2005 Marks Departures, New Beginnings for Mount Vernon

2005 Marks Departures, New Beginnings for Mount Vernon

Area shared in joys, lent a hand in crisis and celebrated anniversaries.

As 2005 continued, Mount Vernon said good-bye to some, opened their hearts to those in need and didn't forget to reflect on good things happening in the community.

One notable departure from the area was the retirement of Susan Herbert at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital where she served as an administrator and Inova Health System vice president.

Through all the upheaval associated with the potential closing of IMVH, Herbert remained cool, focused and unflappable.

After eight years at the helm of IMVH she left it well on the road to recovery and looking at a potentially positive future.

"The hospital is still in a recovery phase," she said. "It's always been about volume. But, the right volume. You don't get smug here. We serve both the most and least affluent everyday."

During her tenure the hospital made great strides. It also became a nationally renowned joint replacement center.

"Mount Vernon hospital is kind of sitting in the sunshine right now. But, we can't lose the momentum. We have a lean staff with a real willingness to do the job right," Herbert said.

Another memorable face in the community also moved on in 2005. Col. T.W. Williams, Garrison Commander at Fort Belvoir, turned over command on July 11 to Col. Brian W. Lauritzen, three years to the day after he arrived in the turmoil that gripped the nation after Sept. 11, 2001.

Williams brought with him an intimate knowledge of that fateful day in 2001. His office at The Pentagon was in the direct path of American Flight 77 when it tore into America's military nerve center. He escaped only by fate when he accompanied some guests to their car. Two others in his office died that morning.

Throughout his tenure, Williams worked with leaders and citizens throughout Mount Vernon and Lee district communities to build a relationship that served both their interests and the interest of an altered nation. The wake of 9/11 enveloped nearly every aspect of his command.

As Williams said in his last interview, "We planted the seeds that will grow for the future in all areas. That includes on the base and in the surrounding communities."

One of those seeds was initiating a new residential concept for military personnel living on base. The Residential Community Initiative transformed military homes from a sterile atmosphere to one of community clusters.

On the opening of the first community, Harryford Village, last summer, William said the day marked one of the proudest days of his command in the area.

"This is a great day to be an American," he said.

Others managed to reach their goals also.

A 10-year dream of Rev. Keary Kincannon became a reality during 2005. Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church moved into its own building on Russell Road.

One of Mount Vernon District's most charitable institutions for the homeless and needy started in the truck of Kincannon's stationwagon. Today, it has morphed into a 10,000 square foot testament to the dedication, fortitude, generosity, faith and tenacity of a host of people from all walks of life.

This past Christmas they celebrated their first service in that edifice.

"In 25 years of working in this area of the ministry, I have learned that those ministries that refuse to let the dream die are the ones that continue to press on," Kincannon said at the dedication ceremony for the church.

For many members of the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department's Search and Rescue Teams, 2005 unfortunately began and ended with disaster relief. Just before the year began, members of that elite squad were dispatched to south Asia following the devastating events of the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami.

In mid-2005 they again were called upon to aid the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana and Mississippi. On those teams were firefighters and EMS personnel from stations in Mount Vernon and Lee districts, as well as members from fire departments throughout Northern Virginia.

In the closing weeks of 2005, the last of those teams returned to the welcoming arms of their loved ones and the gratitude of their various fire departments. Some of the 52 members had spent up to a month on hurricane duty in the two Gulf Coast states.

Other highlights of 2005 included:

* Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department's new high speed, high performance fire boat was christened the "Gunston Hall."

* Heidi and Rachel Jenkins, two daughters of Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Captain Larry Jenkins quick thinking saved the life of a neighbor from drowning in the Potomac River.

* The real life experience of Mount Vernon District resident Vernon Abbott who was one of the real raiders depicted in the 2005 movie "The Great Raid" which freed American and British military from the Japanese POW camp Cabanatuan on Luzon in the Philippine Islands during World War II.

* The 50th Anniversary of the Lee District Civic Organizations celebrated in December at the Springfield Hilton Hotel.

* The 20th anniversary of the Mount Vernon Farmers Market