Thanksgiving

November 17, 2022

Dear St. Anne’s Families, 


Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. I get to sleep in a little, ride my bike in the cool air, eat delicious food, nap, watch sports, and play with my kids all day. . . and that is what you’re supposed to do? Sign me up! Yet, the reality is it is more than just a day to over-eat.


As I drove west on Hampden this morning, I saw mountains with morning sunshine blazing upon them. I thought to myself, Wow, I get to see this every day and work in a school where I can,hopefully, positively impact the lives of so many. My children spend some of their most formative years on top of that hill. A tremendous wave of gratitude came over me. 


During the all-school chapel last week, I spoke with the school community about gratitude and how gratitude is more than just saying thank you for something that someone gives you. It is a mindset that even when we have tough days, weeks, or even years, we have much to be thankful for. Having a home to go to with people who love and care for you is more than so many have in our world, country, state, and city.


Did you know it is scientifically proven that gratitude will make you happier? How? By actively thinking about the things for which you are grateful, you are actively thinking about the things that make you happy. In turn, this act makes you feel happy.


My college lacrosse coach, a member of the Mohawk Nation, used to say to us during early morning practice, “What are you upset about? You woke up today. You’re healthy today. You are living your life today. Be grateful for it.” I used to roll my eyes every time he said that, but now, I get it. I asked the students to write a note to someone about something they are grateful for and either give it to that person or post it in their locker or at home as a reminder to be grateful. I plan on doing the same myself. 


No matter one's faith tradition or other beliefs, I believe gratitude is a big piece of any core value. As we head into the holiday season and I come to know and understand more about this school community and its students, teachers, and parents, I have a tremendous sense of faith in St. Anne’s to know we are all here for the right reasons and will continue to grow our children together as a community. For that, I am grateful.


Have a wonderful and grateful Thanksgiving.


Go Cyclones!


Chris

 

St. Anne’s was originally started by three Episcopalian nuns as a convalescent home. In the 1940’s, the polio epidemic spread across the United States and killed thousands of children each summer, and paralyzed many more. St. Anne’s saw a need to help polio children and became a home for them. The Sisters treated the patients and employed rehabilitation practices. But why does that mean so much to me?

Far away in Chicago, my dad, Robert Provan, was one of those children among the thousands who had caught the polio virus. He was diagnosed with the worst type of polio at age 5. The virus affected his entire body, and he was paralyzed from the neck down. My grandparents tried a couple of specialists to no avail. In fact, they were told to institutionalize him, a common practice during this time. They were told, “He is a burden to the family, and he belongs in an institute. Just let him die.” Luckily, my grandparents searched even harder for someone to take on my father’s care, and they found Dr. Charles Pease at Chicago Children’s Memorial (now known as Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital). My father’s condition was grim, but Dr. Pease believed in an approach that had zero tolerance for coddling. His goal for my dad was to make him independent, self-reliant, and gain the ability to walk again. So, the surgeries began.

For five years, my dad fought the disease's effects. Dr. Pease did some incredible things. He was able to perform surgeries to help my dad. He used a muscle from my dad’s leg to pull his ribcage into alignment so he could breathe. He gained the ability to move, but then he lost ability in his left foot. So Dr. Pease transplanted muscles from his foot and ankle. His right leg was shorter than his left, so to stimulate growth, he grafted a piece of ivory to the bone. Closing in on age 10, the doctors were very concerned about my dad’s survival. They had given him only a year or two to live, even after all of the treatment. Dr. Pease discussed a risky operation in which he intended to fuse most of my dad’s vertebrae in order to secure his spine. After my grandparents approved of the operation, Dr. Pease asked my dad for his permission. He told my dad there was a 50/50 chance that the procedure would fail and kill him. My dad agreed, knowing at age 10, that he may never make it off the operating table. During the operation, my dad flatlined for a few minutes. They brought him back, and then finally, a breakthrough as the surgery was successful.

