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Alice Frazier, at 81; Southerner hugged Queen Elizabeth II

WASHINGTON -- Alice Frazier showered everyone who showed up at her Marshall Heights home with big, arms-stretched-wide hugs that transferred to others her verve for life.

So when Queen Elizabeth II and Barbara Bush popped in for a visit in 1991, Mrs. Frazier did not think it was a big deal when she wrapped her arms around the dignitaries. She did not know -- and friends are not sure she would have cared -- that the queen did not do hugs and that such intimate touching was a serious breach of royal etiquette.

In the Frazier household, hugs went hand in hand with the offer to sit for a while and have something to eat or drink. Mrs. Frazier became a spokeswoman for a community that was overrun by drug violence associated with crack cocaine.

Mrs. Frazier, 81, died March 12 after a long illness. As friends and family members gathered Friday at St. John Baptist Church to say goodbye, they celebrated her way. There were hugs all around, friends who showed up with food and fond remembrances of an incident that, for a moment, drew international attention and a moment of levity when it was sorely needed.

''There was a shooting every single night in this area," said former D.C. Council member H. R. Crawford, who represented Ward 7 at the time.

The hugs with the queen and Bush ''brought more positive attention to this area than any other day. This woman changed things," Crawford said.

Mrs. Frazier was born in Mooresville, N.C., and moved to Washington after she married Walter Frazier. She worked as a waitress and cook while raising her four children. She worked crossword puzzles, read, and watched game shows.

''I called her Dimples," said nephew Anthony Proctor, ''because every time I saw her, she was smiling."

The pictures in the obituary program show Mrs. Frazier hugging a smiling Queen Elizabeth, then smiling alongside Crawford as she received an award, then outside her home waving to adoring fans and neighbors who were happy to see someone they knew capture the limelight. The Hug, as it was dubbed at the time, gained so much attention that Crawford organized a trip for Mrs. Frazier, her daughter Betty Queen, and 53 Washington-area residents, including 30 junior high students, to England. It was her first trip out of the country.

''There are so many beautiful things to see -- the scenery, the buildings, the churches," she said during the visit. ''I'll have a whole lot to talk about when I get home."

All these years later, residents are still wistful about the moment. Then, as now, Ward 7 was one of the city's poorest, and Queen Elizabeth's visit was the first time a visiting head of state had traveled to that part of the city. Mrs. Frazier was selected because she was the owner of a new home on Drake Place SE that had been developed by the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization. The group's interim director and chief executive officer, Carrie Thornhill, has been involved with the organization the entire time.

''We had to be here because she made our organization famous all over the world," said Thornhill, whose group is still trying to develop affordable housing. ''Prices are rising so fast that the gap between the cost of housing and the ability of low- and middle-income residents to afford housing is a huge challenge."

Mrs. Frazier was living at the Washington Nursing Facility when she died. There was no police escort at her funeral, no cameras, and little hoopla as friends and family members gathered -- bearing aluminum pans of food -- to say a simple goodbye to a humble woman.

''She was just a genuine Southern lady," Crawford said.

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