Category Archives: Memories

Ainslie Embree, An Ultimate Collingtonian – Memorial Events Now Scheduled

ATE Portrait May 2009

On July 29 (Saturday) at 2 PM, there will be a traditional Episcopal Book of Common Prayer service in the chapel here at Collington to mark the death of Ainslie Embree.  At 3 PM there will be a reception in the Auditorium.  It is understood that some may wish to attend one of these events, and others both.

There seems indeed for me a special need to mark the death, after an astonishingly full life, of Ainslie Embree, perhaps the ultimate Collingtonian.

Ainslie brought a combination of dignity, warmth, intelligence and humility to Collington.  He and his wife Sue quickly became some of our earliest and closest friends.  As one of the internationalist generation, it turned out that we knew surprisingly many in common. His wide knowledge of the world, and of people in it, and his humane wisdom about everything, made every conversation an adventure, which also provided deep reassurance about humanity.

I can not resist sharing two stories.  Outside the dining room, there is a wall festooned with photographs of Collingtonians with heads of state.  (As our son remarked, if you are a head of state, and want to get on that wall, you have to get to know someone at Collington.)  One is of Ainslie talking to Indira Gandhi.  Ainslie pointed out the strange look that the person standing next to him is giving him, and told us that he had asked the man, a missionary, why he was looking at him that way.  According to Ainslie, the man replied, “Because you were being such a suck-up.”  (I wonder how many of that set of photos have similarly ambiguous and fascinating back-stories.)

On another occasion, we were having dinner with Sue and Ainslie and overheard someone at the next table ask, “Are you in Who’s Who?”  After appropriate quiet snickers, we all tried to come up with the perfect come-back.  Ainslie won, hands down with, “Isn’t everybody?” and an immediate return to the topic at hand.

When resident Doris Ball died, I asked Ainslie to use the occasion to draft an appreciation of Dorothy and her husband Robert.  His contribution, which because a much broader appreciation of several of other residents (including, with particular relevance to today, Elliot Richardson), appeared under the heading, Thoughts on Robert Ball, Social Security and Collington’s Unsung Heroes of American Governance.

Collington  has had the good fortune to be the home of many outstanding citizens, with many  of them entitled to belong to the category of what has been called  by  Professor Mashaw  of Yale Law School, “unsung  heroes of American governance.”  Four who come immediately to mind, without selective judgment, are Admiral Bill Crowe, Elliot Richardson, Senator Chuck Percy and Robert Ball.  Each of them, as Kipling put it, walked with kings, but did not lose the common touch, exemplified in their fondness for small parties with fellow residents in their own homes or in those of other residents.

As so often, the appreciation he wrote could have been a mirror held to Sue (a giant in her own right) and himself, although they would be the last to have realized it.  Ainslie’s Wikipedia entry, with all the details, is here. Please read it.  Here, also, is a Unniverity of California TV interview of Ainslie.

A Reflection on “Retirement” By Resident Martha Stewart Smith

Ninety Four year old Collington Resident Martha Smith penned this Reflection on Retirement.  Thanks to Dorothy Yuan for facilitating its appearance here.

What did I imagine was the meaning of retirement? I found (in my stash of old papers!) a definition from an old Webster’s Dictionary. To retire is “to withdraw from action or danger; to retreat; to betake oneself for the sake of seclusion, as to retire from the world or to one’s home; to disappear; to vanish; to move back or away, or seem to do so; to withdraw from office or a public station, as having made a large fortune he retired.”

Now I said this came from an OLD dictionary. It seems to me retirement to Collington has a different explanation. We haven’t been able to betake ourselves for the sake of seclusion. Not when we have friendly neighbors who ring the doorbell and drop by for a daily chat. Invariably the phone rings from a child or grandchild to interrupt the visit, inquiring of our exciting day.

How can we vanish or disappear? Our treks down the long corridor for dinner or to the fitness center, to classes or lectures are when other residents are venturing out at the same time. We might sneak out if we chose to walk down the halls after nine o’clock at night when everyone else is watching his favorite TV program or snoozing with a book in his lap.

In daytime those fortunate (or unfortunate) residents who have windows overlooking the parking lot would be sure to notice that bent over old woman out on her own. If she had a dog and stopped to pick up the dog’s droppings she would be safe. And those dedicated flower arrangers have a reason to be out when clipping vines for the flower room.

Where would you disappear? Not past that keeper at the gate. The Weed Warriors have cleared the paths so it wouldn’t be easy to hide. If you did happen to stumble, security would be chasing you down, especially if your Sara sounded the alarm.

Why would one want to return to the place she left? We loved our big home in Virginia but I certainly don’t regret leaving all the stairs which once kept me active, nor the grocery shopping, meal making and housekeeping. So I’m content with retirement at Collington. With the conveniences and quantity of irresistible food I may outlive the expected longevity.

