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Community pays homage to Vicki Douglas

October 13, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - She had to be coaxed to sit in the front of the room and listen to the praise, the humorous stories and the thanks without comment, responding often only with a hug.

A former teacher and 12-year elected member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, Vicki V. Douglas, 68, is moving next month to North Carolina.

On Wednesday night, dozens of notable community members gathered in a meeting room at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library to pay tribute to Douglas.

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The event was sponsored by the Berkeley County chapter of the NAACP.

"I have never been so flattered or so honored in my life," Douglas said after more than a dozen people spoke about her.

Anything she did, she said, was because of the people in the room. She never worried whether it was the right thing to do because of the confidence she placed in them, she said.

"It has been the thrill of my life to be able to work with each of you," she told the group.

Martinsburg Mayor George Karos said Douglas always could be counted upon to do things properly.

"I can't stand up here and tell you how good this wonderful lady has been for this community," Karos said.

Former Berkeley County Commissioner Jim Smith said Douglas once walked into his office with a determination.

She did not want to lose the Roundhouse in Martinsburg and would do whatever was needed to save it, he remembered her as saying.

"Eight million bucks later, that place is on its way," Smith said.

Peter Checkovich, president of The Community and Technical College of Shepherd, said Douglas' support of the college was endless and instrumental in moving the campus from Shepherdstown, W.Va., to Martinsburg.

"This lady here is probably the single-most important person in that entire move," he said.

Del. Walter Duke took over Douglas' seat in the Legislature and said he is frequently asked how his predecessor is doing.

"Our loss is North Carolina's gain," he said.

Other speakers included Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon, Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Director Steve Catlett, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Chairwoman Mary Clare Eros and Janice McCown, director of the Eastern Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

The detention center, which is being renovated, will be renamed the Vicki V. Douglas Center when it reopens early next year, McCown said, in honor of Douglas' commitment to starting that center and others like it throughout the state.

After the formal portion of the ceremony, Douglas said she and her husband, attorney Richard Douglas, are moving to Leland, N.C. Leland is a town of about 2,000 people five miles outside of Wilmington.

The couple, who moved to Martinsburg in 1969, had discussed for years moving to a warmer climate, but wanted to remain within a reasonable distance of West Virginia. Douglas grew up in Fayetteville, W.Va., while her husband grew up in Welch, W.Va.

Leland is about seven hours away - the same amount of time it can take to drive to West Virginia's capital of Charleston, she said.

She said she and her husband decided to make the move while their minds and health will enable them to enjoy their new home.

Of her years of service, Douglas said she is most proud of her work on behalf of abused and neglected children, including working toward creating shelters for them, and her years as a teacher at the county's first alternative school in what is now the Ramer Center in Martinsburg.

As for the move south, Douglas said it's both exciting and scary.

"It's bittersweet. It's very, very difficult to leave a community that has meant so much to us," she said.

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