She was the middle child of Dorothy and Al Harris, older sister to and younger sister to and lifelong besties with her cousin Gail (). Each girl gravitated towards a household chore and Ann’s was cleaning. A clean home doesn’t make a happy home, but as far as she was concerned, it was the very first step. One chore Ann never had was cooking. The woman was a one-trick pony in the kitchen and never met a chicken she couldn’t absolutely suck dry of all moisture.
Ann grew up in the 60s and, by all accounts, was a bit of a hippy. She wore insanely short dresses and bell bottoms, keeping her hair long and straight. She had a round English face that was all the rage in the 60’s and 70’s. She listened to Elvis, then the Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel. She ate healthy before it was cool, breastfed before it was cool, and worked out before it was cool. She once confessed that she attempted to burn her bra in the 60s but thought better of it because “that’s just too far.” Her most rebellious act in college involved lowering a suitcase out of her dormitory window so a few boys could fill it with donuts for her and her roommate to eat. Yes, it was really just donuts.
Ann and Wayne met when they were very young and went on their first date at the age of fourteen. They married in their early twenties after Ann graduated from college with a degree in education. It's a true love story to be told another day. Ann received her Master’s in Reading from TCU and taught for Fort Worth ISD for many years, first at Nash Elementary and eventually at Lily B. Clayton before we all moved to Oregon, where she continued teaching Kindergarten and English as a Second Language. She adored “her kids,” and they adored her.
She was a lifelong learner and returned to university two more times. First at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon and then at Portland State, where she received her master’s in counseling at the age of 59! She worked with victims of domestic violence at a women’s shelter.
Regarding mothers, it would be a challenge to find a better one. Ann was kind, loving, gentle, nurturing, and possessed a super-human level of patience and tolerance. Her daughters ask themselves often, “WWAD; what would Ann do?” when dealing with their own children because God knows Ann would handle it best. She was the matching Christmas pajamas, smocked dresses, and new play clothes on Easter kind of mom. She made every holiday full of magic and every birthday special. She couldn’t stand to see her girls go without and worked her butt off to make sure they had “the little things.” Because the little things are where the memories are, and they have so many of them, thanks to her.
Ann was wise in a humble and unspoken way. In her oldest daughter’s teen years she would invite her on an hour-long walk each Saturday morning, the destination being Starbucks. What seemed to be a very long trip for coffee was much more than that. Ann went for the journey because she knew how important it was to maintain a connection with her children. She had an entirely different ritual with her youngest daughter, they visited the nail salon because Ann knew her girls were different people, she had to be a different type of parent for each of them, and she intuitively knew how to do that.
Ann was near perfect according to her family, but everyone has vices, and hers was vanity. She would sooner eat dirt than go without washing her face before bed or putting sunscreen on in the morning. In her fifties, she famously created her own off-label use for some topical chemotherapy prescribed to her for a small spot of skin cancer on her face. “Slightly” deviating from the recommended use, she slathered it all over her face, causing the skin to shed like a lizard while she walked around in a floppy hat and oversized sunglasses for weeks. When it finally stopped, her skin was like a 22-year-old supermodel. She was never into make-up but was a natural beauty and would be pleased to know that she “Benjamin Button-ed” it her last few weeks on this earth.
Ann was a little bit spicy and was known to throw out a curse or two if she was hoppin’ mad. But everyone knows it doesn’t count if you leave out the vowels. Right, Ann? She was soft and gentle, but you might as well give up and get out of her way if she had her mind set on something. After an unfortunate DMV photo experience where she was refused a retake, she waited for the worker to go on break and then cornered him at the food court, not backing down until he took the photo again. She also practiced what we commonly refer to as “girl math.” As their husbands can attest, Ann’s daughters caught onto this mathematical concept quickly. It’s too bad it’s so hard for men to learn!
Ann and Wayne moved back to Texas in 2013, just in time for Ann to start her third career as a full-time grandparent! Dubbed “Nannie,” she thoroughly enjoyed loving on all four of her grandkids, Harrison, Merritt, Madeline, and Elizabeth. She could spend hours sitting with them, just watching them play. She would never confess to having a favorite, but in this case, there was a clear winner: Lulu, her snorty, snotty little grand-pug.
The condition Ann had was called CAA, cerebral amyloid angiopathy. What initially seemed to be a random incident in 2011 revealed itself as a deteriorating condition. When faced with a diagnosis like this, it’s understandable that many people can become angry or resentful. This was not and has never been Ann. She was a light and a joy from the moment she was born. When she lost her ability to read, she relearned. When she lost it again, she moved to audiobooks. When she couldn’t drive, she just started walking. When she couldn’t work, she poured her care into her grandchildren and children’s ministry at church. When she couldn’t remember where she put something…well, that was clearly her husband’s fault! Obviously.
Ann lived a life of joy and love. She practiced what she preached, but she rarely had to preach because example was her tool for teaching.
Wayne referred to Ann’s physical body as her “earth suit” because her spirit is in Heaven. She is whole; she is well. She is reading, driving, laughing, teaching, and in the arms of her parents and her younger sister. She is also back in a size 2 and has no need for eye concealer. As he said, she is not gone; she has simply changed addresses. And we will all continue to live fully and joyously in our own earth suit as we fulfill His purpose for us until it's our time to move. Ann will look in on us, and we will make sure she is proud.