This week I drove past the new United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS or just CIS) headquarters for the first time since it opened. I was driving down what is a newly-restored road in front of CIS. There’s also a new traffic light and a turn into what I assume is the way to parking.

The handsome building is huge, having consolidated six USCIS locations into one location.

Apparently it doesn’t have a cafeteria. Developer Peter N.G. Schwartz agreed to build a 35,000 sq. ft. retail center near CIS and it looks as if those shops are under construction. No doubt they’ll offer plenty of new eateries with diverse dining options.

What does USCIS do? They process immigrant visa petitions, naturalization applications, asylum applications for adjustment of status (green cards), and refugee applications, among many, many other immigration jobs.

USCIS is at 5900 Gateway Drive in Camp Springs, near the Branch Avenue Metro Station. With questions, call 800-375-5283.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in August 2017 with lots of VIPs participating. Among the original plans was a freestanding parking building with 1,750 parking spots, for government only. I don’t know where ordinary citizens park but that should be obvious after you take that turn mentioned above.

USCIS was stipulated for completion in 2020. It was.

Neighbors & other good people

Larry Hall, Past Post Commander of American Legion Clinton Post 259 died Feb. 7. According to the announcement by the Legion, Larry has transferred to “Post Everlasting.”

Joseph Forrest Weller, 81, of Ft. Washington died Dec. 30. He served 40 years at the Naval Research Lab. Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Rosemary, two children and a grandchild.

Gerald “Gerry” Jolliffe was born Feb. 29, 1952 and could celebrate his birthday only every four years. He’s the only person I’ve encountered born on Leap Day. I knew Gerry years ago when he lived in District Heights, son of my very-Irish friend, the late Jean Jolliffe. Sadly, Gerry died Feb. 21, 2014 in Lake View, S.C. He’s gone, but I think of him every last-day-of-February.

I’ve not heard much from daughter Therese in Brownsville, Texas—she’s had no power for most of the time since Monday. Not even enough to charge her phone. The temperature inside the house has been in the 40s and 50s. The Texas power grid is the culprit. Granddaughter Naomi, in San Antonio, is also enduring the extreme cold and no power. As I write this, the problem continues now with rolling outages.

Sharper’s remembered

Jody (Bowman) Nyers was chatting with friend Janet and asked if she remembered Sharper’s. “Do I remember them? Yes indeed!” Janet said, “They did the flowers for our wedding 54 years ago.” Janet Barksdale Ricks grew up in Croom. She and her husband George were married June 1, 1963 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Croom.

SB Smith also emailed me, “ I can’t believe Sharper’s Florist is gone, this is a sad day to hear this, it just won’t be the same.”

Jody, by the way, is good about keeping me informed. She now lives in Conway, S.C. She grew up at 6713 Larches Court in Morningside from 3rd grade through high school (1964-1974). Her mom lived there until 1990, and some of her family even longer than that. She adds, “Loved growing up in Morningside.”

Changing landscape

Several Maryland State Senators have filed a bill that would require the State Highway Administration to designate MD-210 (Indian Head Highway) as, “President Barack Obama Highway.”

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden has reopened after three months’ closure. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. The ice skating rink unfortunately won’t be available this season but the Pavilion Cafe, which serves snacks, coffee, beer and wine, is open daily.

The U. S. Postal Service is issuing NASA Sun Science Forever stamps, showcasing the Sun’s many faces with images of solar activity.

Victoria has a Popcorn recommendation

Victoria Burns recommends Popcorn Bag, a Black-owned women’s business off Branch Ave. (in same strip mall as Sam’s Car Wash). She writes, “My husband and I purchased from them for the first time and it definitely satisfied our craving for fancy popcorn like we used to get from the movie theater or at Garrett’s Popcorn Store.”

Mary’s virus report

Through 5 p.m. Feb. 18, Maryland has had 373,966 cases with 986 added just the day before. As for Maryland’s Covid deaths, 7,661 have lost their lives, 31 the day before.

Meanwhile, I’m still here, at home. I made only one trip this week, on Wednesday for Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Philip’s and then to Giant for groceries. I’m reading a 600-page book, Leonore’s Suite. It’s the true story of my college roommate Lee who—along with her mom and sister Betty—was interned at Santa Tomas Prison Camp in The Philippines for three years during WWII. One lesson I’m learning: how can I complain about Covid restrictions when I see what Lee went through for three very long years?

Virginia Gibson, much-loved teacher at Berkshire

Mary Virginia Spalding Gibson, 92, remembered as a beloved teacher at Berkshire Elementary, died Feb. 3 at her home in Waldorf.

Virginia grew up in Leonardtown, and was fiercely proud of her hometown and cherished St. Mary’s county. She graduated from Margaret Brent High School and remained an active member of their alumni association throughout her lifetime.

She graduated from Towson State Teachers College in 1949 and, after WWII, married Henry Gibson, her high school sweetheart.

She began her teaching career at Mt. Rainier Elementary, worked for Census in Suitland, and then taught 3rd grade for many years at Berkshire Elementary in Forestville. She was honored as Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

During her Suitland years, her family attended St. Bernadine Church and she was a member of the Altar Guild. Later, she attended St. Peter’s and sang in the choir.

She was preceded in death by her husband, parents Bernard and Mildred Spalding, and brothers Eddie, Bernie and Bubby Spalding. Survivors include three children, grand- and great-grand children.

In addition to being an Outstanding Educator, she was an active member of the Yale University Comer SDP County wide Steering Committee for many years.

Milestones

Happy birthday to Terrence Flaherty, Feb. 28; Winifred Lanehart, March 1; Karen (Elborne) Stern and Harold Titus, March 2; Jennifer Vilky, March 3; Amy Schlor and Matthew Flaherty, March 4.

Happy anniversary to Freda and Michael McDonald, their 41st on Feb. 28; Tom and Sarah Shipman, their 62nd on March 4; and Larry and Susan Frostbutter, on March 5.