Biography of Anne

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Anne was born in 1947 in New York City from where she was adopted at the tender age of 1 month by her parents, Charles and Alice Vaccaro, when they lived in Tuckahoe, NY. Anne was their only child. She had a happy childhood in Ambler, PA north of Philadelphia. Some of her early reflections include attending nursery school with Helena Manley, an Ambler woman who had flower and vegetable gardens, and who helped instill an appreciation for all things nature that Anne had for the rest of her life.

Anne didn't have a lot of playmates growing up, because there were few children in the neighborhood. The family had a cocker spaniel named Buffy of which all family members were fond. 

Anne's father Chuck was a self-taught electrical whiz and electrical engineer, who earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at LaSalle U as an adult, after Anne had earned her bachelor's degree. Chuck built from scratch the first short-wave radio in Syracuse in the 1920s. Chuck also built a color TV in the early 1950s that was operational just before the first commercially available color TV. 

Anne's mother Alice was a stay-at-home mother. She was a voracious reader, and had a wry sense of humor. This was a household where the parents' election voting usually cancelled each other, Chuck being of a more conservative bent, and Alice being liberal. Alice was an early consumer of vitamin supplements. The two were physically an interesting contrast. Chuck was shorter than Alice, who was tall and stately. Apparently, Chuck and Alice played golf and bowled recreationally, although they had stopped by the time I joined the family in 1977.  

Annual vacations were taken at Blue Mountain Lake, NY, staying at The Steamboat Landing, in the same suite where Anne and Dave have stayed for the summer through September 15 beginning in 2002. At about the age of 11, Anne noticed all the fish swimming around the dock at Steamboat, and spearheaded the initial efforts to catch them. In short order, Anne's electrical engineer father applied science to fishing. Once he started fishing in about 1960, Chuck fished morning, afternoon, and evening until dark, stopping only for lunch and dinner. He kept meticulous records in notebooks and on blank dining room place mats of the lake. Data included water and air temperature, sky condition, wind direction and speed, and the location of each nibble, strike, and catch. Chuck would begin each summer's lake sojourn by trolling all shores of all 3 lakes, and then would return to the hot spots to concentrate on serious catching. Although he loved to fish, Chuck quickly lost any interest in eating the fish he caught. Thus, the family became early practitioners of catch and release. 

Anne attended parochial schools for her preparatory education, and then spent two years at a Catholic girls’ college in the Philadelphia area. During this time, Anne discovered her love of the arts and lamented the grinder of liberal studies she was engaged in and the lack of art exposure. In a spring 1966 meeting with the head of the school and her parents, Anne was told she could not necessarily expect a much stronger emphasis on visual and performing arts in her last 2 years at the school. In her typically assertive fashion, she declared she wanted to transfer and was supported by her parents in her decision.

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Anne selected Beaver College in Glenside, PA, a women’s college, now Arcadia University and coeducational, based on its offerings in fine art and theater. She was energized and challenged her studies with art professors Dean Gillette and Benton Spruance and in working on theater productions. Although she lived at home and commuted, Anne spent many nights crashing in friends’ dorm rooms as she worked tirelessly on not only art work and classes but also theater productions, in which she assumed many functions, acting, directing, set work, etc. Anne graduated from Beaver in 1969 with a BFA in painting and printmaking and a minor in theater.

Anne was awarded a Vira Heinz scholarship for international study between her junior and senior years. The summer spent traveling in Italy endeared her to the country that is a font of art development and her ethnic heritage.

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Anne enrolled in the MFA progam at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, where she furthered her painting and printmaking skills and began to developed her signature abstract technique using acrylics sprayed with a power spray painter over sections masked with crumpled newspaper, confetti, wire, etc.

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Anne’s second year at Tyler was spent at their Rome, Italy campus, another immersion in Italy and a further refinement of her art. Following her graduation with an MFA from Tyler in 1971j, Anne enrolled in the MFA program in theater/directing at the University of Minnesota, where she spent 2 quarters.

Money and a lack of tolerance for cold led her to move to Atlanta to work for former professor Dean Gillette and his partner Jere’ Frutchey in their start up fine art gallery, Image South. Her daytime job allowed her to pursue creating large abstract paintings on canvas and some on paper using the masking and spray technique on horizonal canvas she had begun in graduate school.

