Honoring Anne Dowling
Honoring Anne Dowling: the Brooklyn UMC Home Foundation
Wednesday evening, November 5th, at Russo's on the Bay in the Howard Beach section of Queens, the Brooklyn United Methodist Church Foundation held its 16th Annual Dinner Dance and Awards Night. There were three honorees, and though each of them is deserving of accolades, it is my privilege and predilection (as the owner of this website!) to single out one of them for special mention.
Anne Dowling. Our own Anne Dowling. Friend. Member of Grace UM Church. Wife of Vin. Mother to five, and the four boys are tall and stocky enough to inhibit anyone giving their Mom a headache! More to the point of the honor, Anne served with distinction in a troubled moment for the Home as its Administrator, bringing it back, in the words, more or less, of emcee Joe Fennessy, from bankruptcy and severe survey issues to a period of unparalleled prosperity and effectiveness in its mission. Nine years ago Anne retired from that position. Two years later I managed, with the concurrence of the entire Board, to persuade Anne to return to the Home as a volunteer, that is, as a member of the Board of Directors. In short order Anne succeeded me as the president of the Board, in which capacity she presently serves.
Honorees Ernest J. Baptiste, serves as Vice President and Executive Director of St. Mary's Hospital of Brooklyn, with whom the Home has in recent years established a close working relation, the hospital providing the Home with residents whose long-term needs require less than acute care. Honoree Msgr. James W. Ryan, a priest at St. Fortunato's Parish, has served the Home as the Catholic chaplain for many years. When introducing him, Home chaplain Ieva Zadina invoked the heritage of saints so integral to Roman Catholicism, suggesting that among contemporary saints, those who are "among us as those who serve," she would list the faithful servant of the Lord's compassion, the honoree, always ready to comfort, console, and counsel Home residents.
But, as I stated above, the evening, as far as I was concerned, belonged to Anne. Herewith is my introduction (slightly altered) and celebration of the William C. Kirkwood, Humanitarian Award Honoree:
Let me explain why, just why we - family, friends, co-workers, and co-worshipers - love and admire Anne Dowling.
You probably think itís because she is compassionate, like a nurse ought to be, like a follower of Jesus ought to be; someone whose heart reaches out to everyone but especially to the least of these our brothers and sisters, someone who remembers your name and details from your personal history, someone who welcomes you with a smile. You probably think we love and admire Anne because she is compassionate. And you would be right, but only partially.
You might then suggest that our love and respect for her rises in response to her faithfulness, that she combines adherence to the second greatest commandment with adherence to the first (I shouldnít need to explain, not to this congregation); that she is as constant in worship and prayer as anyone in a cloistered community; that her other strengths, she would tell you, derive from her faith. And thatís why we love and admire her. Well, yes, but not entirely.
Ah, you think, he must have in mind Anneís courage, that even were her present ordeal omitted, she has seen in her lifetime enough untoward circumstance coming her way that would have daunted most of us, but certainly me; yet she not only faced the troubles but triumphed over them. And thatís why we love and admire her... but thereís another open and obvious secret to her winsome way in this life.
Here it is: Anne always tries to say "Yes." She would probably laugh her self-deprecating laugh and tell you, "Sure, and thatís why Iíve gotten into so much hot water." The Brooklyn Home, when I came on to the Board (if Austin Armitstead is there, can Bob Howard be very far behind?) lo these many years ago, was struggling under a massive debt and high-priced professional leadership from the outside. Then Bob Richmond, Anneís pastor at St. James UMC, Lynbrook, heard of the Homeís plight, phoned Austin, then president of the Board, and encouraged him to speak with Anne. The rest is history, happy history, and the beginning of our strong connection with Anne and Vin. When Anne retired, guess who it was I, then Board president, asked to do the somewhat onerous task of running this affair. Right: I asked Anne, because she always tries to find a way to say, "Yes," even when her wiser self-saving judgment says, "No." Same goes for the local church: got an important job that needs doing and no one wants to do it. Ask Anne. When in the course of United Methodist polity, it seemed expedient, if not particularly wise or kind, to put me out to pasture, and we were moving to a community one hundred thirty miles from here, and it seemed best for me to resign from the Board, guess who it was whom we decided would be the best person to lead the Home in this new century? Anne, because she is compassionate, because she is faithful, because she is courageous, and because she would, we knew, she would say "Yes," and give it her best shot.
And thatís why we love and admire her and want in this formal way this evening to thank her by way of honoring her with the William C. Kirkwood Humanitarian Award. High above, from an open window in the Fatherís House, I hear a voice, Billís, shouting, "Amen!"
Anne, in her response, almost quoted a line from the Yankee great, Lou Gehrig, insisting that, though we were honoring her, she thought of herself, by God, by friends, and by family, to be the luckiest woman alive.
There were 179 guests. Grace Church, Valley Stream, filled a couple of tables. Members of the Board of Directors and family members took a table. Past president Austin Armitstead (and wife Bianca) was present and shooting... that is, his camera, upside down! Herewith are some snapshots of those honoring Ernest, James, and Anne.
A cocktail hour and a dinner preceded the presentation of the awards. During the evening a Silent Auction was conducted, the proceeds going to the Home. The piece de resistance, a weekend at Cooperstown, was the gift of Dinner Co-Chairperson (with Don Kirby) and her husband, Chris and Ed Stack.
When we arrived, most of us needed a canoe to get from the driver's seat to the curb. It wasn't raining cats and dogs. It was raining tigers and St. Bernard's. When we said our "goodbye's" at 11:15 PM, Russo's offered a coffee bar, complete with cappuccino, as we headed for our cars: that puts a new and better twist on "one for the road."