Arthur Lee Maiden is 93 years old, yet he drives his own car, works 9 to 5 in a real estate office and probably marries more couples in stranger places than any other minister or judge in Arlington County.
Because Dr. Maiden, as he is known affectionately in Arlington, is an ordained United Methodist minister - and since he is one of two people qualified to perform civil wedding ceremonies in the country - he is asked to marry 300 to 400 couples a year. Although most of the ceremonies take place in his real estate office. Maiden has been asked to officiate at weddings as diverse as one for a Catholic and a Jew who wanted to get married on Theodore Roosevelt Island to another for two commercial airline pilots who wanted to be married on a plane at National AIrport.
A short, garrulous man with an infectious chuckle, Maiden obviously enjoys the wedding chores and tries to put his sometimes nervous clients, or "victims" as he calls them, at east with his folksy sense of humor.
At a recent ceremony where the bride and groom were noticeably on edge, especially after the bride's young daughter began to cry, Maiden took control.
"That's perfectly all right," he told the screaming baby. "I'm used to all kinds of music." The joke helped relieve the tension and set the mood for a more jovial ceremony that ended when Maiden gave the bride the marriage license, or "title to her man," as Maiden called it.
Maiden has not slowed his active schedule since he was ordained in 1912. Since then, he has ministered to hundreds of victims during the great flu epidemic of 1918, driven steampowered trains, taught at Washington Lee High School and worked as a police juvenile counselor.
Today, he bristles at the mention of mandatory retirement.
"I don't think it's good, and I think a person should be permitted to work as long as he's capable of doing the job," said Maiden, who was forced to retire from his police job in 1956 by a mandatory county age requirement. "I think it's a freedom of ours."
So Maiden strives to keep busy, something he never finds very difficult.
"I'm not hunting work," he said. "It's hunting me. (But) I enjoy the work."
Besides his real estate work and wedding duties. Maiden is the Arlington police chaplain and runs the "Dr. Maiden Shoe Fund," a charity established about 20 years ago to help clothe needy children in Arlington. Maiden donates the fees from his wedding services to the fund and raised $1,840 last year from police officers, who donated money they would have spent sending Christmas cards to each other.
Maiden does not keep records of the shoe fund disbursements and is willing to supply money for families that police, school or welfare officials tell him about. He tries to keep the fund free of the bureaucratic hassles that he finds plaguing much of the organized welfare work.
"The way we avoid a whole lot of delay is by just doing it," he said.
Much of Maiden's work since he came to Arlington has dealt with juveniles and their problems in a society that has changed drastically since he grew up near Harrisonburg almost a century ago. He taught at Washington Lee from 1937 to 1945 and set up the visiting teacher program for students who could not leave home to attend school because of illnesses or handicaps. When he left the school system, Maiden became a "pistol-packing" police officer working with juveniles and a counselor to them.
Yet Maiden does not blame youth for the increase in crime today. He blames a deteriorating relationship between children and parents.
"Society has changed so much in my lifetime . . ." he said. "The family as a unit is not nearly so strong as it was at some times, but I'm not sure that it's not coming back . . . I don't believe there would be so much trouble with them (juveniles) if the parents were disciplined. You can't blame the children for that."
Maiden, who holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in theology, a conferred doctorate of divinity, a doctorate in psychology and philosophy, a law degree and his real estate license, is hesitant to talk about his accomplishments or philosophies. He is more comfortable discussing Metro revenue bonds, reporters' rights to confidential information or the poetry of Robert Browning.
He credits his good fortune to the love and devotion of his wife of 72 years, Minnie Virginia, whom he always calls Mrs. Maiden. "I was caught by a good woman when I was too young to know better," he says with a chuckle.
But part of Maiden's success is the respect he holds for others.
"(My ideas are) not the same as yours, but if I want you to respect mine, courtesy would call for me to respect yours," he said. "I like to treat people as I want them to treat me. I don't want to demand of them a whole lot of things that are disagreeable."