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Legendary Vienna Inn proprietress Mollie Abraham dies at 96

Generations of local residents enjoyed her gruff but still lovable demeanor
Mollie Abraham, who with her husband owned the Vienna Inn for two generations, died March 25, 2023, at age 96.

Mollie Bass Abraham, who with her late husband owned and ran the Vienna Inn for four decades, died at her home in Alexandria on March 25. She was 96.

The couple bought the former Freddie’s restaurant in Vienna in 1960 and renamed it the Vienna Inn. Known for its tasty chili dogs, affordable beer, memorabilia-lined walls and scrappy atmosphere, the restaurant became (and remains) a Vienna institution.

Mollie Abraham’s gruff manner was part of the charm, said James Madison High School baseball coach Mark Gjormand.

“If you went in there, you weren’t going to get a smile and a hug,” Gjormand said. “But she had a great heart, she took great pride . . . When Mollie ran things, you just didn’t mess around. Everybody was afraid of her and it was out of respect. It was her place, she ran it and she wasn’t afraid to tell you what she thought, but at the same time, she would do anything for anybody.”

Bill Murray, a retired Vienna police officer, remembered Abraham as the Vienna Inn’s no-nonsense greeter and manager.

“She would have hilarious exchanges with patrons, and it didn’t matter if you were in blue jeans with muddy boots or a three-piece suit, you were all fair game for banter,” Murray recalled.

“It was like you were one of her kids as she would direct you to a seat or correct something you should have been doing or weren’t supposed to be doing,” he added. “If you were a newbie to the Inn and – gasp! – entered through the front door along Maple Avenue, everyone knew to watch for funniness as they got a quick education in Vienna Inn procedure, behavior and etiquette.”

Longtime Vienna resident Marty Volk bought the restaurant from the Abrahams in late 1999 and took over ownership in May 2000. He has continued the establishment’s traditions.

Born in Baltimore on June 2, 1926, Abraham married Meyer “Mike” Abraham in 1949 after meeting him on a blind date. The couple then moved to Alexandria.

While helping raise their three children in Alexandria and supporting their school efforts and extracurricular activities, Mollie Abraham became involved in politics and various social causes, from racial desegregation to the Equal Rights Amendment.

She was profoundly dedicated to social movements and aiding people, said Philip Abraham, one of her sons.

“She was always one to show us how to do the right thing and help others,” he said.

Mollie Abraham helped found the Alexandria chapter of the National Organization for Women and served as NOW’s state coordinator in Virginia in 1976-77.

She also served multiple terms as chairman of the Alexandria Commission for Women, where she advocated for equal pay and retirement benefits. The commission in 2001 gave Abraham its Marguerite Payez Leadership Award for her lifelong dedication to leading, advocating for and helping women and others needing representation.

Former Vienna public-information officer Marie Kisner recalled in her book on the town’s history, “Vienna Stories (1950-2000),” how Abraham queried whether the town was paying Kisner her “comparable worth.”

On one occasion, Abraham was loath to let Kisner edge away from a three-hour-long conversation.

“I’m one of the biggest taxpayers in this town and I’ll tell you when you have to get back to work!” Abraham told her.

In 2011, Abraham was named a “Living Legend of Alexandria” for her contributions to the city’s quality of life. A profile produced for the award stated she enjoyed mysteries written by James Patterson and Faye Kellerman, television shows including “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” and entertainment involving actress Amy Brenneman, whom she met at activist Gloria Steinem’s 75th birthday party.

Abraham was an active member of the Alexandria Democratic Committee and served as a poll worker for many years. She also served as president of the Brookville-Seminary Valley Civic Association and supported her synagogue, Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, where she served two terms as president of the Sisterhood and establishing a “teen club” when her children were that age.

Abraham also worked for nearly 16 years with Common Cause, an organization with a pro-democracy agenda, her family said.

According to the Living Legends profile, Abraham was a cancer survivor and served on the Alexandria city manager’s Breast Cancer Awareness Committee.

Abraham enjoyed creating ceramics, working with glass and making jewelry by enameling copper, the profile read. She later in life had a condominium in Florida, where she could escape winter’s harshness, and enjoyed taking cruises after overcoming seasickness by taking medication, staying in windowless cabins and concentrating her eyes on the horizon, the article stated.

Meyer Abraham died in November 1999. Mollie Abraham is survived by her daughter, Lynn Abram; sons Mark Abraham and Philip Abraham; grandchildren Mary Reid, David Abraham, Madeline Bates, Rachel Roudik, Thomas Abraham, Jonathan Abraham and Nathan Abraham; and great-grandchildren Ryan and Turner Reid, James and Sara Abraham, and Mollie and Brooks Roudik.

The funeral will be held March 29 at 11 am. at Agudas Achim Congregation, 2908 Valley Drive in Alexandria, with interment afterward at Agudas Achim Cemetery, 1033 S. Payne St. in Alexandria.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages people to make a contribution in Mollie Abraham’s name to Agudas Achim Congregation, Feminist Majority Foundation or a cause of their choice.