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Journal

March
4
2021

March 4, 2021

Mom's Obit - Long Version - Hard to sum up a long, wonderful life in a few short paragraphs...

Anne Traynor loved people—and people loved her. This trait defined her life from early childhood until her final moments, when she passed away peacefully on February 26th, 2021, at the age of eighty-six.

 

Born Anne Catherine McSweeney on April 18th, 1934, on the north side of Dublin, Anne was the oldest child of Stephen & Kathleen (Kirwan) McSweeney. When Anne was four, she and her sister Maeve caught pneumonia. Anne was taken to a sanitarium for several weeks and recovered. Maeve didn’t, and died at the age of three. This was the first of a number of profound tragedies that Anne experienced-- but each of them only made her more connected to people & more engaged in life.

 

Her brother Jim was born in 1939, and they were raised in a rowhouse on Iveragh Road. As a girl Anne was accepted as a Scholar at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and spent years training to be a concert pianist. Neighbors would stand outside at the gate to listen to her practice in the evenings. She gave up the piano when she turned 16, but maintained a lifelong love of music, which she passed on to several of her children.

 

After high school Anne landed a job at the Bank of Ireland, and became engaged to a kind, respectable young man at the bank. But one day another teller, Evelyn Traynor, introduced Anne to her cousin Michael, who’d moved to Dublin from Waterford to seek his fortune. Fun and romantic, with a bit of a wild side, Michael somehow convinced her to go on a date, and recited Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If” to her in a taxicab as he took her home. Anne always joked that she had no idea “he couldn’t afford to take a taxi anywhere” … but he did win her heart. They were married in 1955.

 

Anne loved her domestic life in Dublin, quickly giving birth to two sons, Joe and Steve, born just under a year apart. Her life with Michael was happy, but after his fledgling business failed, he was forced to leave Ireland to find work. They emigrated to the United States in 1958, and Mike was offered a job in Indianapolis, a city they’d never heard of, to work in the freezer of a Swift meat-packing facility. They knew no one, had no friends or family, and had to borrow the money for their fare, arriving in America with nothing but their two babies and a sixteen-year-old nanny, Betty Fitzgerald, who’d asked to come along with them.

 

As with most unexpected setbacks in her life Anne quickly made the most of it. She got a job in a local department store, while Mike was quickly promoted from the meat freezer to sales. Not long after their arrival they were blessed with their first daughter, Anne. They were able to pay for her birth expenses with a work “insurance policy”, which Mike was given in cash on the day she was born. Only years later did they realize it was actually a collection taken up anonymously by Mike’s co-workers— a perfect example of the spirit of generosity and community they experienced in America, which they came to share with many others over the years.

 

By 1964 their debts back home were paid, they’d purchased their first home, become American citizens and been blessed with three more children: Mike, Jr., Sue and Jenny. A seventh child, Paul, followed several years later. During this stretch Anne stayed home with the kids, while Mike began a new career, working as a sales manager for several housing developments as he learned the ropes of the real estate business.

 

By the late 1970’s Anne followed Michael into real estate, and worked for years as a successful agent, first for Ken Slack and then for FC Tucker. The collapse of the real estate market in the early 1980’s led to very difficult times, both personally and financially. Years of festive parties and drinking had metastasized into something more damaging, and Anne began another successful reinvention of herself by seeking help with alcohol addiction in 1982. Her worldview and spiritual life were greatly expanded by recovery, and she became an integral part of yet another loving community. Anne never took another drink.

 

Throughout these times one thing remained constant: Anne’s love for people, and her ability to touch lives. Many of her kids’ friends sought out help and comfort over the years, and she was always more than willing to set an extra place or two at the dinner table, especially around the holidays. When her sons Steve and Joe joined Ron Spencer to found Theatre on the Square in Indy’s Fountain Square neighborhood (with a strong assist from their father) Anne became a fixture of the Indy theatre scene, greeted with loving cries of “Mom!” from a wide range of characters, from all walks of life.

 

Despite her love for people there was one place where Anne always loved the solitude: her garden. In fact, Anne loved all gardens, and had a deep and abiding appreciation for flowers and nature. Perhaps it stemmed from being read her favorite book, “The Secret Garden”, as a child, during her convalescence and mourning of Maeve’s death. Whatever the reason Anne would happily dig and plant flowers for hours, and loved nothing more than to wander through Holcomb Gardens near her home on the canal, constantly watching for things to spring to life once more.

 

The early 90’s brought tremendous joy & tragedy to the family. Anne became a grandmother for the first time when her daughter Anne gave birth to three beautiful children within the span of two years. But while the youngest were still toddlers their mother’s chronic backpain was diagnosed as terminal cancer. The family rallied around her, and Anne spent the next nine months as her daughter’s primary caregiver, but the cancer had progressed too far, and Anne Peterson died in February of 1995.

 

This profound loss was a permanent source of heartache for Anne and Mike, but as with all other things Anne used it as an opportunity to grow spiritually, and as motivation to become more involved with life and more connected to the people she met.

