Remembering Washington’s Singer-for-Life
“There is something powerfully inspiring about cheerfulness and generosity of spirit when it is demonstrated by someone struggling with adversity and illness. Street Sense vendor Veda Simpson was that kind of remarkable person. In her all too short lifetime (she was 59 when she passed away Monday, November 24th), Veda knew her share of adversity. Addiction. Homelessness. Chronic illness. Veda struggled with each of these afflictions. She won her battles with addiction and homelessness. And while chronic illness was a constant partner, even confining her to a wheelchair, it never muffled her spirit.
Day after day – in warm weather and in cold – Veda could be found on the corners around Metro Center with a stack of Street Sense in her lap and a sweet song on her lips. With “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh Happy Day” and hundreds of other hymns, Veda serenaded passersby and brightened our days. She was quick to give a new vendor some of the papers she had just bought. She passed out candy on Halloween and Valentine’s Day. Hers was always the first Christmas card I received every year.
Her perseverance and bright disposition are a lesson for all of us, no matter what struggles we face. It iss with a heavy heart that we’ll submit her name for National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. We are going to miss Veda here at Street Sense. It’s up to us now to keep her spirit alive.”
Brian Carome, Executive Director
“Veda will be missed by all her fellow vendors. She is a Street Sense success story of how someone can turn their life around.”
James Davis,Vendor Advisory Team (VAT) Chariman, Vendor
“How Veda even survived such a difficult life is baffling. Before reading her story, I only knew her from her only visit to my illustration workshop and quick chats at Metro Center.
She came in and sat quietly at the head of the table. I don’t think she said one word. She didn’t really even follow the class. But at some point, when I asked to collect everyone’s work, she quietly slid her paper towards me – she had created a drawing from a Billie Holiday album cover she saw in a book I shared with the class.
Her talent blew me away – maybe it was a correction I needed. It was a moment like that, at the beginning of teaching the workshop, that I realized that the people who sell Street Sense, and the homeless community as a whole, have remarkable courage to be creative – and their talent comes gushing out, over and over again.
At some level, when I started the workshop and started learning about homelessness and particularly the health issues within the community, I dreaded when a day like this was going to come.”
David Serota, Volunteer
“Veda lit up 13th and G Street daily with positive energy. When I first heard the news of her passing, I was deeply saddened and without words. All I could think about were Veda’s cats: how much they loved her, and her them.
“It wasn’t just her songs of inspiration or other popular favorites that I will miss; it wasn’t just her gentle and kind spirit; it wasn’t just Veda’s resilience, selling Street Sense in the rain, snow, cold and heat; it wasn’t just her smile or warm conversations; it wasn’t just Veda’s yearly holiday costumes; it wasn’t just Veda’s never-give-up motivation by constructively moving forward in her life while she sat in a wheelchair…
It’s all of Veda’s fine qualities in being a good human being I will miss.
Her generous style, attitude, gratitude, love- not just for her cats- but for the birds and her customers.
Though I will miss Veda, I know her life energy and love will live on through Street Sense forever.
Though you did not make it to my house for dinner on this earth, perhaps my Heavenly Father will allow us both to have dinner in Heaven if it be His will. Be at Peace Veda.”
Cynthia Mewborn, Vendor