"In case of emergency, notify Mildred Forkois," read the card in the elderly man's wallet. Not because she was family. He didn't have any family. But because Mildred Forkois had befriended him.
"I was driving to the grocery store one morning when I saw some kids throwing rocks at an old man," says Forkois of 6235 N. 21st St., Arlington, describing her first meeting with the elderly man.
"I drove him home and called the police," she says. After that, she made it a point to check on him occasionally because he was alone. A few years later, the elderly man became ill and was hospitalized. Mildred Forkois was notified.
Forkois was recently named "Woman of the Year" by the Organized Women Voters of Arlington, the oldest non-partisan women's organization in the county, at its 54th birthday luncheon. She was honored for her contributions over the years to the club and to the community.
Her involvement with the elderly began in the early 1960s when she volunteered to be on the first Arlington County Commission for the Aging. She said she became interested because of her parents.
Her father, who had leukemia for four years before he died, had to retire early and was on a fixed income. After her father died, her mother had a stroke.Although she eventually was able to get around some, her mother's remaining years were lonely.
"It was too late to help my mother and father," she says, "so I wanted to help other older people."
While on the Commission for the Aging, Forkois researched the needs of the elderly by taking a census, contracting health and welfare departments at the federal, state and county levels and visiting nursing homes.
The commission sponsored the first Senior Citizens Day Center in Arlington for which Forkois "did the legwork," she says.
"I begged card tables and coffe and tea and got donations from businesses."
In addition to her work with the elderly Forkois was on the Arlington County Government Committee of the Organized Women Voters from 1963 to 1968. She attended school and county board meetings, interviewed people in government, and reported to the Organized Women Voters on how the money in the county was being spent. Based on her findings, the Organized Women Voters made recommendations.
Before she was married, Forkois attended two business colleges and was a bookkeeper with the Agriculture Department. But she says "my husband taught me about budgeting. And I read, and I listened."
While Forkois was active in the community, she was also busy at home raising a family. "I never let the children come home from school without me there," she said.
Now her husband, Harold, who was a naval architect, is retired. Her daughter and two sons are grown, and she is a new grandmother.
Still, she is a busy as ever. "But what I have joined, I have stuck with," she said. "I'm not one of those hop-from-club-to-club people." Currently she is helping to write a history of the Commission for the Aging in Arlington.
A member of the Organized Women Voters since 1962, Forkois is also a member of the Thomas Nelson Branch of the D.A.R. and president of the Arlington Branch of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. UNC is a commemorative organization that awards scholarships, takes gifts, flowers and candy to patients at DeWitt Army Hospital, Ft. Belvoir, and decorates the Confederate monument and graves at Arlington Cemetary on Memorial Day. Forkois says the group also takes care of their "real daughters," the elderly whose fathers were in the Civil War.
"We take them places, to the grocery store, shopping, and just call and check on them" says Forkois. "We treat them like our mother; they are special."
The Organized Women Voters "love me mostly because I'd always get the door prizes (for their luncheons) and wrap them and make up the programs and everything," laughs Mildred Forkois who had an inkling that she would receive a certificate of appreciation, but never expected to be "Woman of the Year."
"I was sitting there like Miss America," she smiles. "There was nothing left to get, and I thought, Oh Lord, not me."