Editor’s note: The following is a remembrance of Agnes Hannley, a Star reader whom I wrote a column about in March 2018 after she sent me a note encouraging that “people go to visit those who live alone. A visit is much better than a store-bought gift.” She was right. — Sarah Garrecht Gassen, Opinion editor
Some weeks before she passed away in August at the age of 97, to, in her words, “ take the big trip,” Agnes Hannley was found studying the most popular books on how to be a better winning bridge player. Her study would hold her in good stead at a gathering of women who had been sharing their love of the game since 1948.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base had just reopened that year, and a number of families were just moving in and getting to know their neighbors. That naturally resulted in the loosely established DM Bridge Club. They weren’t able to play a rigidly defined schedule at that time because their husbands’ military assignments often took them abroad, causing interruptions in their schedule.
While the schedule was important to the group, the USAF did not consider bridge a national security priority. Agnes was one of the founders of the group, and she often reminded us that “ this was surely the longest active bridge club in the country — maybe in the world.”
When she wasn’t playing bridge, Agnes was a successful Realtor with Long Realty, where lore has it that she taught a young school teacher named Russell Long how to be a Realtor.
When she was ready to retire, and by then having eight children (three daughters predeceased her), she “ sold” her book of business to a newcomer on the scene, Rosey Koberlein. Actually, “sold” is a misnomer as she did it the only way she knew how — she gave her address book to Rosey, who is now CEO of Long Realty.
Having been a volunteer in many organizations anyway, Agnes’s retirement meant she could spend even more time helping others, from getting scholarships for promising young women from the P.E.O., to raising funds for the Assistance League and New Beginnings (which is now Our Family Services).
It didn’t stop there.
During the holiday season you would find her visiting businesses around town, selling poinsettias to help raise funds for New Beginnings. After several years of rapidly increasing sales, she was feted at the Ventana Canyon resort and named the Tucson “Poinsettia Queen.”
In her later years, she took a course in writing at the University of Arizona in order to “ better express myself.” After that, she wrote often, and she wrote well, often addressing the issues of the day.
In a letter to the Star, she encouraged folks in the community to take time to visit the elderly, particularly those who lived alone, as a way to volunteer. Not able to resist, she added a PS, with her solution to the “problems in Washington D.C.” Her solution was simply, “Tell all the men to keep their zippers zipped up.” Classic Agnes.
In a final request she asked that we pack a “wee dram of scotch and some playing cards” with her because she knew there would be “a long line at the Pearly Gates.”
She leaves a legacy of doing for others less fortunate, of requesting nothing from the Lord and thanking him for every blessing, of organizing voter registration — which she considered not only a right, but an obligation of all citizens — and seeking the good in those we might otherwise disagree with, so we might work together to solve society’s many challenges.
We could do well by following her example.