 

Over the course of the next fifteen years Anne’s family exploded, with numerous in-laws & many grandchildren being added to the family. Frequent trips to Ireland brought renewed connections with her cousins, in-laws, and nieces and nephews in Dublin and Waterford. She also renewed ties and became very close with her cousins in California, the children of her beloved Aunty Dorrie (Dorothy Kirwan), her mother’s youngest sister, who Anne thought to be the epitome of glamour in 1940’s Dublin. When an Irishman from Tyrone named Danny Loughran moved in next door to their house on Westfield Boulevard, he was quickly absorbed into the extended family and became a favorite of Anne’s. From their humble, lonely beginnings in America Anne and Mike had built a life jam-packed with family and friends.

 

Anne and Mike made many trips to St. Louis and Chicago to visit children & grandchildren, and spent their winters on Fort Meyers Beach in Florida, thanks to the continuing generosity of Eddie French, a friend of Mike’s who became another member of the family. In fact, over the years there were many who vied for the position of “8th Traynor” child, but Eddie vanquished all challengers with twenty years of deep connection and caring, becoming as dear to Anne as her own children.

 

In 2006, after fifty-one years of marriage, Mike died suddenly from complications from emphysema and heart disease, and again tragedy spurred Anne into reinventing herself and expanding her life. Feeling a lack of connection at her home parish, Anne ventured out and tried attending Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, not far from her home. The connection she felt there was immediate, and after years of being a devout catholic she spent the final 15 years of her life deeply involved in the Episcopalian church, becoming a surrogate mother to some and a cherished friend to many. Even so, she kept a very close connection with the Carmelite Sisters, an order of Catholic nuns based in Oldenburg, IN.  Anne’s first step in moments of crisis or concern for was always to contact the nuns and ask them to pray for her loved ones. Nearly everyone who knew her was told, “The Carmelites are praying for you” at some stage.

 

She joined the Kiwanis Club, and made deep & lasting friendships as she took on service projects—in particular developing a love for mentoring and reading to young students in the Indianapolis Public Schools district. Anne’s face would light up whenever she talked about “her kids”, and her warmth and love made them respond in kind.


In recent years Anne got involved in exercise classes and other programming at Heritage Place in Indy, expanding her circle even wider and developing yet another tight-knit community of friends. She began giving rides to one of the women, who in her 90’s had lost the ability to drive, and they became close. That was just the way Anne was.

Each winter she continued to visit Fort Meyers, and developed several close friendships there, including Eileen & Pat, “the Irish twins”, who Anne met on the beach one day and adopted as her own. They would visit frequently to seek out her companionship and advice.

 

After her own health deteriorated rapidly in early 2020, Anne faced yet another major upheaval, and met it with her accustomed determination and positive attitude. Suddenly unable to care for herself, Anne was forced to give up her house of thirty-five years and moved to Anthology of Meridian Hills, a senior living community not far from her church and volunteer commitments. But within two days of her arrival the Covid lockdown was put in place, and Anne spent much of her time there in forced isolation or quarantine.

 

However, her indefatigable spirit was on full display once more. Anne made quick friends with many of the residents, becoming the unofficial greeter for new prospects coming to investigate the community. She became a favorite of the staff and administrators, many of whom would stop by Anne’s apartment to “sit and take a break” for a while, as Anne asked them about their own lives and families. In the summer of 2020 they asked Anne to appear in a promotional video for the community, which she was all too happy to do. As always, she made all around her feel welcome and connected.

 

Anne suffered a fall on Sunday, February 21st, and her decline was rapid. A Covid diagnosis threatened to leave her alone in isolation, but her worsening condition led to a transfer to hospice care, which allowed for some visitation. Her final days were spent resting peacefully, as family members lined up to share the 4 allotted visitation slots per day. Had they been opened up to Anne’s friends, she would’ve had a steady stream of people who loved her coming to visit indefinitely.

 

Anne regained consciousness once during her final week, where she was able to express her deep love for her family, her yearning to reunite with all of those who’d gone before her, and her gratitude for her full life, and the many blessings she received. One of her final acts was to greet the nurse who came into the room with an extra chair.

“We’re having a party,” Anne told her. And so we were.

 

Anne is survived by six children, four sons- and daughters-in-law, more than a dozen grandchildren and literally hundreds of loving nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. She made the world a more welcoming place and left everyone she met feeling more connected.


She will be missed.

 

 

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Comments

  • Danny Loughran : A beautiful tribute Jenny. Your Mother truly was an amazing lady and I was so blessed and fortunate to have her in my life. I believe fate played a part, that of all the houses in Indianapolis, a Tyrone man moved in next door to your parents. Though I only knew Michael briefly, Anne adopted me and was truly a shining light through a very dark period in my life. For that I will always hold a special place for her in my heart. My love to all the Traynors, you truly are an amazing family. Rest in peace Dear Anne.
    3/6/21
  • Laura Kehoe : A lovely tribute, and so nice to read more about her, what an inspirational life your mother had! It was a real blessing to know her.
    3/5/21
  • Jennifer Eldredge : What a wonderful life. She will be remembered by so many.
    3/5/21
  • Danielle Garland : Thank you, Jenny. Beautifully written!
    3/5/21