Stockbridge — At 4:30 a.m. on January 28, 2016, (Jo) Ann Fitzpatrick Brown died. It is a loss to friends, family, and an entire community.
In remembering her some wished to be identified, some did not, but all remembered her with affection and respect.
Hope Williams Ponsart wrote Ann a letter just before Christmas 2015. It was a thank you note really. It recounted events that happened more than forty years ago but never forgotten.
“I was eleven or twelve – that stupid awkward age.” Hope said. “Ann was so kind to me – so nice and caring – that she became my inspiration, my role model.”
It was 1972. Jack Fitzpatrick was running for the Massachusetts State Senate. (He lost to Andrea Nuciforo but won the following year in a special election). Select Board member Bob Williams was supporting Jack, and both men enlisted their daughters’ help.
The girls, Nancy, Ann, and Hope and many other Stockbridge children went door to door handing out campaign literature and paraphernalia.
“Watching her,” Hope goes on “I was inspired to break out of my shell, get out there and do stuff.”
Hope remembers Ann as beautiful, poised, easy to talk to with a lovely smile, and most of all, kind.
“After the election – win or lose — Nancy and Ann brought around home-made cookies to the houses of all the volunteers as a thank you.”
For the next four decades, whenever they saw each other, Hope was thrilled that, “Ann recognized me and always said hello.”
Hopes pauses and then adds, “I wanted to grow up to be just like her.”
Not many years later, Norman Rockwell got in touch with Ann and asked her to pose with John Hart. Rockwell had a commission and wanted to recreate the loving American family.
“Ann was seated in a winged back chair looking lovingly at the doll she was holding,” John recalls. “The doll represented the baby, Ann was the wife and mother and I was the husband and father,” Hart explains.
“I stood behind the chair looking down on them both as Louie took our picture – several pictures — for Norman to work from. That was it. We were each thanked and given a check for $100.”
Hart muses, and with regret adds, “Like an idiot I cashed the check.”
Jack and Jane bought the old firehouse, and in it, Ann opened her business “Gum Drop Square.” There she made her gingerbread recreations of buildings and people. Her recreation of the Red Lion Inn was taken out and displayed every Christmas. The gingerbread recreation was decorated with peppermint candies and gumdrops.
“Ann was always kind and soft spoken,” Hart says, “but she yelled at me when she was making the gingerbread Red Lion Inn and I kept picking off the gum drops and eating them.”
People who worked with Ann at Country Curtains remember her as exceptionally talented with impeccable taste.
“She designed so many things at Country Curtains – window treatments and accessories and other products.”
That talent extended to hotel management. Blantyre, one of the Berkshire Cottages, was in receivership, unsalable and crumbling. Under Ann’s guidance it went from disrepair to international luxury hotel. Ann oversaw the restoration, decoration, and management of Blantyre. It was granted membership as a Relais & Chateaux hotel. Relais & Chateaux is a distinction given the strict admission criteria. It identifies a hotel as among the best of luxury hotels worldwide. Many think Blantyre is the best of the best.
“She could guide, suggest, and correct so gently you would think it was your own idea,” a co-worker said.
“She was there for people,” one friend said.
“She was so generous,” a fellow board member recalls.
Some just remember simple acts of kindness.
When Bob Bartle’s dog Otto died, he was very sad.
“But,” he explains, “you cannot just walk in with good intentions and walk out with a dog. These days there is a complicated process before you can adopt a dog; it takes forms and criteria.”
Ann heard of his loss. As a fellow dog lover, she understood his grief. She was on the board of Sonsini Animal Shelter in Pittsfield.
“There was a litter of pups, and she stepped in and helped me get one.” Bartle recalls, “It was so kind.”
“Ann had friends across the spectrum. It didn’t matter if you were a laborer or a millionaire. If Ann liked you, you were her friend,” a close friend recalls.
The people all said so many nice things about Ann, all true, but from among the tributes, one stands out: Ann Fitzpatrick knew how to be a friend; a friend to individuals and to her community.