March 8th is International Women’s Day. Since 1911 this annual event has celebrated women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. Women’s groups from all around the world, take part in thousands of diverse events to commermorate IWD.
It is not only a time to reflect and look to the future, but also a time to encourage and uplift each other. For me, Anna K. Storgaard, a university professor turned life-long friend, was a woman who exemplified encouragement and support.
She cheered me on, no matter where I was, or what I was doing in my life. I think of her often, and am grateful for the positive influence she had on my life.
The following tribute was written in 2010 for the Brucedale Press Acrostic Contest. The judge commented, “A sense of quiet dignity and restrained mourning characterizes this third-place story.”
Adored by many who visited her garden, Anna’s poppies now grace my flowerbed. Because I had admired them on my last visit, she insisted I dig some up to take home.
Care had to be taken, as late June is far from ideal for transplanting perennials. Dedicated gardeners would have shuddered as I dug in the late afternoon heat, but I am thankful I did not pass on the opportunity. Every year when they bloom I am reminded of my friendship with Anna.
For twenty-two years after my university graduation we kept in touch, mostly through Christmas cards and letters. Giving her annual updates on jobs, family and friends always resulted in enthusiastic and encouraging responses.
Having been a professor for over thirty years, she deeply touched the lives of many with her avocation for nurturing. I feel fortunate to have known her, been accepted as I was, and forever cheered on as I made my way in life.
Jovial in nature, she seemed to appreciate my quirky sense of humour. Kindred spirits, some would say. Laughter was always welcome in her classroom making the lessons learned enjoyable and memorable.
Modest through and through, Anna would have been uncomfortable with the many accolades expressed at her memorial service. No one was prepared to lose this remarkable spirit who embraced life with humour, curiosity, determination and dedication. One person can indeed make a difference as our dear Anna so aptly proved.
People of all ages and from all walks of life benefited from knowing her, whether as a teacher, colleague, neighbour, community member or friend. Quietly she slipped away from us but forever she will hold a special place in our hearts.
Recalling memories of Anna in her flower garden that lovely June afternoon brings me comfort. She welcomed me to sit with her amongst the vibrant blooms, sip lemonade and reminisce of days gone by. Time passed quickly as we shared stories, laughed and talked of our passion for all things green and growing.
Undaunted by her macular degeneration, she continued to garden, coping with laughter when things went awry. Venturing into her garden late one day resulted in Anna falling bottom first into a hole intended for a new plant. Without hesitation she quipped, “If my neighbours hadn’t come to my rescue, I wonder if I would have bloomed before the first killing frost!” X-rays revealed no broken bones so all was well with the bonus being an entertaining story to share.
Years have now passed and I still miss Anna, especially when Christmas arrives and the first card I receive is not from her. Zestfully she lived her life and as I gaze at the brilliant blossoms dancing playfully in my garden, I remember her with admiration, fondness and a smile.
Anna Storgaard photo courtesy of University of Manitoba