Submitted by Dave Beckwith
Ann S. Kennedy died, unexpectedly and tragically, in an automobile collision April 16, 2009, near her home in Elizabethtown, NY. The accident ended a life that had more than its share of turmoil, but had more recently found tranquility and happiness in the beautiful Adirondack region of upstate New York.
Ann married David Derr ‘64 in the summer after graduation. The couple moved to New York City, where David took a corporate job and Ann had Charles, the first of two sons. In 1970, following birth of Daniel, the Derrs moved to the Catskills and a new life running a beef cattle-raising operation.
After a move to Bainbridge, NY, the couple divorced. Ann later remarried, but that union also ended in divorce. Ann moved to the Lake Champlain region of northern New York, first to Westport and later to Elizabethtown.
To make a living, she resumed a court document preparation business that she had operated regularly since college. More importantly, she found a close circle of fiercely-loyal friends, many of whom shared her enjoyment of the out-of-doors, and became a beloved member of her community.
A longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous, she was active in local efforts combatting substance abuse, and generously helped countless people combatting similar issues, sometimes taking them into her own residence while their rehabilitation proceeded.
Around 2005, Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer, leading to a mastectomy and debilitating treatment. She also suffered a bad fall that broke her wrist, an accident requiring several pins.
What happened next was classic Ann. Instead of passively accepting an impairment, she instead resumed piano lessons she’d abandoned as a youth, using her love of music and piano exercise as an instrument of rehabilitation.
Her death occurred when she planned, in solidarity with a friend, cataract surgery in a nearby town. En route, an underqualified volunteer driver lost control of the car and veered into oncoming traffic.
An obituary in the Elizabethtown paper admired Ann’s many interests and her reputation in the community: “Ann was most generous with her love and time in helping anyone around her that she could. Many considered her their personal mentor,” it said.
She sang in the local chorale, discussed politics, books and current events “on all levels,” volunteered in numerous organizations and participated in “triathalons, swimming, hiking, races such as The Run for Hope, canoeing and just appreciating the beautiful environs.” Katherine Kennedy, a niece who knew Ann well, sent along a picture of Ann with her devoted dog, Balfour. Ann, she said, was “an incredibly brilliant, lovely, warm, caring, completely unselfish human being.”
A Remembrance by Marlou Garbisch Johnston:
Ann and I knew each other since sometime in the 1940’s. Our families both spent some time each summer on the shore of Ten Mile Lake, north of Brainerd. Ann and I liked the same things, sailing, swimming, general little girl mischief, and music.
While not usually the leader of our childhood adventures, Ann was never loathe to take a dare. I remember her climbing higher than anyone in the gang into a pine tree then falling and breaking her arm. We kept in touch through high school and when we both decided to go to Carleton, we asked to be roommates.
During that freshman year, Ann and I were close, sharing the tribulations, albeit she was a complicated person and tended to keep her own counsel. Nevertheless, she was always a sympathetic listener and source of support for anyone else with problems.
She spent her Junior year in Germany and we were not as close after she returned, but we shared a love of music; playing the piano was always an important part of her life, Carleton and later. I think that Ann, like the rest of us, learned that one of the subjects taught in college is “relationships,” and it is taught outside the lecture halls.
Although we exchanged the odd letter—those were days of pen, paper, stamps—I had no direct contact with Ann for about ten years. Around 1985 I became a part of the annual Three Sisters Nature Conservancy Benefit Concert that was staged in Willsborough, NY. For many years Ann was a regular in the audience and we were able to talk again.
She worked as a court stenographer. Ann related a somewhat tumultuous life history, but by that time, her life was stable and calm. She talked about her music, her community activities, her support for Nature Conservancy, and for the humane treatment of animals. She and her dog Balfour are remembered in her hometown by the dog walking path called “Annie’s Way.”
The news of her death in a car crash in the spring of 2009 came as a shock, so unexpected and abrupt. We all miss you, Ann.