Obituary of Loretta R. Alexander
Loretta (Laurie) Martha Robedee Alexander, 96, of Reston, VA, died of dementia and congestive heart failure on April 27, 2023, the day before her birthday. She was
Loretta is preceded in death by her husband Emanuel R. (Mani) Alexander, parents William and Loretta Robedee, brother Bill Robedee, stepson Alex Alexander and granddaughter Dana Alexis Neligh. She is survived by her four children, Laurel Alexander
Loretta was born on April 28, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated high school in 1943 at age 17 and began work in July of that year as a stenographer at the Sperry Gyroscope Company. She joined the United States federal civil service in 1945, working in administrative roles of increasing responsibility for the Veterans Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the National Library of Medicine, and the Department of Interior. Loretta was an excellent writer, typist, and stenographer and had a firm grasp of medical terminology, governmental travel rules and other regulations and an interest in helping others whenever possible. She received many awards during her tenure, including a 1989 Special Commendation for Exceptional Service to Interior Department Secretary Donald Hodel.
She was a lifelong learner and, at age 59, began taking classes at Montgomery College, earning 38 credits over two years while working full-time and providing care for her disabled adult child and her dear husband.
Loretta was a young woman with an independent streak. She taught herself to play piano and bought one that somehow fit her family’s Brooklyn row house, danced, and had fun in the city with her many friends, bought a car and took many trips to Maine. She sang for several years with the Dessoff Choirs, which included performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Loretta was introduced to her husband, Mani, by her father at a veterans-related dance when she was 28. They married one year after meeting on November 5, 1955, and were devoted to one another for over 55 years. When asked by her daughter why she hadn’t married sooner, she said she hadn’t met the right man, but the moment she met Mani, she said he was the man she would marry. A New York girl at heart, Loretta adapted to living in Alexandria after Mani’s transfer with the VA.
Life did not always make things easy for Loretta, but she was usually as sunny as her favorite color, yellow. As a child of the Great Depression, she was malnourished and had to go to nutrition camps with her brother as their father was injured by mustard gas in WWI. While her mother worked as a seamstress in sweatshops, stories were told of weeks where the only meal was cabbage, as that was all that could be found to eat. Loretta and Mani had many challenges to overcome during their marriage, including their first daughter, Laurel’s intellectual and physical disabilities caused by a non-functioning thyroid, for which babies are now screened at birth. They moved the family from Virginia to Maryland in the mid-1960s as educational opportunities for Laurel were available there.
While raising her children, Loretta continued to volunteer as a speechwriter for a political candidate, editor for four newsletters simultaneously, secretary of the elementary school PTA and Cub Scout Den Mother. She also found ways to earn extra money. She especially enjoyed working as a sales representative for the Coppercraft Guild, producing home party shows, securing bookings for further shows and recruiting new employees.
Loretta enjoyed sewing, bowling, and gardening and did the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle weekly in pen. She loved the Christmas season and was legendary among family for gift-opening celebrations lasting six hours. We think it was her early experiences during the Depression that shaped her always generous nature. Everyone had a place at her table; she was always there when someone was in need, no matter the time of day. We will miss her dearly.
Visitation will be held at Adams Green Funeral Home on Saturday, May 6, 2023, between 1-2 PM, with the service immediately following at the funeral home at 2 PM. Interment will be private.
Flowers or donations are welcome, or just wearing something yellow in your attire on Saturday would be lovely. Donations may be made to Capital Caring Hospice or the charity of your choice. Special thanks to Joyce, the social worker from Capital Caring who introduced us to Special Care Homes in Fairfax and especially to Felisa, who cared for Loretta for two difficult years and was always so gracious and lovely to our family