Anne moved on to other jobs in import/export sales, bank teller, and managing a print gallery at a major department store in Atlanta. It was about this time that Anne met the love of her life, this writer, for whom Anne was the love of his life. Thus begins a somewaht more detailed narrative of Anne’s last 40 years.

Anne and I met early in the summer of 1977 at a Lake Lanier party coordinated by her one-time employers in import/export. Tim Roark, one owner of the company, had been a roommate of Dave in college. Although we were not immediately smitten, Anne and I were the last to leave the home of the hosts where the party originated and returned at the end of the day. Two memorable topics of our get-acquainted discussions involved Dave learning to his astonishment that Anne was a baseball fan, and that both had affection for Atlanta’s struggling Braves. Wow! An artist who was a sports fan. Upon learning Dave was trained in psychology, Anne asked him if psychologists struggled with the same kinds of personal problems as others did. Dave answered yes, although he didn’t disclose at the time that he was going through his second divorce by the age of 33. A week later, Dave surprised Anne by inviting her to an Emerson, Lake, and Palmer concert at The Omni, and she accepted. A dinner date the next night cemented love at second sight.

Beginning with a shared interest in the lovable albeit pathetic Atlanta Braves baseball teams of the late 70s and early 80s, sports became an enduring part of our relationship. Football season began in the August of that year. With her traditional 40 hour work week, Anne was up for social and recreational activities, particularly driving excursions on Sunday after she attended church. Unfortunately, Dave would respond with the concern that “there is a very important game on TV.” After a couple of weeks of thwarted field trips, Anne realized that almost every game, Saturday or Sunday, was “a very important game.” To her credit, she elected to learn about football and became smitten in short order with the athleticism and grace of the players, and the rules and strategy of the game. Anne loved her adopted pro football, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and took their inconsistent play and losses quite seriously.

I reciprocated by learning about this abstract, non-representational art thing which was Anne's specialty. I also framed her paintings from the get go. Later in our relationship, I would also reciprocate by taking up acting. That was sort of selfish, because I tired of spending 4 evenings a week by myself while Anne was directing. I quickly learned what a rush it was to be on stage and part of an acting community, and I also learned that I could memorize, something about which I had spent my whole life feeling inadequate. A key for me was rehearsing my lines aloud. 

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On into the fall, Dave took Anne to her first NHL hockey game of the Atlanta Flames at The Omni arena. Anne became just as smitten with the flow of a hockey game and the athleticism of its players. This highlights an interesting paradox. Although a placid and completely non-aggressive person, Anne loved football and hockey, as well as baseball and soon basketball.

Anne was a lover of movies, as well as all the more traditional performing arts. Among her favorite movies were the violent Terminator and Die Hard series, which fits with her tolerance of the violence in contact sports.

At the time we met, Dave was finishing up a 4-year teaching stint at Mercer University in Macon, GA. Shortly after the second date, Dave was invited to move in, along with his Great Dane named Gretchen and mixed breed named Brown Bear. The latter’s nickname became “cute little brown dog.” Although we had just met in June 1977, in August of 1977, Anne and I purchased an older house in the reviving Virginia Highland district of intown Atlanta. It was idyllic living intown in a neighborhood that was reclaimed from a planned 6-lane divided commuter road. We had a neighborhood grocery store, Superior Food, right down the street, and in short order, a hardware store to support the vibrant renovation going on in our house and many others in the neighborhood. Intown Hardware was actually the second hardware store in the VaHi neighborhood. Our favorite restaurant was The Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant within walking distance. Finger food, anyone? The community energy was palpable as yuppies retook a classy and classic intown neighborhood, one of many such neighborhoods saved from a downtown freeway in the 1970s in Atlanta. 

 Brown Bear at a Topsail, Island, NC, beach, circa 1980

Brown Bear at a Topsail, Island, NC, beach, circa 1980

Gretchen died in 1980, and Brown Bear lived for another 10 years. Anne segued into self-employment making paintings full-time, and Brown Bear became her constant companion as Anne worked out of a studio that was in the sleeping porch of our Atlanta house. Anne would escort Bear out of her studio when she sprayed a color, don her respirator, spray a color, exit the studio and take Bear for a fetch in the back yard or a walk on the street while the paint dried.

