In Celebration of

Ann Van Fossen

March 9, 1933 -  August 11, 2018

Ann Ione Fryer Van Fossen
March 9, 1933 – August 11, 2018

Ann Fryer Van Fossen died in the palliative care unit at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal the afternoon of Saturday August 11th, 2018 following diagnosis of an advanced metastacizing cancer. Ann was 85 years old.

Ann was born March 9, 1933, in Phoenix, Arizona to Ione Pierce and E. Reeseman Fryer. The family traveled extensively throughout the United States and internationally, following the path of her father’s career. These formative years included attending nine different high schools. Over the course of her own career and married life Ann enjoyed staying home, traveling primarily to visit family and dear friends.

In 1955 she completed her bachelor's degree in political science at Swarthmore College and married Richard W. (Dick) Van Fossen. They had two children, David Phelps Van Fossen and Rachael Ione Van Fossen.

Her husband's work settled the family in Mount Vernon, Iowa where he was a professor in the English Department at Cornell College. Ann completed her master's degree in history at the University of Iowa while raising children. She taught as part-time adjunct faculty during these years. She was active in the League of Women Voters and in the life of the Mount Vernon community.

In 1970 the family moved to Toronto, Ontario, where Ann began her doctoral studies. When it came time for her children to go to college she took on a secretarial position at the University of Toronto to help them financially. Her keen intellect, excellent research skills and strong work ethic meant that she moved rapidly into the high-ranking position of Assistant to the President. In this role she wrote several substantial policy documents, among many other contributions to the University.

Raised an atheist, Ann professed agnosticism until her experience singing in the choir at Saint Philip's Anglican Church in Toronto helped her find a spiritual life. Her extensive volunteer work at Saint Philip's included creation of social justice initiatives and programming.

Her husband retired in 1990 and they moved together to Pagosa Springs, Colorado in the beautiful San Juan Mountains. Ann insisted she was too young to retire, and took on a part-time job at the local library. She became deeply involved in Saint Patrick's Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. Among several other volunteer commitments she especially loved her work at the Chimney Rock archeological site and national monument.

The Van Fossen couple moved back east in 2005 to be closer to their children and grandchildren. In Montreal Ann volunteered at McGill University as researcher and author of Tea and Fossils: a brief history of the Redpath Museum while also providing care to Dick in the latter stages of his Alzheimer's.

Although a very private person, through most of her life she loved to host dinner parties and engage in conversation. She loved to be in nature, most recently at a home in the woods and beside a brook in beautiful Vermont.

Ann Van Fossen is survived by her son David, daughter Rachael, and grandchildren Caitlin Van Fossen, Elijah Fisch, Theo Van Fossen and Charlotte Van Fossen. She leaves behind much beloved extended family and friends from her various communities. Her husband Richard W. Van Fossen predeceased her in 2009.

For those who feel so moved, donations can be made to RECAA, Respecting Elders: Communities Against Abuse. Website: Until a more concrete arrangement is made please contact Rachael for information.


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Gretchen Geser (Friend)

Entered August 20, 2018 from Albany, NY

I'm grateful for my memories of Ann and send love to her family.

Rachael Van Fossen (Daughter)

Entered August 21, 2018 from Montreal, Quebec and Worcester, Vermont

Throughout her time in hospital family members and friends from near and far visited regularly. Adult grandchildren Caitlin and Elijah visited regularly. In addition to all the care and love Gord Fisch contributed over the past few years he blessedly took care took care of many practical matters. Ron and Beverley, dear friends of Ann and Dick's for almost 40 years visited daily. Ingrid and David, among Ann's closest Montreal friends visited every day they were in town. Beloved niece Beth spent four days in Montreal, including two overnights sleeping on a rollout chair in the hospital room. Ann always knew who we were and when awake was able to communicate with us right to the end. My brother David and I accompanied her at bedside through the final breaths, along with Ginny, a close family friend who had flown in from Iowa that very day. Ann had a good death. She had no pain. She knew we were with her.

Huge appreciation to nurses, orderlies, housekeeping staff, social workers and others in the temporary communities at 8West, 8Northwest, and finally on 4Main, the palliative care unit at the Jewish General Hospital. Thanks for letting her dog come visit. Thanks for your excellent care and your sensitivity. Thanks also to Dr. Chang, Dr. Olga, Dr. Selehi, and to Samantha, the music therapist with the beautiful soprano voice. Thanks for years of assistance and friendship from staff and residents at the Vista, a home for seniors.

Ron Rower (Friend)

Entered August 21, 2018 from Westmount, Quebec

We met in 1970, when Dick and Ann came to Toronto and quickly installed me as a family friend. We remained close through the years, through letters after 1976, and in person after Dick and Ann came to Montreal, certainly a major friendship of my life. Ann was engaging, great to talk to on a myriad of subjects, and always loving.

amy keith (friend and colleague of Rachael)

Entered August 21, 2018 from montreal

I just read the beautiful memorial. What an amazing woman! My heart goes out to the whole family. A special hug for you Rachael! Amy ox

Elise and Fred (Friends)

Entered August 21, 2018 from Montreal

Warm condolences to the family. Ann was a loving presence in my life and I miss her already.


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