Thursday, September 19, 2013


I am working on about 3 minutes of talk to be delivered at my sister's memorial on Saturday. It is a difficult thing to write. But here goes:

One of the ways we can choose to align our thoughts and our sense of self with higher purposes is through creative actions that offer useful beauty. An old saying is that idle hands are the devil's workshop, and if that is so, there was no devilry in my sister Ann. Those who knew her will remember that her hands were constantly busy, creating beautiful things to wear or to share with others. Smocking and sewing were her favorite things.

Ann and I were born 18 months apart, and as very young children we would sit on the floor with our crayons. Ann would color both on her paper and mine. A single piece of paper was never enough to contain her creativity. Throughout all of Ann’s early years, she was busy with art projects. She even painted with Elmer’s glue.

As a little brother very curious about things worked, I took apart her toy sewing machine thinking that I could put it back together. I could not. My mechanical skills did not extend that far yet. Ann was angry of course, and I learned valuable lessons that I’ve carried my whole life. Carefully study how things are supposed to work before you take them apart and be careful messing with Ann's stuff. I visited Ann a couple of weeks before she passed away and she whispered to me, “I forgive you for taking apart my sewing machine.”

Ann's first job was at Brandeis Department store where as a high school senior, she designed window displays. She had refused to learn to drive because our Dad yelled at her when they went out for her first driving lesson. After having a teenaged daughter of my own, I can see how that could happen.

So it became my regular job to pick Ann up after work each day, and if you knew Ann, you would know that when she became engaged in a creative project it was hard to tear herself away. I remember waiting, and waiting for her to get off work in downtown Omaha. But we spent many hours in the car and now for those hours I have no regrets.

In college she amazed her art instructors with her study of complements and split complements in her use of color in her paintings. That skill with color led her to excel as a designer. At Goldsmith's department store in Memphis she managed the decorative accessories department in one of their largest stores. It surprised me one day when I learned that she had decided to buy a car and learn to drive. Her tiny red Subaru was the first I had ever seen in my life, and in many things Ann was ahead of her times.

As a young mother, Ann reinvented counter-change smocking and her husband joked that when she would travel by air, she was required to sit in the smocking section. Her smocking patterns and dress designs were chosen for publication by McCalls, and she became known for her teaching, her patterns and her books. Later, as an award winning kitchen designer for Home Depot and Lowes, she was responsible for many of the most beautiful kitchens in Phoenix and still her work touched many lives.

Even in her last days, small samples of her smocking were there within reach though her disease had progressed so far that she was no longer able to create. She retained her sense of beauty, her love of laughter, her courage and her concern for the well being of others.

There is a Zen story about a master who lay dying. His students gathered around him pleading, “Master, please don’t leave us.” He answered with a question, “Where do you think I’d go?” If one were to ask the question posed by the Zen master, “Where would Ann go?” I believe you would find her wherever a girl leans over to color on her brother’s paper, or where a young mother sews something beautiful for her son or daughter to wear, or wherever a human being expresses loving kindness and concern for another. In these places you would find Ann.

Ann, we will look for you in these places and try not to miss you too much.

Make, fix and create...


  1. What a great memorium, nicely done. While I don't feel like I knew her, I wish I did.

  2. Beautifully said. She was a very special person.


  3. Doug, remember that for every one person who leaves a comment, there are likely several hundred who eel for you. I wish you peace but you must grieve first. Rick