Like so many women in Falls Church, this year’s Grand Marshal for the Memorial Day Parade is one of many interests and talents.
She’s been a Falls Church teacher for 50 (!) years (30 years before she retired, and 20 as a substitute), served eight years on the City Council (including a stint as vice mayor) and was a member of the city’s planning commission for more than a decade.
Few can claim all these distinctions. However, few people are Lindy Hockenberry. As a doer, activist and general woman about town, all have helped cultivate Hockenberry’s youthful vigor and enthusiasm for life, which has remained intact despite packing up her house of 27 years for a downsizing move in one week.
Her unsolicited prescriptions for looking and acting decades younger than her “almost 82” years are “kids, music, ball games, and working with teenagers.”
She says, “I will never stop teaching. That’s my world” nor could she ever give up Falls Church, since she holds deep and abiding affection for the town and its citizens.
Taking a break from moving chores to sit in her parlor filled with boxes and household belongings, Hockenberry says “Falls Church has a lot of special people.”
She began her teaching career here at Thomas Jefferson Elementary before moving to George Mason High School to teach sixth graders, when that age group was part of the high school.
Hockenberry became active in the teacher’s association and negotiated with the School Board while meeting many citizens, parents and city employees, including those from the city’s Recreation and Parks department who chose Hockenberry to be Grand Marshal.
It was their idea to reverse the parade this year and take it to the people.
It will “certainly be unusual,” Hockenberry said, “but I think it’s appropriate and will be very special.”
Joined by her grandson, Will Hockenberry, 23 (who is “so excited”), they will ride in the back of a convertible and lead a phalanx of city employees in city vehicles on a four-mile route through Falls Church which almost matches the circumference of the city. (See the route on page 13)
For their memorable journey, Hockenberry ordered cicada t-shirts designed with a big black bug featured on red which the Falls Church Education Foundation sold as fundraisers for the Family Assistance Fund.
Hockenberry and her grandson won’t be throwing anything from their seats: “That is too dangerous,” she said, shaking her head.
When it comes to speculating why she was chosen as Grand Marshal, Hockenberry sheds her moxie for modesty to say her teaching experiences, civic duties and all the people she’s met along the way contributed to her selection.
Besides, “the best thing in the world is a smile. It is a fun honor. A special thing for anybody and I am glad I am finally going to get to do it!” (Her role was postponed from last year after Covid canceled festivities.)
“It’s going to be a nice little car ride,” the route she likens to “a symbol” of the big hug the city wants to give the community. “I just love being around our city workers,” she smiled.
She praises the teachers, too, who’ve had to work extra hard during the pandemic which, in its wake, also caused frustration for parents. “When you’re dealing with young people and a pandemic, and there’s no template, what do you do?”
Teachers have had to assume so much responsibility and “do more work than ever.”
Like many Falls Church residents, Hockenberry will miss the flags, the bands, the music and the actual parade which brings together marchers from different groups and cultures that she loves.
Hockenberry hopes to see people on the sidewalks waving. “That will be nice. But who knows? It’s never been done before.”
The Memorial Day pageantry in Falls Church will be “a celebration of the unity that we’ve had. It’s an honor to be with those who’ve worked so hard to keep our city together. Everybody has had to put in extra effort. It’s amazing what everybody’s been able to do.”
She continued by saying it’s “very important to recognize those who’ve lost their lives to keep us safe. It’s always a beautiful ceremony.” She’ll get to see former students whom “I can hug now. I am hug deprived.” Isn’t everybody?
The Memorial Day ceremony will be conducted outside the Community Center in-person for those who’ve pre-registered and it will be recorded for airing on Falls Church Community Television (FCCTV).
“I think this idea is great because we’ve not able to have a regular parade, but next year, we will!”
As Hockenberry exited her house to give a garden tour, the sounds of a loud muffler from a car speeding up her street can be heard. “Probably one of my former students,” she said with a smile.