- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

Hundreds of mourners, including most of the District’s top government officials, packed a funeral service in Columbia Heights yesterday to eulogize slain mayoral aide Wanda R. Alston.

“We will never know how many souls were saved by her boldness that inspired others, especially young black gay people,” said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, one of five speakers during an 80-minute service at All Souls Unitarian Church.

Miss Alston, 45, was the head of the city’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.

The church’s sanctuary, which seats 800, was standing room only, and organizers distributed more than 1,200 programs. “I never knew she was this big,” D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said that Miss Alston’s sister, Marva, had told her. “Well, now you know. Wanda was big.”

Patricia Ireland, former president of the National Organization for Women, recalled how Miss Alston came to work for NOW in 1992 after ridding herself of a drug addiction. Miss Alston eventually became Ms. Ireland’s executive assistant.

“She blossomed into one of the most determined, courageous and best people I’ve ever met,” Ms. Ireland said.

The memorial service was punctuated by raucous laughter during stories about Miss Alston’s notorious temper and determination to get things done.

“Wanda was one of those cats that roared. She didn’t know how to meow. She did not purr,” Mrs. Norton said.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who wept at a press conference the day after Miss Alston’s slaying last week, said her drive to accomplish her goals produced sometimes imperfect but always inspiring results.

“Getting it done wasn’t always pretty,” Mr. Williams said, addressing the closed casket in front of the pulpit and speaking to Miss Alston by name. “But you got the job done. … You gave your life for us. And I will never forget it.”

The crowd grew silent in moments when speakers discussed Miss Alston’s slaying.

Her next-door neighbor, William M. Parrot Jr., is accused of stabbing her on Wednesday for money to buy crack cocaine while already high on the drug.

Mr. Parrot, 38, was arraigned Friday in D.C. Superior Court and is charged with first-degree murder while armed. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. His preliminary hearing is set for April 6.

The entire D.C.Council, except for Carol Schwartz, attended yesterday’s service, as did many longtime activists and organizers.

“If you want to remember Wanda, the Wanda I knew, I hope you will leave here resolving, in her name, to get something done,” said Mrs. Norton. “This city was not her job. It was her life.”

Miss Alston will be buried today at Greenlawn Cemetery in Newport News, Va., where she was born.

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