I’m not sure I“retired” until I moved in to my second floor apartment “with all the windows”overlooking the Lake. I’m really not alone. The neighbors on this Corridor are the best.

That part of “having made a large fortune” to retire was not true for me. The good fortune is finding this community of wonderful caring people who have experienced a variety of lifestyles and professions.

Thanks.  Good thoughts to inform our strategic planning.  This site welcomes additional such reflections.

Video of Our Reflections on the Women’s March of Jan 2017

Here it is:

Thanks to all who participated, organized, reflected, and edited.


Nancy Lively On the Life of Resident Elisabeth Fitzhugh

Nancy writes:

Yesterday a memorial service was held in our auditorium for Elisabeth FitzHugh. She was a most remarkable lady whose long life was well worth celebrating. Bill and I enjoyed hearing things about her life that we had never known. But we had many happy memories of Elizabeth ourselves. As new residents in January 2015 we were pleased to be greeted by a very erect, tall, gracious woman as we walked from Cottage 3006 toward the dining room. We could tell from the very beginning that she was a welcoming presence in the 3100 section. Since we ate our meals at almost the same time and our route to the building went right past her cottage, we were fortunate to see her almost every day since that first day when she introduced herself and learned our names (which she never forgot). There is one thing we both know we will miss very much – the absolutely beautiful smile with which we were always greeted. It was so full of warmth and delight that we remarked on it often during her life and now know we will miss it very much. For me her absolute distinctive was her amazing voice. I have never heard a voice like Elisabeth’s. It was in a register all its own and I cannot think of any way to describe it other than it was so very beautiful. I could never reproduce it but I can hear it in my head and the memory of her voice will stay with me I am sure.

Her son Will gave my husband permission for me to type this following essay which Elizabeth wrote about a very formative period in her life as a teenager. I hope you will enjoy it and be amazed by it.



Elisabeth West FitzHugh

My family was evacuated from Beirut, Lebanon, in May 1941, courtesy of a European – not yet world – war. A group of us left Beirut with only a few days’ notice when the Free French were about to march into Vichy-controlled Lebanon, the Germans were infiltrating into Iraq and Rommel’s army was approaching Cairo. We ended up traveling two-thirds of the way around the world.

We first spent a month in Ramallah, just outside Jerusalem. We did some of the tourist things, floating in the Dead Sea, inspecting the walls of Jericho. The boys in the party became boarders at a Jerusalem boys’ school and wild stories came to light later of typical American kids dumped unexpectedly into a very British school. We then spent another month in Cairo waiting for ship transport south since civilians were forbidden to travel in the Mediterranean. We climbed to the top of one of the Giza pyramids and I remember traveling by streetcar through the hot city streets. We saw “Gone with the Wind” in the Cairo Opera House, and my first view of those immortal scenes between Scarlett and Rhett Will forever be associated in my mind with a scorching Egyptian July.

I spent my fifteenth birthday in Suez harbor a the north end of the Red Sea, where burnt-out bombed ships were scattered. The ship we boarded at Suez, headed for Sydney, Australia, was the former Cunard liner Aquitania, veteran of many Atlantic crossings, now a troopship battered by months of transporting Australian and New Zealand troops to the desert war in North Africa. In addition to our group of refugees, the passengers included some Australian airmen being invalided home, and several hundred Italian prisoners-of-war below decks, destined for prison camp in Ceylon. My father came out on the lighter with us to the ship, to say goodbye, then to return to his teaching job at the American University of Beirut. As a parent years later I can imagine my parents’ feelings as we set out – my mother, two younger brothers and I – through the Red Sea and across the Indian Ocean. There were known to be U-boars in the area but the Aquitania was too fast for any convoy so we travelled alone. My youngest brother recalls that we were each assigned a certain item to grab if we were torpedoed. One family travelled to Australia on the Queen Elizabeth, also a troop ship, and were her first civilian passengers because the ship had gone directly into wartime use. By the time we reached Ceylon my father was back in Beirut and his first news of us was a newspaper report of the arrival of a group of Italian prisoners in Ceylon.

There were thirty or forty of us – families or parts of families – and a few teenagers traveling independently, headed for school or college in the U.S. We spent a month in Sydney, at a hotel on Bondi Beach, a well-known resort area where accommodation was available at bargain rates in what was then early spring. We saw Koala bears and kangaroos. We visited the Sydney zoo in the company of the American ambassador and had our picture in the local paper. Headed north toward an American winter we bought warm clothes; I acquired a beautiful blue Australian wool bathrobe which lasted for many years. It was a big event to go to the movies and see Deanna Durbin and Leopold Stokowski in “100 Men and a Girl.”

Our group eventually got passage to the United States on the Monterey, a Matson line cruise ship. We stopped briefly at Fiji and Pago Pago, and I still have a bag of tapa cloth – made of bark – from one of the islands. In New Zealand we drove up into the mountains and I recall spectacular scenery of tree-covered mountains so different from the dry Middle East. In Honolulu we were entertained at the beach by friends, watched hula dancing and admired the sands of Waikiki.