With her infinite patience, Anne was a much better dog trainer than Dave, in spite of his background in behavioral psychology and operant conditioning. She taught Bear to return to her periodically and on command as he ran ahead to peruse the “newspapers” along their walks. She taught him to sit and wait patiently at each street corner and to stay on the corner until Anne entered the road, looked both ways, and signaled Bear it was OK for him to cross.

Anne was in the forefront of the several upgrades we made to our house on Drewry Street in Atlanta. One major project was removing all the woodwork, which had been painted; pulling out the nails; and taking the wood to be stripped. Unfortunately, our taste in natural wood finish was not shared by the next owners, who had the woodwork painted again.

Anne saw the value in real estate and sweat equity, not only for our own house, but for rental property. Around 1986, we purchased a duplex for investment. There also, Anne spearheaded a major refurbishing of both units. This included removal of the woodwork and nails, and taking the woodwork to be stripped. The plaster walls had too many cracks, so Dave would hang drywall after work, and Anne would tape and mud it the next day. We also worked side by side to install new kitchen cabinets and new shower surrounds. To her credit, Anne wanted to acquire a second duplex but Dave couldn’t muster the energy to follow through.

Anne also horsed one of those big, heavy drum sanders and stripped the floors in our residence and in the duplex. I was so impressed and proud of her. The only down side was that she couldn't loosen and tighten the screws that held the sandpaper on the drum. 

There were other aspects of living in a reviving intown neighborhood that were so much fun. We made friends and enjoyed the spring and fall colors of well establishes azaleas, camellias, and dogwoods. One friendship has endured for 4 decades. One of Dave’s co-workers at the Georgia Retardation Center, Pat Penn, quickly became Anne’s friend. Pat and Anne bonded over their shared horticulture interests and their liberal, witty, and cynical world views. Within a couple of years, Michael Milan, a faculty member at Georgia State University, became Dave's friend first, then Anne's and Pat's. Pat and Michael have been an item almost as long as Anne and I and we love to hang together as a foursome. 

The retardation center where Dave worked was collegial, and almost everyone in the professional services section socialized together, at lunch, after work, and at parties at our house. Anne welcomed the opportunity to put on a major dine and wine for Dave’s associates a couple of times a year for the 10 years Dave worked at the facility.

With representation, marketing and contacts handled by Dean Gillette and Jere’ Frutchey of Image South Gallery in Atlanta, Anne’s gallery representation and painting placements skyrocketed in the 1980s. Anne was represented by Louise Peterson in Winter Park at Albertson-Peterson Gallery, and other galleries in Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. She was able to paint full-time and make a good living, a goal to which most artists aspire.

Unfortunately, two sea changes undermined Anne’s continued success as a painter. First, the implementation of “trickle down” economics in the 1980s didn't trickle, and as part of that failure, sales of Anne’s art work dwindled. The second change was when Gillette and Frutchey moved to Albuquerque, NM in 1986 and discontinued their active promotion of Anne and other artists who had been handled by Image South in Atlanta.

Anne and I sponsored a young man who was living at the facility for people with developmental disabilities where I worked, which involved bringing the person home for weekend visits on a regular basis. One of Anne’s activities with this person was to make paper mache’ masks using the simple tools of an inflated balloon, and strips of newsprint glued with oat paste, with the egg cups of paper egg cartons used for the eye sockets and the nose. Seeing an art opportunity for herself, Anne turned to building her own sculptural masks. She produced three series of six masks based on themes of space creatures, sea creatures inspired by Jimmy Buffett songs, and Native Americans.   

Anne had not been very far west in the US when we met, with Pittsburgh and Minneapolis being her western-most travel. Early on in 1977, Anne accompanied Dave to San Diego, where he had attended graduate school, and we had several return drives to and from California, trips to and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and driving around the southwest whereby Anne could experience the wide open spaces, and the impressive mountains. She came to appreciate the beauty of the different deserts, which many easterners never experience or appreciate. She shared Dave's interest in indigenous people's cultures and heritage. 

 Anne in Sedona, Az

Anne in Sedona, Az

After it became clear in the late 1980s that Anne’s sometime robust painting career was not going to support her any more, she went to work first as a sales clerk at the hardware store up the street. Then she began teaching as an adjunct faculty member for a local community college, DeKalb Community College, in 1992. She also served as stage manager for a play and was in line to direct the next semester’s play, when a life changing job was offered to her.

