A Lovely Day Celebrating Anne Collier’s Life

A Lovely Day Celebrating Anne Collier’s Life

Celebrating Anne Collier's Life

Yesterday, on her 94th birthday, we gathered in Stonington Connecticut to celebrate Anne’s life. She and I were close friends in the eighties and early nineties. Unfortunately, I don’t have any digital photos of her from that time, but I include three more recent ones at the top of this post. And you blog readers should know that she was one of the first subscribers to this blog.

She was a lovely, fiercely independent, woman. She opened her home to me when I was new in New York City, and knew no one. We met in the church’s bathroom, in the first church I joined, which was on Park Avenue in New York City. Her opening line to me was to ask me why I was so tan, and I explained about working outside dangling from skyscrapers. We very naturally became fast friends. She was an interior designer, with a creative flair for fabric, light and line, gardening, and was an earnest Christian Scientist.

She had a rent-controlled penthouse apartment on east 76th Street (yes, that was a miracle), with a wonderful wrap-around terrace, from which I used to spy on my laborers. I would arrive on the job and tell them they had done it wrong because I had seen their omissions with binoculars from her terrace. For example, there was no flashing inside that brick they just installed, and I’d demand they redo it. Baffled but guilty, they could never figure out how I knew these things, and never got away with much, all because of my secret vantage point. Anne let me have a key to her apartment, and I came and went like it was home. She insisted I needed a bathroom somewhere as I bounced between construction sites, and I was incredibly grateful for this consideration.

I also slept on her couch if I stayed out too late at something in the city, since my apartment was way out at the end of the 6 subway line, in Pelham Bay in the Bronx, which was not a safe a ride at night through Harem and the South Bronx. Later, she was instrumental in my husband and me getting together, since she housed James on that couch when he flew in from Texas to see me. At the memorial, a raise of hands was asked for anyone who had slept on her couch; it included most of those in attendance.

For our wedding, Anne hired two taxi’s to go down to the flower district and buy up all the leftover, inexpensive, post-Christmas poinsettias, to decorate our occasion. When we moved to Connecticut, she brought a mutual friend, Eva, and the two of them sewed up curtains for all of our windows.

After listing all of this, which is barely the tip of the iceberg of her generosity and kindness to me, I wonder what I did for her beyond some young companionship. One important thing I know I did is listen. As a woman making her way alone, I’m not sure she had gotten a lot of that. The upshot of this was that I was the first person she told her deep, dark, 30-year kept secret to: she had given a baby boy up for adoption in the late fifties in England. I think telling me that was an important watershed for her, and as a result, she became more comfortable with it, and less hard on herself about it. Eventually, she told other people, and felt less and less shame.

Later in life, she moved back to Stonington, CT and worked on things like scenic road designation, wetlands preservation, and for the Dennison Homestead.  In 2011, she told someone about this son she had given up, and that person set in motion the process of reuniting them. So one of the major delights of yesterday, was getting to meet this dear one of Anne’s, who she had so pined for, for so many years! Fortunately, birth mother and son had the chance to get to know each other in recent years. He flew in from England for the occasion of her celebration, and is fully embraced by and integrated into her extended family.

Her other focus of devotion was the stone house of her grandmother’s, which had burned down in the 1920’s, and only had the shell remaining. We had seen it that way, standing forlorn for almost a century waiting-yearning Anne felt- to be rebuilt. All those years, when Anne’s brothers wanted to sell it, Anne held out so that it could be brought back to life. I had heard so much about her hopes for this house, that it was another major delight for me to see her dreams so beautifully and recently realized.

The house is absolutely stunning, a combination of graceful and solid, just like Anne. The proportions are magnificent. Old on the outside, but freshly modern and up to date on the inside, it is a marvel. Anne always used to talk about the view of Long Island Sound from the second floor porch. I got to see it yesterday, and you can too, in the photos below. I admire her stick-to-itiveness to this goal of resurrecting this stalwart but forlorn beauty, when doing so was such an impossible reach for so many years. It was fun to see photos of her working diligently on it in recent years, and I’m glad it remains now in the family.

It was also great to meet cousins, nephews, and church friends of hers, which I’ve heard so much about. I’m so grateful for all the support they gave her, especially late in her life. Apparently, they’d heard of me too, and not only because she listed me specifically in her will to receive her antique Japanese blue ceramic boat, which was precious to her from being born over there. In this post you can see her nephew giving it to me, and right now it is in our living room.

My husband and I made a day of all this, since Stonington is on the other end of the state. We got there early and went and had lunch at the Sea View Snack Bar on the Mystic River, where we’d always go with Anne, once she had moved back to Connecticut. Then we drove over the bridge in Mystic, past her church there, and down the other side of the river, a drive she loved, before arriving for the festivities at the Stone House.

There were nice refreshments, and we got a tour of the house. There was a great slide show of photos of her, followed by a cricket game led by her English son. It was wonderful to be with others who knew and loved this remarkable woman, who had been so pivotal in my life. Plus, the weather was absolutely perfect!

Below the first couple old photos I’ve found of Anne, you can see my pictures of our day yesterday, which we capped off with a lovely meal in Chester at Marker37, sitting outside on the Connecticut River. This terrific spot was recommended by a blog reader.

Anne, you did it right, living life on your own terms, with love and gusto, unfolding from your growing understanding of Principle. May we all learn from your good example. And thank you for everything. You helped me through my transition from Michigan to Connecticut– through my New York City years- and into my sweetheart’s arms. I only wish I’d seen you more in our Connecticut phase!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.

8 Comments

  1. John+gregory 11 months ago

    Comfort
    Loving memories comfort me.

  2. Loree 11 months ago

    What a beautiful tribute for a wonderful woman.

  3. janell fiarman 11 months ago

    What a well put together appreciation of an extraordinary woman. Thanks for sharing this, Polly!

  4. Susan 11 months ago

    I love every bit of this marvelous story.
    Thank you for sharing❣️❣️

  5. Meg+Hanson 11 months ago

    She sounds like an amazing woman!! I am sure you had as much of an impact on her as she had on you.

  6. Sue Krevitt 11 months ago

    Truly truly wonderful tribute to an obviously terrific individual and friend! I loved every word and photo and
    feeling. Thank you so much for sharing, Polly. I am in process of putting together a Celebration of Life for a dear
    one, so appreciate every idea to ponder. Thank you!

    YOU are amazing, too!!

    With Love,
    Sue

  7. Wendy McAulry 11 months ago

    Polly,
    This is a beautiful tribute to dear Anne. It’s wonderful to hear your story with Anne and your adventures using her amazing penthouse apartment. In addition to many others, I also slept on Anne’s couch a few times. It was a privilege and a blessing to care for her in her final years. This past Saturday was actually her 94th birthday! Thank you for posting this beautiful memorial.
    With Love,
    Wendy

  8. Eliza Rowe 10 months ago

    A wonderful tribute. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I know, an important meeting for David. I’m sure you both will stay in touch and share more stories about Anne. I was lucky to know her, albeit briefly, and I have never witnessed a memorial with so much love for one person. She obviously was loved by all.

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