Ann Haberman Armstrong

 

 

2005

After graduating from UW, Gene and I were married in 1964 and headed for California where Gene attended law school and I earned a Masters degree in speech and language pathology at Stanford. I worked for a year setting up a speech therapy program for the Menlo Park school district and acting as an itinerant speech therapist for the district’s five schools, which had never had a speech program before.

After law school, Gene accepted a job with a large law firm in Chicago and I went to work at the University of Illinois – Chicago where I worked in the speech clinic and did occasional teaching for the Speech Department. When David was born in 1970, I took an 18 month leave of absence, and after Matt was born in 1974, I had to fish or cut bait because the political situation had changed radically and extended leaves (legally I got 6 weeks) were not in the cards. So I cut bait. I hated doing it because I loved my job and was not particularly good at being at home.

We had moved to Oak Park in December 1969, the first suburb west of Chicago, and one which shares a boarder with the city. Oak Park had passed an open housing ordinance in 1968 (prior to enactment of the federal law) and was then struggling to achieve racial diversity throughout the community and avoid resegregating into white and black sections of town. This included a fight to overcome historical trends and to maintain the community’s attractiveness to businesses and residents as a racially diverse community that offers high quality schools and municipal services. These were the bad old days of red lining, block busting, racial steering and white flight. Oak Park is full of activist citizens (sometimes a royal pain in the arse), and there was much to be done. I got active in these and other efforts, including local government, and the schools. Gene did, too, serving as the appointed attorney for the Park District for about 15 years, chairing the citizen committee that brought liquor back to heretofore dry Oak Park, and heading up the 4th of July fire works – a volunteer effort – for 25 years.

We do the usual reading, theater/music/movies, skiing (mostly Gene), camping (mostly when the kids were young), etc, but our civic commitment in Oak Park has been a central focus, something to which both Gene and I have devoted a lot of time and energy. Through a lot of hard work and creative ideas by a lot of people, the community has achieved a high degree of stability; the schools have remained excellent and home values have soared (contrary to dire predictions); and we are, after several lean years, very attractive to developers – so much so that people now complain about growth and density!!

Meanwhile, in my volunteer community and political work, I had done quite a bit of fund raising and was hired (when Matt was 6) as the fund raiser to bring Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” (a huge sculpture honoring real and fictional women in history) to Chicago. From that, I got a job as the Development Director for a not-for-profit organization – the Metropolitan Planning Council – a public policy advocacy organization working on quality of life issues such as housing, transportation, development, education funding and tax policy.

I am currently in my 23rd and – if all goes well – last year at MPC. I had actually expected to be “retired” by now, but…. I will likely get some other job, but perhaps part time.

As for Gene, I am betting that he will never retire officially… probably just let his work life get less and less hectic. But that, as my grandmother used to say, is on the next page.

We get to Madison regularly (though my father and mother have been gone now for 10 and 8 years, respectively) – for UW football games and to visit David and his family.

We would like to travel more ….have had some great trips to France, Ireland, Egypt, New Zealand, hiking into (and then out of!) the Grand Canyon over the Y2K New Year, etc. My hope is to go on safari.

I have a bad back (lumbago!!– I thought this was something old people got… but it turns out to be a real medical diagnosis, meaning deterioration of the lumbar spine…in my case, arthritis) and Gene has a stent in his heart, but life has been good and we are up to most tasks!