Anne was hired by Edison Community College in January 1995 to teach art, and coordinate the program and the adjuncts teaching in it. She attacked her full-time teaching and administrative duties with the same high energy and pleasant assertiveness for which we know her. She was highly popular as a teacher, and a collegial mentor for her adjuncts. She saw an opening for a commercial art program, which she implemented within 2 years of arriving, and this led to hiring of a second faculty member in art.

Anne also revived Edison’s lagging theater program and increased offerings to a mainstage production each semester, as well as children’s theater productions at least once a year. She quickly made a Shakespeare play the spring offering, for a total of over 12 runs of Shakespeare alone over 13 years. She literally brought Shakespeare to life and to the hearts of audiences in west central Ohio. The other semester featured plays like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Importance of Being Earnest, Harvey, and special holiday offerings.

Edison Stagelights Players was a college-based, community theater program. Participants in performances included students from Edison and community schools, Edison faculty and other staff, as well as adults who may not have any direct connection with Edison. 

All Shakespeare runs and most of the non-Shakespeare ones included daytime performances for schools in the region. Those 2 to 4 daytime performances were usually sold out, with some having standing room only, a situation that had the head of maintenance dreading a surprise appearance of a fire marshal. I can remember 5th and 6th graders sitting transfixed in the front row of one Macbeth performance. Anne coordinated those daytime performances with local English teachers and prepared background reading about the plots and the historical period. Well over ten thousand school students, as well as a comparable number of adults, attended plays at Edison during Anne's 18 years of directing and producing plays. 

Anne invested herself in all aspects of directing and producing each play run. She designed sets and costumes and oversaw their construction (seamstress was not her strong suit), chose sound and light presentations, and vetted the cues for sound and lights. It was not unusual for her to run sound or lights when someone had a last minute conflict, or if there was not a person for the whole production run.

Anne had a cadre of devoted art and theater students, many with their feet in both of those arts, and some of whom served as her work study assistants. They were her “groupies.” Although most community college students come for their classes and don’t spend any discretionary time on campus, Anne’s students distinguished themselves by their on-campus presence far beyond the classes they were taking. There was often a crowd outside and inside her office. Although she never had any children of her own, Anne considered her students her “children,” for a semester or more, and some became friends for a lifetime.

Anne was able to create costumes for productions featuring as many as 30 performers on a limited budget. She did this by shopping at thrift stores and recruiting skilled seamstresses. Outings to thrift stores in Dayton featured 4 to 6 of her work study students, many of whom were also in the plays, and were day long social and recreational happenings. Costumes were colorful and accurate to the fashion of the period of the show.

Looking ahead in 2000 toward retirement, Dave opined that he had spent the last 37 years living back east (Macon, GA, Atlanta and Piqua, OH), and he would like to have some time in the wide open spaces that he came to love in Arizona and California. Flagstaff, AZ was nominated, and we were headed for Flag in August 2000 at the end of 6 weeks sort of checking out other locations in the west. However, passing through Sedona on the way up Oak Creek Canyon to Flag, Anne was awed by Sedona's red rocks and stated "I could live here." This classic case of red rock fever was cured by closing on a house within 30 days. After several renters and cycles of renovation, we took occupancy of our house in 2009. 

Our budget held up after the Sedona project, so we began looking at property at Blue Mountain Lake, NY. After unsuccessful attempts to purchase existing lakefront properties, we purchased a lot in The Woodlands, a development on a ridge overlooking the lake; the development had 250 feet of shared lakefront beach, dock, rest room, and racks for kayaks, etc. We had a new house constructed in 2005, and invested our own work in finishing about half the house. Anne's eye for design and her building skills enhanced the property with birch bark on the kitchen cabinets, several pieces of furniture, and stone work on the fireplace, not to mention the acquisition of "stuff." 

Her retirement from Edison in 2009 led to a hiatus of directing, and then Anne resumed directing in the Adirondacks in 2014. For the Our Town Theater Group out of North Creek, NY, she directed and produced a weekend run of Dracula, which was heavily attended and enthusiastically received. Following that she directed for the same company a single, successful readers theater performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, which featured full costumes and staging. In summer 2017, Anne abridged The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed and produced it, and played Mistress Quickly for the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Performances in 8 different towns were well received, with the audience at Tupper Lake being particularly large and enthusiastic. Anne was scheduled to do the same in 2018 with the play Much Ado About Nothing. 

 Blue Mountain Lake

Blue Mountain Lake