Dr. Pease didn’t stop innovative treatment until the day my dad walked out of the hospital. My dad lived an exceptionally successful life. He became General Counsel of Stephen F Austin University, then General Counsel of the Texas State System, and an Assistant Attorney General of Texas. He eventually opened his own law firm in order to defend disabled patients and their doctors. He was the first lawyer to sue HMOs for denying care to sick patients in order to make a profit, and he won. That case changed the way insurance companies managed their enrollees and saved hundreds, possibly thousands of lives.

 

Today, his legacy lives on. His winning case is now studied at law schools, including Harvard Law School. He was featured on the cover of Wall Street Journal and Austin American Statesman. A mini-documentary aired on A&E’s Investigative Reports about the case. Today, in Pflugerville, Texas, a school, Provan Opportunity Center, operates to serve children who need social, emotional, and academic support.

In his 40s, my dad was diagnosed with postpolio syndrome, disabling signs and symptoms that appear decades after the initial polio illness. That placed a long-term strain on his physical resilience and his battle to deal with the effects of polio as well as the strain of the law case. At age 61, he died from pulmonary complications, an effect of post-polio, in July of 2006. He is buried under a large oak tree at Lindale City Cemetery.

When I walk around the stunningly beautiful campus of St. Anne’s, I am not only overcome by the elegance of the grounds but also taken away by the history of my work home. To know that I work for a school where nuns selflessly took care of children just like my father is the greatest honor to be a part of. When I see the sign in the museum that says, “There were 80 polio-stricken children who were carried into St. Anne’s. All but one walked out,” I know the power behind those words. I know what walking out truly meant. I know the love and care breathed into the fiber of this school. I know the sacrifice they gave. I know how resilient they must have been. I am honored to be a part of this institution and be employed as the storyteller of this school. 

My dad often said, “We are made to care for one another. We fill our lives with meaning by caring for someone else. Love until it hurts.” While he never knew the nuns, I am certain they lived those words too. Let us not forget the history of St. Anne’s, the gravity of what the nuns did, and the love they gave. I know I won’t.

 

Lauren Kenney Berv’s (2002) best friend was her grandmother Laurene Kenney. She had four children, a few great grandchildren, and a lot of people who cared for and loved her. But when Lauren’s grandmother moved into assisted living, it became a part-time job for Lauren to care for her and help her create a brand-new way of life. She moved from living with one of her children to eating with strangers. Lauren wanted to help her grandmother preserve her core sense of self and find purpose in this new life. As a result, Lauren went through her grandmother’s clothes to create a more functional wardrobe, had her wedding ring resized, did some personalized shopping, and problem-solved around what to keep, what to put in storage, and what to give away. She helped schedule appointments, provide for transportation, and managed her grandmother’s personal calendar. Lauren also helped organize her new living space and even queued up movies and TV shows to watch, all to bring the comforts of home to her assisted living facility and make the transition easier.

As a result of this experience, Lauren is now starting her own business – a personalized concierge service for seniors called Brighter Daily Living. Her overall intent is to support thriving relationships, help seniors make connections, and live their best lives. Lauren was inspired to start the business not only from her experience with her grandmother but also from being a new parent during Covid and feeling isolated and alone. She feels those in assisted living facilities can feel like they’re in solitary confinement and wants to make things better for them.

Lauren’s grandmother passed away about six years ago; but her daughter Stella will be two years old in June. Lauren is currently studying to be a Certified Senior Advisor to help with end-of-life care and the journey of aging. Although she misses her grandmother every day, she celebrates the good life she lived and the friendship they shared to the end.

Elizabeth (Buffy) Fisher ’82 was the first student to go through St. Anne’s from preschool through 8th grade; she was also one of our first May Queens. When her parents considered where to send their only child, they wanted something within walking distance of their home. And during her time here, St. Anne’s became a second home for Buffy. She is still an active member of our community today as an alumni board member, having served for at least ten years.  We’d also like to congratulate Buffy as our newly appointed Alumni Board President.

