he entire social scene has endured a couple of rough, negative years, making many folks wonder if human goodness died out somewhere along the way. However, Miss Ann Russell, 65, of Lake Dallas, is not a member of that club.
Life has not been an easy journey for Miss Ann, but she’s never failed to play the cards she was dealt with grace, dignity, and above all, gratitude.
“My father was an alcoholic and died when I was 16,” she said. “I watched him struggle, and I also saw the tremendous good that God and Alcoholics Anonymous did for him.”
Marriage wasn’t a part of the script for Miss Ann, but caring for others was.
“My mom came down with cancer,” she explained. “I lived with her in Little Elm so I could take care of her. I also realized I needed an education so, while looking after her, I went to college to become a home economics teacher in Lake Dallas. I cleaned offices at 4 in the morning to help pay for things.”
By her own admission, drug and alcohol usage was fairly common during her younger years. That, along with the possible predisposition inherited from her father, caught up with her.
“Thankfully, I saw what God and working through AA did for my dad,” she repeated. "So I didn’t waste time going there myself. Again, God and working through AA, did the same for me. And I now have 37 years of sobriety.”
Miss Ann became a certified teacher in Lake Dallas ISD, concentrating on home economics until the course was dropped from the curriculum. Her mother passed away while she was still teaching.
“I was making the drive from Little Elm to Lake Dallas long before there was a bridge,” Miss Ann said. “It was quite a trek back then. One day, I saw a For Sale sign in front of a cute little house just down from the middle school. I sold my mother’s house in 2001 and bought it.”
Health problems always plagued Miss Ann. They still do. She could no longer stand for long periods when she left teaching due to bulging discs in her neck. She was unemployed for two years when she applied to FEMA in 2004 and was hired. She’d undergone a neck fusion, but it did nothing to ease the pain of long hours at a FEMA computer. She retired very early in 2016.
Somewhere during the long work hours, the physical pain and the medical procedures, Miss Ann lost track of the condition of the cute, little house she bought in 2001. It was her home for two decades, and like a loving but comfortable marriage, she didn’t notice the rotting fascia and other widespread deterioration of her “partner.” Reality broadsided her when, less than two months after undergoing heart surgery, she received a letter from the city of Lake Dallas. It outlined a list of expensive repairs to make within 30-days to avoid a lien.
“I had no idea what to do,” Miss Ann said. “This was all new to me. I couldn’t afford an attorney, and I couldn’t afford to make the repairs, especially not in 30-days.”
She confided in a couple of friends, and that’s when the basic goodness of people began spreading rainbows over the little house.
“Friends helped me start a GoFundMe page,” she said. “I’d never heard of such a thing, and it really wasn’t easy to ask for help. AA and God taught me to be a helper and a giver, but I never thought about the help coming toward me."
She added, “Even now, I work at not being a blubbering idiot about the whole thing, but my gratitude runs so deep for all of the people who stepped forward with money, donated labor, and so much more. We’re not finished with the repairs, and it’s taking more than 30 days, but the city is working with us. So many special people and new friends came into my life because of this; people such as Vicky (Moody), who’s been a true godsend. Not only does she help coordinate everything, but she calls every day just to check on me. I hate talking about the negative stuff in my life. That probably sounds crazy because that’s all I’ve done here. But I have far more good than bad. I have food, a solid roof over my head, my cat and so many friends who care about me with so much love. A lot of people say I haven’t had an easy life, but you know what? I’m so grateful God let me have it!”