‘She dedicated her life to the city’


Frances Ellen Pickering, a longtime resident of the city and onetime Councilwoman, died last week at 78.

She was known to many as a dogged and perservering city activist. Three decades ago she gained recognition for her efforts to create the Mount Vernon Trail connecting Alexandria with the District. An active preservationist and conservationist, Mrs. Pickering was committed to preserving and enhancing the city’s waterfront. Over the years she had urged the adoption of the citys Open Space Plan, lobbied to preserve Founders Park and to protect it from high-rise development. 

“She dedicated her life to the city,” Mayor William D. Euille said, “through service on the City Council; her work as chair of the Citys Beautification Commission and Sanitation Authority; her fervent advocacy for preserving the Citys historic architecture; and her tenacity as a tireless defender of the Citys environmental treasures.”

At one time she implemented the planting of 1,000 citizen-donated cherry trees during her tenure as chair of the Alexandria Beautification Commission. Mrs. Pickering dedicated her life to improving and enhancing the quality of life in our city, Euille added. She was a driving force behind many of the policies and accomplishments that helped to make this a unique and beautiful place.”

Mrs. Pickering was elected to City Council as an independent, serving for one term between 1976 and 1979. She also served on numerous city boards and commissions, including the Alexandria Beautification Commission, the Alexandria Sanitation Authority, the Ad Hoc Committee on Potomac Yard, the Potomac Greens Task Force and the Open Space Steering Committee.

For many years she also chaired the Northern Virginia Conservation Council. She won two Salute to Women Awards from the Citys Commission on Women and was an active member of the League of Women Voters and the Alexandria chapter of the American Association of University Women.

Neighborhoods have character,” Mrs. Pickering told The Alexandria Times in 2006. “We all recognize that east of the railroad has a certain character whether it is the small houses on Queen Street or the large ones on Prince Street. Del Ray is an eclectic neighborhood and if you are in Beverly Hills, you can look at the houses and know you are in Beverly Hills.”

In 2007, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust awarded her the Alexandria Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award.

Mrs. Pickering, who was born in Dallas, TX., grew up in Peabody, Mass., and moved with her husband Harland D. Pickering and family from Fairfield, CT., to Alexandria in 1962. The Pickerings lived in Rosemont for many years and in 1992, Mrs. Pickering moved to Roberts Lane.

Her husband died in 1979. She is survived by three children, David, Duff, and Frances. A fourth child, Paula, passed away in 2000. She was also survived by three grandchildren.

A funeral Mass for Mrs. Pickering will be held on Thursday, May 1, at 10:30 a.m. at Saint Marys Catholic Church at 310 S. Royal St. in Old Town.