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Column: A Lifetime of Memories for $100

The framed pictures on the walls of Victoria’s Alexandria home tell a thousand stories … a son who is in the Navy, vacationing at Point Lookout, and even a picture of her meeting Princess Diana.

For nearly 50 years, Victoria* has built wonderful memories with her husband, Romeo, and four children in their home. Moving from Arizona so Romeo could take a job at Arlington National Cemetery, they bought the ranch style home in 1965 for just $15,000. Victoria still remembers having to borrow the $100 down payment from her real estate agent at closing.

Born in Arizona, Victoria’s parents, who were of different American Indian tribes, were disowned because they did not marry within their own tribes. Being one of 10 children, Victoria grew up very poor but remembers the fun she had playing kick-the-can and hide-and-seek (though her dog, Yo-Yo, gave her hiding place away because he would always hide with her). After playtime, her mom, who spoke no English and only understood a little, always made the children gather round the radio to listen to the President’s address during World War II.

Victoria met and married Romeo pre WWII, but shortly thereafter Romeo was shipped off to help fight the war. While he was gone, Victoria got her first job — delivering telegrams for Western Union. She recalls that most people were upset to see her coming, as the messengers often delivered sad news. She also worked in a sawmill during the war when Belmont began hiring women to check shipments of ammunitions going to the East Coast.

When Romeo returned from the war, he was made second in command of Arlington National Cemetery so they moved east. He was then transferred as first in command to Soldier’s Home National Cemetery, where his family could live on the grounds, which they did until moving back into their Alexandria home in 1988.

Victoria and Romeo enjoyed their retirement days at home in Alexandria, often listening to music in their living room. When the cassette “Unforgettable Love Songs of the Sixties” was playing, Romeo would pull Victoria up out of her chair and dance with her to “Spanish Eyes.” They would also visit the Knights of Columbus hall and dance the jitterbug and line dances, even though Victoria self-proclaims she has two left feet.

“We’ve had a good life, a very good life,” Victoria smilingly states. And though her husband has since died of cancer, she is very grateful for all the family, friends, and neighbors who continue to look after her, and for the volunteer organization, Rebuilding Together, which helps keep Victoria safely in her picture-filled home.

Rebuilding Together Alexandria is an award winning, non-profit organization dedicated to repairing and revitalizing homes at no charge for homeowners in need, including elderly, disabled, military veterans and families. To date, in-kind donations of labor and materials have resulted in $5.5 million worth of value on more than 1,430 properties. If you would like to volunteer or donate, visit www.rebuildingtogetheralex.org or call 703-836-1021.

By Katharine Dixon

Rebuilding Together Alexandria

* It is organizational policy to not disclose full names.