Finally I remember the oil derricks thick in the ocean off Los Angeles; as we headed slowly in to port we were entertained by a showing of “The Philadelphia Story.” Because the movie was cut off so we could go through customs and immigration it was several years before I found out what happened to Katherine Hepburn in the end.

We took the train across the country, stopping at the south rim of the Grand Canyon accessible then by train. We disembarked from the train in Newark where relatives greeted us, and then went on to the Boston area where life became serious once again with finding a place to live and starting off in strange schools. I’ve often thought how different our lives might have been if we’d been travelling a few months later. It was two months before Pearl Harbor.

Washington Post obituary of Warren Unna

Below is the Washington Post Obituary for Warren Unna:

Warren Unna, journalist and Post bureau chief in India, dies at 93

Warren Unna, a Washington Post correspondent in India who later became Washington correspondent for the Statesman, an English-language newspaper based in Kolkata, died Feb. 9 at a retirement community in Mitchellville, Md. He was 93.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said a friend, Marea Hatziolos Grant.

Mr. Unna covered national news after joining The Post in 1952. His aspirations were to cover South Asia, where he had served with the Army during World War II.

In lieu of a Post bureau there, Mr. Unna made a specialty of writing about Asian affairs from Washington by cultivating sources at embassies and international organizations.

Mr. Unna was bureau chief in New Delhi from 1965 to 1967, then returned to cover national affairs in Washington. He was one of many journalists whose names appeared on President Richard M. Nixon’s enemies list in the early 1970s, presumably for his reporting on the Vietnam War for The Post and for a short-lived public television program, “Newsroom.”

He joined the Statesman in the early 1970s and remained with that publication for approximately the next two decades. He also contributed to other publications.

Warren Walter Unna was born in San Francisco on Sept. 14, 1923. He graduated in 1943 from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in international relations. He worked at the San Francisco Chronicle before coming to The Post.

In the late 1950s, he traveled widely as an Institute of Current World Affairs fellow, for which he studied the Non-Aligned Movement countries during the Cold War.

He wrote a memoir, “Letters From America” (1994), and in retirement did consulting for the Westinghouse and McClatchy media companies. He was a member of the Metropolitan Club in Washington.

His marriage to Louise Thompson was annulled. Survivors include a stepsister.

(Copyright Washington Post 2017)

This website has commissioned a more detailed appreciation, which we look forward to publishing in the future.

In the interim, readers may find interesting this article from the Collingtonian of March 2012.

Unna Relates His Experiences in Asia

The March 21 guest speaker was no guest at all, but 12-year (almost) Collingtonian Warren Unna, who spoke of his experiences with celebrities from presidents to foreign heads of state while he was a newspaper reporter.

Warren graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and rst worked for the San Francisco Chronicle. The Institute of Current World Affairs gave him the opportunity to travel- study around the world for a year. He concentrated on how countries achieved neutrality.

He then obtained employment at the Wash- ington Post because, he said, the chronicle’s management didn’t want to pay the Newspaper Guild’s required salary for a senior reporter. For the Post, he primarily covered Asia. Warren rattled off a list of famous people whom he had met, beginning with then past-president Herbert Hoover who was chairing the Hoover Commis- sion for President Dwight Eisenhower. He found Hoover quite pleasant to deal with.

Not so Ike, who did not seem to like doing press conferences and kept the press at bay when he traveled. On the other hand, a John Kennedy press conference was “just a joy.” Lyn- don Johnson, who believed that “every man had his price,” was the best politician of the presi- dents, he thought. “He got his votes,” Warren said

Warren attributed his success in conducting interviews to being friendly and listening to the person being interviewed. It is also important to sit so as to make eye contact, he said. In Indonesia, he managed to obtain a difficult interview by learning that it was the local custom to not turn away any visitor who arrived in the late afternoon. In his travels about Asia, Warren recounted many experiences and listed the many prominent people he met: Indian Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru who answered 17 questions for him, thereby generating two major stories with Warren’s byline; the King of Bhutan who sought advice on educating his son; an Indian health minister who walked briskly back and forth in a garden while he trailed her trying to take notes; President Lee Kuan Yew of the Republic of Singapore with whom he argued about the Viet Nam War; the daughter of a Japanese Prime Minister for whom a gift of stockings got him an interview and a nice meal in a restaurant; the wife of the president of South Korea who tried to nd eligible ladies for him to marry; Madame Chiang Kai-shek whom he watched squirm as her support from the “China Lobby” in America dried- up and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who rejected his questions.

Of particular interest to residents was his accompanying G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, then assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, on a whirlwind tour of 16 countries in 31 days for President Kennedy. In Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia, he met and lunched with Collingtonians Bill and Nancy McGhee, who were then stationed there. He apologized to them (they were in the audience) for impertinently asking if they “always ate that well.”

(Copyright Collington Residents Association 2012)