Fifty-year Foggy Bottom resident Lucille Molinelli lived with her husband and baby daughter in what is now Thurston Hall for 15 years. This past June, Molinelli proudly accepted the first ever Olga Corey Award for enhancing the quality of life in Foggy Bottom.
Molinelli said she strives to keep “the neighborhood a desired place to live and feel safe.” She also said she believes in the restoration of old buildings, such as the D.C. Red Cross building and the Western Presbyterian Church.
Corey, for whom the award is named, was an executive board member on the Foggy Bottom Association until her death in September 2001. The Association created the award shortly after Corey died of a heart attack and will give it once a year to a member of the community. The Association is still deciding on how to recognize the winners of the award.
“I didn’t want a plaque,” Mollinelli said. “I want it to be something in the community that would be lasting that the whole community could enjoy.
Mollinelli went inside her former F Street residence for the first time in 30 years a few years ago.
“It’s so different than it was,” Molinelli said about Thurston, formerly known as Park Central Apartments. “The whole atmosphere has changed. It’s been so long, but there are lots of memories.”
GW bought the building in 1983 and changed its name to Mabel Nelson Thurston Hall. Molinelli said she cannot fathom how six students survive living in an apartment that she and her husband once shared.
“There is only one bathroom!” she exclaimed.
Molinelli, in her early eighties, has been a resident and dedicated member of the West End/Foggy Bottom community for more than half a decade. Over that time she has seen the community grow and change along with the University.
Covering the walls of her F Street home are shelves of little bells, spices and other trinkets, a flare of nostalgia that complemented her warm affections. There was no doubt that this woman had stories to tell.
Molinelli graduated from Michigan State in 1942 with only $5.50 to her name. She left the Midwest and moved to D.C. one year later.
“World War II was a breakthrough for young career-seeking women with many varied opportunities for employment,” Molinelli said.
Excited, but nervous, she accepted a catering job in food service where she was placed everywhere from the newly built Pentagon to the U.S. Treasury. Molinelli remembers the day she knew she was here to stay.
“It was 5:30 in the morning and not a car or person was stirring,” Molinelli said. “I looked down Pennsylvania Avenue and told myself that this was where I belonged. D.C. was an exciting city. There were men and women here from all over the country.”
In 1948, she married Jim Molinelli and together they moved into the 1900 F St. Park Central Apartments.
Her daughter, Jamie, was born in 1958. Molinelli often walked with her daughter in a carriage across the campus quad, which at the time was a place for socializing and meeting other parents and children who lived in the community.
The apartment grew too small for the family of three and in 1963, Molinelli and her late husband moved to 2150 F St., the blue house in which she still resides today.
Molinelli began volunteering in the community as she watched her daughter grow. In 1985 she officially retired from career responsibilities and joined the West End Citizens Association. Currently, she sits on the board making decisions on city and community affairs.
Molinelli was always very supportive and proud of the friendly neighborhood, in which she lived and wanted to be helpful in any way possible.
Molinelli volunteered in the early 1960s at the Grant grammar school, the pre-school program in which her daughter was enrolled, now known as The School Without Walls. Molinelli enjoyed helping the children with arts and crafts, reading them stories and watching them play on the playground.
“Jamie played on the playground from the time she was little til she was all grown up,” Molinelli said. “It was a very active playground and a wonderful outlet until the residents moved away and the children on playground dwindled to very few.”
Molinelli speaks modestly about her winning the Corey Award.
“There were others who would have been great and I happened to win,” Molinelli said. “I feel blessed to be a part of the memories of Corey. We shared mutual sentiments through the years together.”
Molinelli and Corey met through neighborhood meetings and social functions. Together, they worked with GW’s student leaders in the Student Association and within the Greek community.
Mollinelli’s main goal is to help strenghten the connection between students and their surroundings in Foggy Bottom.
“If we live in a community intermingled with a university and neighborhood, we have to learn to get along,” she said. “I look at the young people and think that they are the leaders of the 21st century.”
Molinelli said she wishes more SA presidents would take initiative in the community.
“Some of them are (involved) and some of them aren’t,” she explained. “You’ll have different types of student leaders.”
Molinelli said it saddens her when a SA president “drops the ball” after previous presidents make a point to be community-oriented.
Molinelli always looks forward to the Foggy Bottom cleanup. “We’d meet at the Marvin Center, divide up in teams, go out and then come back and eat pizza and soda,” Molinelli said. “It was very nice.”
She said she believes the University has made wonderful developments in their programs for the students, many of whom she calls her friends.
“When I went to college there were only minimal majors, I’m just amazed with the variety GW has added over the years,” Mollinelli said.
Molinelli said her young GW friends help her with food shopping. She often gives them lists and they go to CVS and Safeway for her.
As far as lessons go, Molinelli has plenty.
“Life should be a balance of giving and receiving,” she said. “We have to be worthy of the space we occupy in this world and recognize how fortunate we are.”
Molinelli describes her place in the Foggy Bottom community as “home.” She enjoys the diversity of people she has met here and the relationships that she has developed. One of her favorite activities is baking her famous cookies and brownies for students and friends to enjoy.
Having friends of all ages makes life more “challenging and interesting,” Molinelli said.
“I could never only live with people my own age,” she said.
-Adina Matusow contributed to this report.