 

July 2010 Update

I finally did retire from the Metropolitan Planning Council four years ago after serving nearly 25 years as Development Director.  The successful conclusion of the organization’s first capital campaign presented the ideal time to leave.  I loved MPC and my job there, my colleagues, and the excitement of being involved in civic issues in the Chicago metropolitan region.  I miss much about MPC, especially the connection to innovations in technology and people who can explain them to me!  But I don’t miss the long hours or the fast-pace and pressure.  Most of our friends were worried about how I, as a decidedly type A person, would adapt to retirement, but the transition was remarkably easy….I always knew  there was a lazy person inside me just itching to get out!  However, that opportunity did not come for a few more years because I had allowed myself to be elected vice-moderator of our church council (ours is a union church of Presbyterian and United Church of Christ and under our governance structure the moderator and vice-moderators are the lay leaders of the church) and just before I retired our lead minister quite unexpectedly left, leaving the moderator and me essentially in charge!  This created much chaos and angst, and not just for the two of us.  I also served on the Personnel Committee, so the ensuing three years were busy ones.  Things got less hectic once we hired an interim minister and 18 months later a new lead pastor, but early on it was equivalent to a part-time job.  All of that ended a year ago, but in January, Gene and I agreed to be the Planned Giving Coordinators for the church, so we are back in the saddle, so to speak. 

 

Gene retired from his law practice last year, but still owns and manages the building where he had is offices in Oak Park.  We both are still involved in local politics and I got involved in the Obama campaign.  We continue to subscribe to the opera and two theater groups, enjoy movies and reading, attend Badger football games, walk 3 miles most days for exercise, do some biking, and take the grandkids (ages 8 and 5 1/2 ) tent camping each year.  Our younger son’s wedding last year, tuck pointing the house, recontouring the back yard to (so far unsuccessfully) keep water out of our basement, and endless crowns, among other things, mean that we have not yet gone on safari.  But I am still hopeful.  Meanwhile, we content ourselves with winter trips to visit friends in Florida and trips to California to visit our son and daughter-in-law – and Jeanne Field. 

 

We have our aches and pains and I escaped a brush with death in March 2008 (a very fast-acting, virulent stain of strep pneumonia and that became septic and put me in the hospital for 10 days, five of them on a respirator).  I have many people to thank, especially Gene, for a full and remarkably quick recovery.  But life is good, and lived at a somewhat slower pace.  We love summer and spend as much time as the house, yard and other things allow on our deck drinking coffee, reading the newspaper or doing the crossword puzzle! 

 

Looking forward to our reunion….who would believe 50 years could pass so quickly!

Wisconsin High School

55th Reunion – July 24 – 25, 2015

 

BIO:        Ann Haberman Armstrong

Received:  7/15/15

 Not much has changed for Gene and me since our last reunion.  We are both retired and I am more often than not busier than I like to be doing community work/politics and being active in our church where I serve on the Church Council (the governing arm of the church) and have been an officer, am the Planned Giving Co-coordinator with Gene (really a part time job, but with no pay), and serving on a housing justice team.  We continue to go regularly to the theater, movies and UW home football games in Madison, where we also get a chance to visit our older son, David, and grandchildren, Calvin (13) and Addie (10).  We usually go to Southern California each year to visit our younger son, Matt, and his wife and two dogs and where we also get a chance to visit Jeanne Field and her husband, with whom we spent last New Year’s Eve and Day over lobster and bowl games, including UW’s.  We also visit friends for a couple of weeks each winter in Coconut Grove (Miami) Florida.  And we have an annual camping trip with our two grandchildren, from which we have just returned.  We suffer the usual arthritic aches and pains, but I am proud to report that Gene and I were able to make it up (and down, which in my view is harder on steep, rocky climbs such as these) both the high bluffs at Devil’s Lake State Park, a feat I wasn’t at all sure I would be able to manage.  Our biggest trip in the last five years was in Oct/Nov 2013.  It was the proverbial "trip of a lifetime" to southern Africa -- Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.  2 1/2 weeks, virtually all of it in the bush on safari.  Something I had wanted to do for 25 years.  We saw the "Big Five" and much much more, including wonderful people and hundreds of spectacularly beautiful birds.  I am so grateful to have had the experience.  I would go back in a heartbeat if I had the money.  Looking forward to our reunion in Madison and whatever Big Five -- or Thirty Five -- are there to be seen.

