I was lucky to meet Ann in 1969. I started teaching a first grade class in the middle of the year at an all Black elementary school on the north side of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had just received my degree and was in the right place at the right time to get a teaching job right away.
I was scared spitless. It was a ‘self-contained’ 1st grade class, which meant that I was responsible for teaching those sweet kids EVERYTHING during the day – reading, math, writing, spelling, gym, art, music, current events, holiday stuff, etc. I met Ann the first day and we bonded instantly. She took me under her wing, listening to my fears, funny stories, questions and gave me her best advice. She taught 4th grade. I’m not sure how long she had been teaching at that point, but I was delighted I had someone to go to for help and guidance.
We learned new things about each other as our friendship grew. I learned that she had a daughter and a son. She thought the world of both of them and would do anything for them. She was divorced and raising the kids alone, working full time, taking care of the house and yard and pets. I kiddingly asked if she could JUGGLE, as well!
As the years passed, things happened and we went our separate ways. My husband and I moved to Arkansas because of a job offer for him. Ann and I had one of those RARE friendships that didn’t fade away. It didn’t matter how long it was between letters, cards, or visits, we took up where we left off, happily chatting and continuing to share our lives.
Over this time, I also was lucky enough to get to know her daughter. We are friends, now, too. She’s a lovely, strong lady I’m proud to know.
Over the years Ann’s health became more and more of a challenge. Lately, things went downhill quite rapidly. Her daughter kindly kept me in the loop on how she and Ann were doing and what was happening. Ann went to hospice and died yesterday. Her daughter, who has done everything possible to make her deteriorating condition bearable, was at her side.
Ann’s and my friendship almost made it to 50 years. I’ve been richer for knowing her and sharing her love for her children. I hope that she is now “Dancing with the Stars” (one of her favorite programs), looking down and smiling at us, having found peace and the welcome absence of pain.
Thank you, Ann, for being my friend. Dance your heart out!