Anne Mil­lar Des­mond

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - LIFETRIBUTES -

Anne Mil­lar Des­mond (“An­nie” to most peo­ple), re­cently of Point Rich­mond in Rich­mond, Cal­i­for­nia, and ear­lier of Morn­ing Sun Mind­ful­ness Cen­ter, in Al­stead, New Hamp­shire, as well as mul­ti­ple places on the east coast (in­clud­ing Quincy, Mas­sachusetts, dur­ing nearly three years of treat­ment at Dana-Far­ber Can­cer In­sti­tute in Bos­ton), in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area, and in Botswana, Africa, died Tues­day, De­cem­ber 18, 2018, at the UCSF Par­nas­sus hospi­tal in San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia, af­ter three and a half years of valiant ef­fort to heal from ad­vanced can­cer.

An­nie is sur­vived by her hus­band, Ti­mothy Am­brose Des­mond, and her son, Fin­negan Ja­cob Mil­lar Des­mond—both of Al­stead, New Hamp­shire; her brother, Rowan Camp­bell Mil­lar of Santa Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia; her par­ents, Mar­i­lala (Laila) Camp­bell Mil­lar and Charles (Chuck) Rosier Mil­lar of Rich­mond, Cal­i­for­nia; and many lov­ing aunts, un­cles, cousins, and other fam­ily and friends.

An­nie, a co­founder of the Morn­ing Sun Mind­ful­ness Cen­ter (2011–2018) in Al­stead, New Hamp­shire, and a teacher and then ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram direc­tor at Slide Ranch (2004–2011) in Muir Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, was an ed­u­ca­tor, com­mu­ni­ca­tor, leader, per­former, and activist (as well as a de­voted mother, fam­ily mem­ber, com­mu­nity mem­ber, and friend). Her ca­reer and av­o­ca­tions spanned en­vi­ron­men­tal and spir­i­tual ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams for chil­dren and fam­i­lies, man­age­ment in non­profit pro­grams and or­ga­ni­za­tions, writ­ing and edit­ing, fa­cil­i­ta­tion of events, singing, danc­ing, and spir­i­tual and com­mu­nity lead­er­ship and in­volve­ment (in­clud­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Oc­cupy Wall Street move­ment and other move­ments for so­cial jus­tice and for so­cial and spir­i­tual up­lift­ment).

An­nie was born Anne Posey Di­makatso Mil­lar on March 7, 1978, to Mar­i­lala (Laila) Camp­bell Mil­lar and Charles (Chuck) Rosier Mil­lar, in Mochudi, Botswana. She lived in the vil­lage of Palapye and later in the cap­i­tal, Gaborone. The fam­ily moved back to West­min­ster West, Ver­mont, when An­nie was two, then in the au­tumn of 1981 to San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia—where she at­tended Buen Dia Fam­ily School and Rooftop El­e­men­tary School and was a mem­ber of the San Fran­cisco Girls Cho­rus. When the fam­ily moved to San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, in 1989, she com­pleted grade school at DeVar­gas El­e­men­tary School, 7th and 8th grade at Hyde Ju­nior High School (now called Hyde Mid­dle School), and high school at Cu­per­tino High School and Mid­dle Col­lege (at DeAnza com­mu­nity col­lege). She par­tic­i­pated in the Sun­ny­vale Chil­dren’s The­ater pro­gram, where she acted in nu­mer­ous mu­si­cals and plays—in­clud­ing as Glinda, the good witch, in “The Wizard of Oz.” Dur­ing high school she par­tic­i­pated in a Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity project help­ing fam­i­lies build homes in Gu­atemala. She stud­ied voice through­out ju­nior high and high school with Peggy Spool, now direc­tor of the Vi­vace Youth Cho­rus in San Jose. An­nie was so­prano soloist at her Mid­dle Col­lege grad­u­a­tion and sang through­out her life, in­clud­ing with the Con­spir­acy of Venus, an a cap­pella women’s vo­cal en­sem­ble in San Fran­cisco.

An­nie earned a BA de­gree from Sarah Lawrence Col­lege in 2000, with an em­pha­sis on po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and cul­tural an­thro­pol­ogy. She spent her sum­mers in a la­bor or­ga­niz­ing in­tern­ship through the Union Sum­mer pro­gram in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, in an edit­ing in­tern­ship at Synop­sys in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia, and in im­prov­ing her Span­ish at the Univer­sity of Ha­vana in Cuba. She spent her ju­nior year study­ing in Costa Rica and Mex­ico (where she learned about grassroots de­vel­op­ment and so­cial change through a pro­gram with the School for In­ter­na­tional Train­ing). Dur­ing her semesters on cam­pus at Sarah Lawrence she sang in the a cap­pella group Res Mi­randa and worked both at a Haa­gen-Dazs ice-cream shop and as a le­gal in­tern and bilin­gual re­searcher for the Westch­ester His­panic Coali­tion. Af­ter col­lege, An­nie trained and worked fur­ther as an ed­i­tor at NetApp in Sun­ny­vale, Cal­i­for­nia. She used her writ­ing and edit­ing skills both pro­fes­sion­ally and pro bono through­out her life for friends (in­clud­ing au­thor Sasha Ca­gen) and fam­ily (in­clud­ing her hus­band, au­thor Ti­mothy Am­brose Des­mond).