 

After St. Anne’s, Buffy went on to Kent Denver and then to the University of Denver. She currently works for The Empowerment Program, a nonprofit organization based in Denver, whose mission is to “holistically help individuals build healthier lives from the inside out.” Buffy is also working to become a benefit auctioneer. And she sees her parents often, who still live just a short walking distance from school. 

Caroline Coors ’20 is a sophomore at the Cate School in California. Last summer, she interned at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation in Denver, working with kids of all ages who have Down Syndrome. At the end of the summer, she wanted to create an unstructured program for those same individuals to help with socialization. After working in partnership with the Foundation and its CEO, Caroline developed a six-week program that will launch this summer to engage a group of self-advocates and teen volunteers from local Denver high schools. They will have five different outings once a week throughout the summer, an education session, and an end-of-season party. Her goal is to encourage lasting relationships and create an environment where teens can learn about Down Syndrome. Caroline saw how Covid negatively impacted teens and those with Down Syndrome in particular and wanted to do something about it.  Inspired by her aunt who is a social worker, Caroline’s ultimate goal is to start her own Occupational Therapy practice for children with special needs. If any St. Anne’s alums in high school are interested in participating in Caroline’s summer program, send an email to [email protected].

Kathie de Russy looks back on her time at St. Anne’s fondly. She still loves each and every one of her students, the faculty, and the grounds. She remembers the Sisters filling jars with their crabapple jelly during the summer and also wine, which a parent tried to sell (it was called “The Cloisters” but never took off). She remembers the delicious smell of her initial third-grade classroom, since it sat right above the kitchen during the early years.  Her favorite traditions were May Day, Founders’ Day, and the first day of school. She also loved being able to get to know Mother Irene, who taught her a multitude of life lessons she’ll never forget.

 

Kathie joined St. Anne’s alongside Marcia Brennan and Dave Vander Meulen in 1976, starting out as an art and P.E. teacher before moving into the third grade with Laura Underwood and then Kim Grant. Following third grade, she moved to teaching Lower School Science for a number of years. Her tenure encompassed five heads of school (Mitch Walker, Richard Wood, John Comfort, Ramsay Stabler, and Alan Smiley). She eventually moved into the library as an assistant and led our extended day program.

 

When she wasn’t teaching, Kathie worked at Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora, CO, as a paramedic park ranger. She also taught first aid and CPR classes in all the state parks. After teaching for 34 years at St. Anne’s, Kathie left to complete her required years toward retirement as a park ranger. She also became a docent at Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Aurora, CO.

 

Currently, Kathie lives on Ft. Monroe in Virginia, tutoring online while sitting at a desk used by Sister Geraldine, the bookkeeper for the Sisters. Her family had a strong military presence; her grandfather was Commander of the Islands for years, stationed at Fort De Russy in Hawai'i. Her father, a career Air Force officer, was stationed all over the world.  Kathie’s Corps of Engineers ancestor, BGEN Rene de Russy, guided the construction of Fort Monroe, Virginia, in 1819. Kathie is now a volunteer at the Casemate Museum on Fort Monroe and is passionate about photography. She says she wouldn’t trade her years at St. Anne’s for anything. 

Even as a double major in Spanish and statistics and a certificate in film from Duke University, Devin Cross ’05 always knew he wanted to be a writer. Trivia-minded, Devin is currently on a multi-year streak of completing the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. And he and his wife Aubree used to love going to The Irish Snug on Colfax to participate in a weekly trivia night. When the pandemic hit, they decided to host their own online trivia events because they couldn’t go in person. For their first trivia -turned-Zoom game, 120 people showed up. About three to four weeks in, a friend in New York City asked Devin to host a trivia night for her company to assist with team building. And that’s how Social Quiztancing started. He and Aubree formed an LLC in June of 2020 and since then, they’ve worked with companies such as Facebook, Google, and the New York Times to host online trivia games, uniting work forces who can’t be together in person. Devin credits his love of learning to St. Anne’s and is putting that to good use – he creates all of the trivia questions himself and is hosting 3-4 games a week. Here’s a sample question: In a standard-Q-&-A-trivia round for dog lovers where each correct answer contains a dog breed, an abridged example might be: Q: Which ship is associated with Charles Darwin? A: The HMS Beagle.

