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Alexandria Honors Its Living Legends

Twelve individuals or teams have been named this year's Living Legends of Alexandria. The Committee considered 32 nominations and will honor all nominees at a reception on Feb. 7, 2010 at the Lyceum, 201 North Washington Street.

Created in 2006, Living Legends of Alexandria is an ongoing, not-for-profit photo-journalism project, which identifies, honors, and chronicles Alexandria's citizens. Living Legends recognizes individuals who have contributed at least one tangible improvement to the quality of the City's life that would likely be missing without that person's vision and energy and those who have demonstrated long-term service to Alexandria, especially through work on commissions, committees and service organizations. The project is unique among recognition programs in that the records are donated to the Alexandria Library for future research and to inspire others.

The Legends of 2010 are: Chet Avery, Rosalind Bovey, Rodger Digilio, Nelson Greene, Sr., the team of Alice Merrill and Linda Odell, T. Michael Miller, John Porter, Joan and John Renner, David Speck, Pat Troy, Lois Walker and Betty Wright.

* Rosalind Bovey has been active in Alexandria civic affairs for more than 30 years and has devoted her time to chronicling, preserving, and protecting the City's historic fabric. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Carlyle House, served as president of the North Ridge Citizen's Association and chaired Agenda: Alexandria.

* Rodger Digilio began working in Alexandria in 1976 with a vision to restore and redevelop old and historic structures. He has served on and chaired more than a dozen boards, commissions and committees. He is the current chairman of King Street Gardens Foundation and also the publisher of alexandrianews.org.

* Nelson Greene, Sr. opened Greene Funeral Home 55 years ago and has been an integral part of the community ever since, serving as a member of City Council from 1976-1979. He was among a group of visionaries that created Senior Services of Alexandria and was the first African American to be appointed to the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

* David Speck served one term in the Virginia House of Delegates and two terms on the Alexandria City Council. He spearheaded a number of projects that have left a lasting mark on the city including plans to fund the Alexandria Commission for the Arts and open space acquisition and preservation. Along with then mayor Kerry Donley, he helped bring the Patent and Trademark Office to Alexandria, the single most important economic development issue in the City's modern history.

* Lois Walker has long been Alexandria's voice on transportation issues. In the six years she served on City Council, and since that time, she has represented Alexandria on virtually all local, state, and regional transportation bodies, including a stint as president of the board of Virginia High Speed Rail.

* Over 30 years ago, Alexandria resident Betty Wright and her late husband, Frank, along with three volunteers and three students began the Wright to Read program. Their vision and the program’s mission, to "give the gift of literacy," has not changed, and the volunteer tutoring and mentoring program has grown to become the largest program of its kind in the City.

* Chet Avery, a long-time resident of Alexandria, has been active in devising and promoting programs enabling those with disabilities to participate fully in all life’s opportunities. For nearly 30 years he has served as a member of the Alexandria Human Rights Commission. His life's work is dedicated to extending accessibility to all persons.

* Seven years ago, Alice Merrill and Linda Odell began "SOHO: A Space of Her Own," a partnership between The Art League and the City of Alexandria's Court Services Unit. Their vision, commitment and collaborative fund-raising efforts created an alternative arts program that touches the lives of at-risk young girls.

* Nobody has written more about the history of Alexandria than former City Research Historian T. Michael Miller. He has served on the Board of the Alexandria Historical Society for 12 years as member, vice president and president. His crowning achievement was his discovery of Freedmen’s Cemetery in 1987, where the forgotten remains of 1800 freed black slaves and their children were buried.

* John Porter, who served as the principal of T.C. Williams High School for 22 years, has dedicated his professional life to the well-being of Alexandrians and lived and breathed commitment to his community through volunteer service. A recent recipient of the Alexandria Volunteer Bureau's Marian Van Landingham Lifetime Achievement Award, he now directs the Alexandria Community Trust.

* John and Joan Renner have served Alexandria for many years through the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria. The couple has volunteered much of their time to the Rotary Club of Alexandria including the creation of the "Taste For Giving" fund-raiser which raised more than $30,000 last year for a variety of non-profits with an emphasis on youth, education and the needy.

* If not for Pat Troy, the City would not have a leader for the annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade. For the last 28 years, Troy has given many hours to fund and orchestrate the parade, which attracts thousands of people to Alexandria and helps generate revenue for the small businesses in the City. For 26 years he has directed the annual Irish Festival.

For information about the project and to nominate a future Legend, see www.tisaraphoto.com/legends