Nauck celebrates wisdom of elders

A spry Novella Cummings, who turned 100 years old in June, is shown with Tsedale Demessie at the 2018 Nauck Civic and Community Pride celebration, held Sept. 15 at Drew Model School. (Photo by Scott McCaffrey)

Celebrating the lives and achievements of the community’s elders was a centerpiece of the 2018 Nauck Civic & Community Pride Day, which brought food, music and fellowship to Drew Model School on Sept. 15.

Four community residents who had reached, or were set to reach, the centennial mark – Elizabeth Cole, Novella Cummings, Mary Lockett and Thelma Russell – were honored by the Nauck Civic Association.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I cannot imagine being here 100-plus years,” an awed association president Portia Clark said at the gathering, praising the awardees for the “wealth of knowledge” they share in the community.

Lockett, now 101 and a resident of Nauck since 1939, acknowledged that she didn’t think she would live to see many advancements that have come, including the election of a black president.

The last surviving sibling in a family that included four brothers and four sisters, she credits her sharp mental state to a love of blueberries, while also acknowledging that “I love to make sweet-potato pie.”

Speaking of food, Cummings (who turned 100 on June 13) is a fan of Cracker Jack, Cheetos and ginger snaps. Born in Fairfax County, she has lived in what had been her grandmother’s Nauck home since 1967 and has been active in civic life.

Cummings credited a strong faith for persevering. “God brought me thus far, nobody else,” she said.

Lockett also said faith was an important component of living a serene century.

“It hasn’t been easy, but the Lord has brought me this far,” she said. “It’s great if you know the Lord; it means so much.”

The event also included a musical salute to the late Aretha Franklin. Gwen Brown, who performed hits by the queen of soul, said everyone could learn something from one of her most famous hits.

“We’ve got to rise above . . . and try to respect one another,” Brown said.

Two students received accolades, with Juan Martinez Luna selected to receive the Jennie Davis Leadership Award and Ian Sheffey presented with the Robert Winkler Public Service Award. Each received scholarship funding from the Nauck Civic Association.

Once an exclusively African-American enclave in the days of segregation, the Nauck community of South Arlington has evolved through the years – a gentrification that has been greeted positively by some, with some trepidation by others.

Acknowledging there had been changes a-plenty, Cummings summed up her own Nauck experience in three words: “It’s my home.”

See a slide show of photos at

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