An­nie’s early em­ploy­ment in­cluded work with Tom Sny­der Pro­duc­tions in Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts, in hu­man re­sources; with City Year in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, and na­tion­ally, with cities around the coun­try, to help with au­dit­ing; with Alt­shuler Ber­zon in San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia, as a para­le­gal; and with Buen Dia Fam­ily School (also in San Fran­cisco), which she had at­tended and loved as a child, as a sub­sti­tute teacher and a de­vel­op­ment in­tern.

Dur­ing her years at Slide Ranch (2004–2011), An­nie started as a res­i­dent teach­ing in­tern, help­ing groups of chil­dren who came from schools around the San Fran­cisco Bay Area to learn about where food comes from and to ex­pe­ri­ence the beauty of the ocean, the woods, and the or­ganic farm at Slide Ranch. Even­tu­ally be­com­ing ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram direc­tor, An­nie was of­ten a spokesper­son with the board of trus­tees and with the pub­lic for par­tic­i­pants as well as staff (she had orig­i­nally ap­plied to work at Slide Ranch be­cause of her own mean­ing­ful ex­pe­ri­ence there as a child). As ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram direc­tor, An­nie man­aged hir­ing, train­ing, and su­per­vi­sion of teach­ers and other ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram staff, and gave pre­sen­ta­tions about Slide Ranch to schools and fam­i­lies in Span­ish and English. In 2005–2006, she also worked part-time for Project Avary (Al­ter­na­tive Ven­tures for At-Risk Youth) in San Rafael while con­tin­u­ing to work at Slide Ranch.

In 2010 An­nie mar­ried Ti­mothy Am­brose Des­mond in an out­door cer­e­mony at Slide Ranch. The two had been drawn to­gether through com­mon in­ter­ests in so­cial jus­tice is­sues, sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, and spir­i­tu­al­ity—grad­u­ally fall­ing in love and de­cid­ing to get mar­ried and have a fam­ily. In 2011, An­nie and her hus­band ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion from two for­mer Bud­dhist monks, who had lived at Thich Nhat Hahn’s Plum Vil­lage monastery in France, to join them in found­ing the Morn­ing Sun Mind­ful­ness Cen­ter in Al­stead, New Hamp­shire. Morn­ing Sun was en­vi­sioned for fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als com­mit­ted to mind­ful­ness but not seek­ing strict monas­tic life. An­nie brought her skills in pro­gram man­age­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and ed­u­ca­tion to the project, which has grown and de­vel­oped as a com­mu­nity as well as a re­treat cen­ter pro­vid­ing out­reach and events for a larger com­mu­nity. She and her hus­band had their son, Fin­negan, there, built a house, helped de­velop the mind­ful­ness cen­ter, and par­tic­i­pated in com­mu­nity life and out­reach.

In April of 2018, An­nie re­turned with her fam­ily to live in her beloved San Fran­cisco Bay Area for her fi­nal months of life. Dur­ing this time, she par­tic­i­pated in life fully when­ever she could. Even in her fi­nal weeks in the hospi­tal, al­though she was some­times in great pain, An­nie spent many mean­ing­ful mo­ments with fam­ily and dear friends. Dur­ing much of this time she con­tin­ued to reach out to her loved ones and oth­ers around her, in­clud­ing the hospi­tal staff, with an amaz­ing strength of spirit and with lov­ing, joy, in­tel­li­gence, and hu­mor. An­nie was known among her friends and fam­ily for liv­ing a life full of joy and love, even when times were hard, and for her com­mit­ment to help­ing make the world a kinder place for ev­ery­one. Many friends said An­nie’s bright spirit had a pro­found im­pact on their lives be­cause she lis­tened to them with such an open heart and such lov­ing, ac­cep­tance, and com­pas­sion.

A me­mo­rial will take place at Slide Ranch, 2025 Shore­line High­way, Muir Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, on Sun­day, Jan­uary 27, at 2:00 p.m. There will also be a me­mo­rial at Morn­ing Sun Mind­ful­ness Cen­ter, 655 Gil­sum Mine Road, Al­stead, New Hamp­shire, on Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 24, at 1:00 p.m. Any­one wish­ing to do­nate to a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that was dear to An­nie’s heart can send dona­tions to Slide Ranch or to Morn­ing Sun Mind­ful­ness Cen­ter. Any­one in­ter­ested in con­tribut­ing mem­o­ries of An­nie to a com­pi­la­tion for An­nie’s beloved son and all the other peo­ple who loved her, please email Laila Mil­lar at lail­amil­[email protected]

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