 

Wisconsin High School

60th  Reunion – September 17, 2020 – Via ZOOM

 

BIO:      Ann Haberman Armstrong

Received:  8/24/20

 

New address:  7753 Van Buren St. # 516

                            Forest Park, Illinois 60130

 

                            Land line:  708-657-4484

                            Cell:  708-212-2400

Our 60th reunion finds us in very different times from our last one five years ago.  Not only have we lost more of our classmates, but we are living in very difficult times for many as we face the effects of this deadly COVID-19 pandemic. I have said many times that Gene and I are pretty much in the ideal spot to weather such a calamity as this –  we have no jobs to lose, no small children to keep entertained, no medium sized children that we have to home school and struggle to keep up with the 3rd grade math, no teen aged high schoolers or colleges kids forced to come home and cancel all their plans, etc.  In truth, the time has flown by.  We both have been kept busy – Gene being our church Moderator (lay head of the church) until July when he finished his two one-year terms.  And I co-chairing our church's Housing Justice team and working with Gene as co-coordinator of the church's planned giving program. And a new venture – Ten Thousand Villages Oak Park – a non-profit, fair trade store with a mission to break the cycle of poverty for artisans in developing countries. I am on the board and serve as Treasurer (ironic, since I have always thought Balance Sheets were mostly smoke and mirrors) and chair of Finance and Fundraising.  This has been a challenging time with staff layoffs and closing for 3 months.  We are now re-opened, but even after reducing our sales forecasts drastically, we still aren't making our lowered goals.  It is definitely an existential moment. 

 

The saving grace for Gene and me throughout this shut down, other than the fact that we like each other, is that, by sheer coincidence, he had gotten a laptop in December. So, we both have had access to our own computers, which we are on for hours every day.  We have all our meetings via ZOOM and even socialize over ZOOM these days.  

 

On the family front, sadly, my brother Bill (class of 1958) died in March 2019.  He suffered a major stroke in September 2018 and another one in November, from which he was recovering, but then had a series of setbacks, including several small strokes, and died in March. He was my only sibling.  It is still hard to get my head his around his loss. 

 

Before the shutdown, we visited our younger son Matt and his wife Elisabeth in Orange County, California, where we took care of their dogs while they were on vacation.  Matt continues to teach high school English and is now also writing and recording rap!  While in California. I had the chance to fly up to Yountville in the wine country to spend a couple days with Patty Reis in her new home there. And Gene and I had dinner one evening with Jeanne Field and her husband John Binder who live in wonderful house at the top of canyon in LA.  Loved both visits – a real treat to be able to spend time with people you have known for so long. 

 

In early March, we ripped to and from Madison every other day to watch our Memorial High School Freshman granddaughter – a goalie – play in the girls' state ice hockey tournament. They made it to the state championship, but lost 5 – 3.  Our grandson, Calvin, graduated (in a virtual ceremony) from West High this spring, which made us very proud since school does not come not easy for him. He has enrolled in Madison’s community college, but with classes scheduled to be virtual, he may choose to sit out the year and wait until next year to start. 

 

Since our last reunion, Gene and I have sold our house and moved to a condo.  It is very convenient living and with 1720 sq ft, we are not cramped. It was a good move for us, but we miss our deck (have two balconies, but they are only 4’ so not big enough to entertain) and, even though we are right next door, moving out of Oak Park after 50+ years and all of our civic and political activities there, it was hard. 

 

We go out for walks and to go the grocery store every 7 - 10 days.  Since late May/June, we have been seeing a few friends, staying outside, wearing masks and social distancing.  Our first meal out was a breakfast in the converted parking lot of a cafe -- I felt as though I was in Paris!  Made me realize how frustrating it has been being cooped up. We had thoughts of a trip to Alaska with another couple, but that got shelved.  

 

While this pandemic is frightening and causes us worry, mostly we are good and doing very well.  We are worried for our friends and loved ones and hope that they – and all of you – stay healthy.  Stay safe.  Wear your mask!