I suppose that losing Ann Masters, as we did today, shouldn't come as a huge surprise to those of us who knew the health challenges she faced during the past few years, but, as my wife said, "Ann just seemed eternal."
Yes, eternal. Sitting here, holding forth, her court around her--as she did at a seasonal party last week at the home of Hollins President Nancy Gray. I didn't go across the room and hug Ann as I almost always have done because we work in the same building now and I could do that any time. Except that I can't now. She can't drop in on me, either, and and announce, "Smith, you're not working. You're just typing. That's not work." And she'd laugh out loud.
Ann, who spent the last number of years as the inspirational and visionary head of the Clean Valley Council, moving it from an almost ceremonial role in "beautification" to a very real environmental force, had this infectiousness about everything she believed. She believed in the environment and in the people who had the power and the resolve to improve it. She was ever pointing out this or that unlikely hero, some business that sounds filthy, but which was making herculean efforts not to be.
Every once in a while, I'd call over to her office and ask what she had in the way of good stories of businesses who were coming around to the environmental movement and she'd laugh. "You've come to the right place again," she'd say and then she'd tell me about this cement manufacturer who'd cleaned up a process, or a quarry operator who was being a little kinder to the environment or some other unlikely hero. Then I'd say the obligatory, "Ann, you're a genius. I bet you had something to do with" whatever the success was. "Sure, I did, Smith," she'd bellow, "and don't you forget it." And she'd laugh that big laugh.
Ann, who was 74 but lived and looked much younger, didn't judge the polluters; she simply worked her magic on converting them. I saw it too many times to think it was anything but her smile, her encouragement, the mother in her bringing out the best in even the worst of us. Ann was a woman of impact. She was important and she lived a life that mattered.
It's going to take a little while for me to feel really awful about the news of her death because, as Christina says, she's not somebody who'd be dying. Eternal. That's Ann. Yes. That's Ann.