had her name attached to what was, at the time, a very prominent building," Tirrell said. "It was my intention to make sure that we didn’t forget the contributions that she made to our town."

Her undying dedication to her job and tireless hours are what her son, Allen Hoover — still a Herndon resident — remembers most of his mother’s tenure as town clerk.

"We don’t run across people nowadays who have that devotion that she did, who didn’t have an angle to what she was doing … she genuinely wanted to serve the town," said Allen Hoover, a local construction contractor. "There’s a kind of integrity with her that we don’t see as much these days."

He remembered his mother, a one-time school teacher, coming home to fix dinner for the family before rushing off to take minutes of Town Council meetings by hand for hours, only to wake up early the next day to transcribe those notes with a typewriter for eventual printing and mass consumption.

"There were no printers then, so she would use a heliograph … and it wasn’t electric, so she’d crank it with her hand and it would come out dripping with this purple ink," Allen Hoover said. "So she would come home with her hands purple on some nights."

A member of a much more condensed town staff than present day Herndon, Berenice Hoover was part of a very limited team responsible for much of the modernization of Herndon, including the establishment of the town’s first comprehensive independent sewage system and the beginnings of the W&OD Trail, he added.

"I don’t think she ever had any delusions of getting rich in the job. She was just a great public servant who really cared about the community," he said, " and she took a real pride in professionalism."

WHEN IT CAME to the task of finding a proper commemorative effort for long-time Herndon resident Raleigh Emery, only one thing would be appropriate for those who knew the Herndon youth sports pioneer: a baseball field.

"He was responsible through his volunteering efforts for keeping youth sports going in Herndon, especially baseball," said Vice Mayor Dennis Husch, who introduced the measure to name a 60-foot baseball diamond at Haley M. Smith Park after Emery. "He was just one of those people who encourages volunteers and volunteers built Herndon."

Emery, who settled in Herndon in the late 1950s, died in February 2005 at the age of 87. A prize fighter, wrestler, U.S. Olympic swimmer and World War II veteran, Emery took his love for sports to the children of Herndon over several decades.

"He was a very passionate man, and his main passion was baseball," said Mary Burger, a Herndon resident, fellow Herndon Optimist Club member and former neighbor to Emery.

Emery transferred his passion to team sports to the town’s children, and over time worked to strengthen regular swim meets at the Herndon town pool and was a founding member of the Herndon Optimist Club, the flagship organization for youth baseball in town.

"He had a way with young children, where he thought a child could use some help, he would always be there to show them how to do something, and he did it in such a nice and positive way," Burger said. "He had such a positive effect on people for that. He never met a child that he couldn’t teach."

His unrelenting dedication to the community through sports was no better demonstrated than in his prolonged position behind the plate as a local youth baseball umpire, a position he held until he was 65.

"When you’re 50, you start to slow down," said Burger, "but when you’re 60 and you’re still umpiring … that takes a unique passion."

But it was his inherent desire to be a key part in activities that was the biggest benefit to those who knew him, she added.

"The only way you can make any community better is by getting involved," Burger said. "And he took that passion for sports and got involved by imparting it on to so many people."