Though he grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa, Fred had a sense of “coming home” when he moved to Alexandria. It wasn’t until years later that he learned his family was originally from here, but had moved to Iowa in opposition of the area’s slave trade.
After graduating high school in Ottumwa, Fred, at the age of 16, enrolled at Shimer College in Chicago; he liked their tagline “Dangerously Optimistic.” Fred considers his time at college “three years of Eden” … students’ clothes and food were provided for, movies and concerts were always scheduled, and sometimes the school president’s wife would feed them caviar. Fred is the first to admit that he enjoyed himself too much in college (choosing drama classes over academic courses) and that he didn’t study as much as he should have, but he recalls his years there with a very wide grin on his face. Everyone at Shimer smoked at the time and Fred can still hear “Johnny’s call” – the call for Philip Morris cigarettes by little Johnny Roventini.
After leaving college, Fred volunteered for the draft and later graduated Signal Corps at the top of his class. He was assigned to the White House while Eisenhower was President and remembers being in the movie room while Eisenhower enjoyed a show. Fred was in the Army before he joined an insurance company and landed a home in the Fairlington neighborhood. It was while living here that he joined a theater group in Mount Vernon. While attending a drama conference in Chicago on behalf of the group, he met his future wife, Mary. After seven years of dress rehearsal for their long-distance relationship, they finally wed in 1967.
Fred has no intention of leaving the home in which he and Mary raised their family and welcomed four grandchildren even though Mary (who worked for Alexandria City Public Schools) passed away a few years ago. To help Fred remain in his house, Rebuilding Together provided free repairs to keep his home safe and healthy and on April 29, hundreds of volunteers will provide 43 other low-income households free repairs.
Our first volunteer day was Saturday, April 25, 1987, with just 50 volunteers. This April, we will celebrate our 30th National Rebuilding Day with more than 700 volunteers scattered throughout the city, helping the elderly, physically challenged, veterans, and families with children live in safe and healthy homes. With 30 years under our tool belts of improving housing conditions, we help residents remain in our city, contributing to the economic, social, and cultural diversity that makes Alexandria special.
If you know someone who could benefit from our services, we encourage you to introduce them to us. To learn more, visit www.RebuildingTogetherAlex.org or call 703-836-1021.