 

When he’s not “Quiztancing”, you’ll find him reading, sometimes at BookBar on Tennyson Street, his preferred local bookstore. A few of his favorite authors include Colson Whitehead, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Adam Haslett. He recently applied to graduate school for an MFA in creative writing, working towards his goal of becoming a literary fiction writer (he’s already written a few novels). But he still hopes to maintain the Social Quiztancing business. Thank you, Devin (and Aubree) for hosting an alumni quiz night last week. We can't wait to see what Devin does next!

Alums Allie Eliot '09 and Bill Whitacker '98 have been working closely together for months in the Denver Lieutenant Governor's office - Bill was recently hired as Deputy Chief of Staff and Allie is the Press and Community Engagement Coordinator. They bonded over their shared love of St. Anne's. Bill is also married to St. Anne's classmate Sarah McCune '98 (they met in 3rd grade). Check out the articles Ali and Bill wrote for our St. Anne's Magazine through the link in our bio. This community stays strongly connected years after graduating!
When he first added a large chunk of a charred aspen wood disc into a mason jar of rye whiskey in the fall of 2010, it was just an experiment. But when Owen Locke ’95 tried the whiskey months later, it tasted really good. Welcome Locke + Co. Aspen Aged Rye Whiskey, launched in 2016 with his best friend Rick Talley. Owen is a sixth generation Coloradan and his four times great grandparents (Luis F Bartels) owned Denver’s first liquor store downtown. Rick and Owen have known each other since high school in Littleton and reconnected when they were both at graduate school at the University of Denver. Since launching Locke + Co., Owen has perfected the whiskey’s taste. It spends two years in oak barrels and then eight months with a piece of hand cut/hand charred aspen wood disc. The wood comes from family property in Fairplay. After sustainably cutting down an aspen tree, Rick and Owen let the wood “season” for 12 months, then sand off the bark before they hand char each piece. And that’s where the magic happens. Charring the aspen wood caramelizes the sugars in the whiskey and helps to bring out its best flavors while making it super smooth. Owen hopes to continue growing the company, releasing single barrel unfiltered rye whiskey, selling in new markets outside of Colorado, opening their own facility for production, and collaborating on special releases. A truly Coloradan born and bred whiskey.
When she’s not working as a mechanical engineer for Siemens Energy in Fort Collins, Emily Lane ’07 is swimming, usually in the early morning hours. She finds it therapeutic and meditative. From a young age, Emily took an interest in the sport and swam competitively at Smith College. She discovered the world of open water swimming after two of her college teammates completed solo Channel crossings the summer before her freshman year. Since then, Emily has swum a 10K in the Hudson River in Manhattan (it’s a lot cleaner than you think), completed the 11-mile Portland Bridge Swim in the Willamette River, swum in several competitions in Fort Collins, and most recently, swam the English Channel as part of a seven-person relay. She and team started at 6:30pm in the evening and finished just shy of 12 hours later. She’s used to swimming in the dark and in cold water; for the English Channel, it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. She was only allowed to wear a standard swimsuit (nothing beyond the shoulders or knees). And there were jellyfish. But she loved every minute of it. Eventually, Emily would love to complete the “Triple Crown” of open water swims: Manhattan Island (28 miles); Catalina Channel (20 miles) and the English Channel (21 miles) all as a solo swimmer. Her next adventure? She has tentative plans to swim the length of Lake Tahoe this summer. Best of luck to you, Emily!