Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Remembering Alice Anne, 1926-2004

April 22, 2004

Last week was just one of those around Baldwin City that are best forgotten. First was the terrible news that Alice Anne Callahan-Russell had died on Monday. The next day was the tragic accident on U.S. Highway 56 that killed Shawn Trager, a 19-year-old freshman at Baker.

It was an especially tough week for Baker's campus community. But it was rough on the Baldwin community, too. Alice Anne was one of those people who truly brought both of those communities together.

She will be terribly missed.

It's hard to say how many lives Alice Anne touched during her 78 years, but there were many. She graduated from Baker in 1948 and readily admitted that Baker was her life.

She was an inspirational teacher and worked tirelessly in her trade. She taught at Baker from 1953 to 1989. She was inducted into the Teachers Hall of Fame in the 1990s. After her retirement, she oversaw the Artist and Lecture Series sponsored by Baker.

That's how I got to know Alice Anne best. When the Signal was started in 1999, she was the one to bring in the information about the series. She always had a smile on her face and eager to talk. I enjoyed that greatly.

In fact, it was Alice Anne, along with her sisters, Mary Jane Chubb and Charlene Potter, who graced the front page of Signal's first-ever issue on March 3, 1999. It was a delightful story about how the three of them had come to Baldwin and never left.

Also that same year, she and her husband, Tom Russell, were named as Grand Marshals of the Maple Leaf Festival. It was a fitting tribute to the couple who fostered the relationship between Baker and Baldwin.

That was evident by the turnout of around 500 people for Alice Anne's funeral Sunday at the First United Methodist Church. Many people have commented about the service and what it meant.

But Peggy Harris, a professor of education at Baker who has also been active in the community, might have summed it up best.

"Several people spoke at the funeral -- (the Rev.) Ira DeSpain, (Baker president) Dan Lambert, Bob Miller and Ken Snow -- and the message that come through over and over was what a wonderful teacher Alice was and how she was able to open students' eyes and ears to the beauty of art and music," said Harris. "I found myself thinking of a quote by Pablo Picasso, 'Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.'

"I believe Alice was able to help people experience joy through the arts," she said. "On a more personal note, I've always felt that Alice and I had a special bond. I really thought of her as my early mentor at Baker and I love her.

"But, as I sat at the funeral and looked around, I realized that everyone there felt a special bond with Alice. That was her gift. She was a role model for women, an accomplished musician, a wonderful teacher and a person with a loving and giving soul. She will be missed by many," said Harris.

Yes, Alice Anne will be missed by many. That's because she touched the lives of so many. Anyone that knew her, will miss her. Count me among them.

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