By Rhonda S. Verona
Special to Independent Newsmedia
Students from Gateway Academy Photography Club interviewed Ann Russell at her home in Sun City West March 24 to document her life through video and photography.
The effort was a partnership of the Hospice DreamCatchers Foundation and Gateway Academy, 3939 E. Shea Blvd., to fulfill the request of Ms. Russell, who at 95 is on home-hospice care and has been given less than six months to live.
Her dream was to create a documentary to keep her memory alive for her two children, one of whom, Diane, is in the early stages of dementia. The life review video will be instrumental in keeping the memory of her mother alive for Diane as her dementia progresses.
The students learned a lot about Ms. Russell through the project.
Her passion is dancing and she always said that whoever she married had to know how to dance. She married twice and they both danced. She has a Christmas tree up and wants it to stay up all year.
She also has macular degeneration and can only see shadows and bright lights, so she can see the lights twinkling and the shadow of the tree. She loves her ornaments, some of which are from the early 1900s. She also loves bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and potato chips.
Ms. Russell’s long term memory is perfect. She told all about her dancecards from the dance hall, where she went every Monday night (her mom gave her a nickel for the bus). Of course, her dance card was always full. She said it was all “on the up and up,” since all the fellows knew their place and behaved as gentlemen.
She was an excellent seamstress and her mother was widowed at a young age with four children, Ms. Russell being the youngest. Her mom made trousers for bus drivers. At night, all the children and her mom sat around the table and sewed the pants by hand. As the youngest, Mr. Russell sewed the hems. As she grew, she graduated to more complex stitching.
Editor’s Note: Ms. Verona is president of RSVP & Associates, a public relations firm which represents Gateway Academy.