By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
It has been quite the year for Del Ray, and it was capped Monday by the Del Ray Business Association’s Annual Holiday Luncheon and Presentation of Star Awards, a ceremony that recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to help and support neighborhood businesses.
One of the biggest awards at this year’s event, which took place in the penthouse of the Del Ray Towers apartment complex with its sweeping views of Alexandria and D.C., went to mailman Reggie Johns, who was honored for his 34 years of service in the community. His prize was the Special Star Award, presented by business association board member Gayle Reuter, who noted that he “always has a smile on his face.”
“Where else but in Del Ray can you love your mail carrier and know all about him?” she asked an audience made up of a smorgasbord of neighborhood business owners and city officials.
Reuter also revealed that U.S. Rep Don Beyer (D-8) will honor Johns with an entry in the Congressional Record, recognizing his many years of service to Del Ray and the city of Alexandria while working for the U.S. Postal Service. Johns said he was delighted to receive the honors, especially having formed so many strong relationships with those in the community.
“Most of you make it easy for me to do my job,” he said. “I really thank you all for that.”
In the other awards presented at the ceremony, Dennis Belmont of graphic design company Belmonster Creative Inc. was given the Business Award for his work on the Del Ray Business Association’s board of directors; Hillary Poole and Dana Weddles were given the City Star Award for their work to introduce a pedestrian plaza at the Del Ray Farmers Market; and Ken Labowitz was given the
Citizen Award having volunteered at the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning for 27 years.
Those awards came just days after another Del Ray luminary, Pat Miller, was honored by city council with the formal naming of the Pat Miller Neighborhood Square at the intersection of Mount Vernon and East Oxford avenues, where the Del Ray Farmers Market is held each Saturday morning. The announcement of the dedication was first made at the start of this year’s Art on the Avenue, the 20th annual arts festival held on Mount Vernon Avenue.
“Pat is one of the hardest working, most dedicated champions of Del Ray,” said Del Ray Business Association president Bill Blackburn in a statement when the dedication was first announced. “It was a no-brainer.”
City councilors formally endorsed the square’s naming at its public hearing on December 12, after both the business association and the Del Ray Citizens Association sent letters of endorsement. City Councilor Del Pepper cited a list that showed 36 organizations Miller is involved with, and praised her for helping revitalize the neighborhood.
“When she says she is a volunteer, let me tell you, she is one active volunteer,” Pepper said. “She really deserves this. She has been one of those that have brought real life to the Del Ray area, and particularly to Mount Vernon Avenue, and has turned that corridor into something that as I like to say, the hot spot of activity as the place to go for the names you know.”
In public testimony in council chambers, Reuter spoke of Miller’s dedication to the city and to Del Ray in recommending approval of the square’s name.
“When you talk about what committees she’s on, you can’t keep up with what committees she’s on, because every day, every week, she’s on another one,” Reuter said. “No matter how hard we try to tell her to slow down, we find out she’s on another one.”
The square’s naming was unanimously approved by city council, and Mayor Bill Euille said such recognition was “long overdue” for the 2012 Living Legend, a slate of annual awards that honor residents who have made a difference in the city.
And as 2016 approaches, there is plenty of optimism among residents that there can be further success in the neighborhood.