By Joe Rector

I received news a few days ago that Ann Mier passed. Just today, I learned that her family wanted me to serve as a pall bearer, but I was in Nashville for my wife’s surgery and missed any communications that came to me via social media. To me, she was a wonderful woman who helped my brother Jim and me to grow up as better persons than we might otherwise have been.

Ann and her husband Gordon moved into the house directly across from ours when we were just boys. They were short people; Gordon towered over his wife but stood no more than five and a half feet. Ann could only dream of reaching a height of sixty inches.

After a while, Jim and I warmed up to the Miers. They’d moved into the Brazier house, and we missed that family so much that accepting anyone else was difficult. Ann came across the road to sit in our kitchen with my mother. They’d talk, laugh, and share recipes and plants.

Our neighbor was a worker. It wasn’t unusual to see her marching into briar and honeysuckle patches with a rake, hoe, and axe, all with short handles. She’d tackle those scraggly growths and clear them with precision.

Ann is the first person to teach me how to paint. On one occasion, I visited, and she placed a brush in my hand and instructed me on the best way to hold it and how to paint around window frames without dripping globs on the floor or smearing the glass. I always appreciated the way her trust gave me the opportunity to learn.

The Miers had no children when they moved in, a fact that disappointed Jim and me. However, after a few years, they adopted two brothers. Instantly, going across the road meant playing with Mike and Chuck. We shot basketball, rode bikes, and played board games. Gordon, Ann, and the boys constructed a building behind the house and placed a pool table in it. Some shots were a bit tight, but we boys played hundreds of games in the cold and heat.

Ann served a four-year hitch in the Army and shipped out to Japan. That experience reinforced her work ethic, and she was hell-bent on passing it on to her sons. The most dreaded words for the boys were, “You have chores to do.” That meant play time was over for us all.

Ann was the first woman I ever saw smoke a pipe. She and Gordon would sit on the screened porch and puff away. At some point she traded in the pipe for cigarettes. Many times she and Mother fogged up our kitchen as they smoked and drank coffee.

A motorcycle accident severely injured Chuck when he was still a boy. After a long stay in the hospital, he returned home, and there Ann took care of him. She learned the physical therapy exercises and then put her son’s body through the daily regimen. Even though she was a small woman, Ann displayed almost super-human strength as she helped Chuck in and out of his bed and balanced him while he did exercises while standing on crutches.

Years ago, Gordon died from a rare blood disease. To the surprise of everyone, Ann seemed to wilt. This woman who seemed so strong in mind and body and determination lost her rudder, and without her husband, she seemed beyond lonely. For the remainder of her life, she resided in a place close to Chuck and didn’t go out much at all.

I’ve missed the Ann Mier of years ago for a long time. I also miss the orange glaze cake that she sent across the road every Christmas. I know she’s now happy with Gordon once again. The woman was an inspiration to those who knew her and for a fortunate few, Ann Mier was the epitome of a good neighbor. Bless her.