Barbara Cram is a doer, through and through. She counts on herself to actualize her goals into our physical reality and expects you to get with the program if you know what’s good for you. But Cram isn’t a hard-charging opportunist. She’s a devout public servant to the City of Falls Church who considers her efforts more indulgent than altruistic.
“Service is really a two-way street. I get more out of it than what I give. I couldn’t stop, I don’t think,” Cram says. “Just makes you feel better for your purpose in life. We all have talents…everybody’s package is different. It’s our job to unwrap all the packages and see what we’ve got and share it.”
Basically, she’s a volunteer superhero. Cram soaks up the positive vibes from doing the community good and uses them as fuel to keep enriching the lives of those around her. It’s a trait that’s guided her 25 years of selfless endeavors in Falls Church and what led Cram to being named as the Grand Marshal for Falls Church’s 2017 Memorial Day Parade this Monday.
A quick rundown of Cram’s community involvement record will tell you all you need to know about her dedication to the City. Her appointment to Falls Church’s Tricentennial Committee in 1994 was a seminal moment in her servitude and signified her rising status as more than just another resident. In the years that followed, she’s worked as marketing chair for the Chamber of Commerce, was one of the original minds behind the annual Watch Night New Year’s Eve event (which she continues to produce each year) and is currently the the acting president of Falls Church Arts. Cram is always getting her hands dirty for something that will enhance the City’s cultural aptitude, whether in an educational sense by hosting art exhibitions or pushing for events that create a sense of neighborly bonding.
Past professional experiences have equipped Cram with the knowledge to bring her ideas to life. She worked for the Treasury Department and the White House before getting her hands on some real dirt when she made a career switch to landscaping, Cram knows which strings to pull in a way that doesn’t come across as strong-arming. She just lays out the facts and lets folks reach conclusions on their own.
It’s why she was able to convince City Council members into opening more avenues of funding to fine arts projects. Devoting more money to the humanities scene may seem frivolous in light of other matters (even if it occupies a measly percentage of the City’s budget), but it’s hard to deny the service it endorses and the quality of finished projects are key to forming Falls Church’s cohesive aura.
“It’s very personable. I feel like I live in Mayberry in the way that we all know each other,” Cram continues, thinking I wouldn’t pick up on her Andy Griffith Show reference (Full disclosure: I Googled it, big deal). “It’s that closeness of community, and I know a lot of people who move here and like it for reasons they can’t describe, but I think that’s one of them. It pulls you in. I grew up in a small town and this is the closest thing I’ve had where I felt I belonged.”
With Memorial Day in sight, or “Remembrance Day” as Cram prefers to call it, she looks to honor those her family’s lost in times of war. That includes her uncle Pete and her husband’s uncle Frank, who was a pilot killed in action in 1942 after being shot down over Algeria. He was buried there for the remainder of the war but his grave was exhumed by the U.S. once it ended and his body was brought back to Kentucky for a family burial.
The respect the Armed Services paid to Cram’s husband and his kin stuck with her as she’s grown older, and it’s why she plans to put veterans first next Monday despite her esteemed position as Grand Marshall. So there’ll be no solo convertible ride with Cram doing her best Miss America wave to admirers. Instead, she’s opted to ride in the back of a pick-up truck with other veterans and will be holding up pictures of City residents who gave their lives in war. She’ll also be handing out the poppies traditionally associated with Remembrance Day.
It’s not lost on Cram how acclaimed her status as Grand Marshal is. She plans to enjoy the experience since it’s important enough for her immediate family to make the rare assembly in a single location. But once the parade passes, it’s back to work. Thankfully, she’ll have the help she wants and needs when she gets there.
“People want to work together, I don’t feel like there’s any legacy building,” Cram says. “On the Hill, people will do a project because they want to name it after themselves. Here, it’s more about the community that they love.”