by Henry Lane Hull
Nearly three decades ago, Anna May and Bob Haungs left the cold of upstate New York and moved to Weems. They first had experienced Virginia after World War II when Bob, known to all as “Hotsie,” was assigned here in the Army Air Corps. He had served as a captain during the war and shortly before its conclusion he and Anna May married in April 1945.
When nearing retirement they came to Virginia and found Weems, where they bought a wooded lot on a creek and began plans to build a home. When looking for a builder, their sons’ friend, Dan Domanowski, offered to come to Virginia to construct the home. He and his wife, Mickie, came and have stayed ever since. Today the house is as pristine as the day Dan turned the keys over to them.
Hotsie was gifted with numbers. He did his own taxes and was an excellent card player, in each game remembering every card that was played. He and Anna May became an integral part of the Northern Neck and together remained so until he died in 2007. Anna May stayed on in their home, continuing to host her famous dinners, entertaining family and friends, and tending to her fabulous collection of plants.
Dan reprised his contractor’s role some years ago and built a conservatory overlooking the water that became the new center of the house. At the side door each evening Anna May “hosted” a different bevy of guests in the form of local wildlife that came for their evening meal. Predominantly raccoons, the party often included a fox or two, all somewhat, but not totally, domesticated by her largesse.
Last Sunday, at the age of 93, to be with her family, Anna May returned to live with her son, Dan, in upstate New York. The void that she has left is both enormous and unique. Anna May has the ability to relate immediately and intently with people of all ages. She has numerous close friends, from youngsters in their teens and early 20s to senior citizens beyond her own age. As she prepared for the move many of them called to say goodbye and reminisce about what she and Hotsie have brought to the Northern Neck. The Elder B.E. referred to the Haungs as one of the most widely beloved Yankee couples ever to come to the Old Dominion.
The week prior to her departure, Anna May’s friend, Borja Astray Diez, arrived from Spain to spend his vacation with her. He first came to the Northern Neck seven years ago as a junior exchange student in high school. He met Anna May through his friends and has come for a visit every year thereafter.
This year he graduated from the Spanish Naval Academy and is now a lieutenant in the Spanish Navy awaiting deployment. During his student days at Lancaster High School, Borja, or as Anna May has dubbed him, “B,” was one of the stars of the soccer team. When he left he told Anna May that next year he wants to plan to visit Niagara Falls with her, as her new home is but a short hop away.
One of Anna May’s most remarkable traits is her memory. To say it is photographic would be inadequate in describing the precision with which she remembers details over the course of her nine-plus decades. She can recount conversations from long ago, review events that most have forgotten and discuss the past with the fluidity that most apply to the present.
My Good Wife has said that Anna May could write the book on how to age well. In that respect a few years ago she wrote interesting memoirs that she has shared with her family and friends. Irrespective of computers she has her own “social network,” one based on direct contact with those she encounters, devoid of any barriers and genuine in its entirety. She has cared for herself by eating well, remaining engaged in all aspects of life, doing for others every day and making the witness of her life a joy to everyone.
She has undertaken this new venture with hope and optimism, but then again that is how she has lived all her life. Bon Voyage, Anna May! May the unfolding new chapter be as bright, cheerful and rewarding as all the ones in your memoirs.