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New arrivals once got white-glove treatment
Welcome Wagon

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Date published: 11/6/2012

By Jennifer Strobel


Allow me to indulge in a bit of personal nostalgia.

It was spring 1961. I was 5. My parents, big sister and I had just moved to Fredericksburg. Home was where my family was, and our new-to-me house at 1411 Caroline St. was the world to me.

My mother kept house, my days were my own, and my contentment ran deep.

One quiet afternoon, a nice lady--the Welcome Wagon lady--came to our door with a basket of gifts, conversation with my mother, and even a few kind words for me, the small child looking on.

More than likely, that Welcome Wagon lady was Frances Hewetson, and more than likely she wouldn't have imagined that little girl would remember her kindness half a century later. Apparently Hewetson made that kind of impression on everyone she met in her visits as hostess for Fredericksburg's chapter of the national Welcome Wagon organization.

In 2006, her name was added to the city of Fredericksburg's "Wall of Honor." Judith A. Hansen, among those nominating her for the posthumous recognition, wrote: "In 1966, my husband and I moved to Fredericksburg--he to begin a career as professor at Mary Washington College and I as an English teacher at James Monroe High School. One of my earliest memories of our first weeks in Fredericksburg was the visit from Frances Hewetson, bringing her basket of goodies from the Welcome Wagon. To me, a young wife in a new community, this gesture of welcome was extraordinary and put a personal face on this new town to which we had moved."

F. Freeman Funk, former city manager, wrote that Hewetson's work with Welcome Wagon "brought her to City Hall on a regular basis, where her affable personality quickly marked her as a friend of us all."

Her daughter, Nancy Cooke, shared this photo on Page D1 of her mother posing with her basket and Welcome Wagon car. Future real estate developer Carl D. Silver, a car salesman at the time, donated a car for the organization's use each year. The photo was probably taken in the late 1950s, though Cooke isn't sure the exact year. The businessmen posing in front of the Buick are (left to right) Francis P. Yeager, Mayor Charles M. Cowan and Frank C. Silvey Jr.

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