Ann Emerson, a 66-year resident of Rustic Canyon, passed away peacefully in her home in July surrounded by family and loved ones. She was 96 years old. Her beloved husband, Richard Emerson, predeceased her in 2002.
Ann was born in 1927 in Colorado. After eight years and several moves (one necessitated by the 1933 Long Beach earthquake) her family settled on South La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. Ann’s father was a portrait photographer and his tiny studio on La Brea doubled as their home.
As Ann recounted in her 2010 autobiography, “Ann’s Stories,” when she was in the fourth grade at public school “ … a very strange thing happened. I was sitting in class when the door opened and a man came in. It was my daddy!”
He had come to take her to Hammond Hall School for Girls because one of his clients, Lucile Phillips Morrison, had been impressed by a thank-you note Ann had written and had offered to pay her tuition. “The next thing I knew, it was settled.”
Once Ann was enrolled, her new teachers began gently correcting her grammar while her new classmates, many of them children of local luminaries, began polishing her social graces by osmosis.
When Hammond Hall closed three years later, Ann attended John Burroughs Junior High and then L.A. High School where she served as “Student Secretary.” She attended UCLA and developed lifelong friendships there as a Pi Phi sorority sister before graduating in 1947.
After working for several years as a second-grade teacher at McKinley School in Santa Monica, Ann dedicated herself to her husband and their three children whom they raised together.
In 1957 she and Richard built a home on a vacant lot in Rustic Canyon, and this became the center of their lives. The house was designed with lots of glass so that the garden setting and the hillside behind it could be easily viewed and enjoyed from many rooms. Since the mid-’90s Ann hosted weekly dinners there, sitting at the head of the table surrounded by her extended family and her books and photographs.
Outside of the family, many will remember Ann as a private tutor. For years she and Richard taught hundreds of students in their home. Always a great team, Ann’s focus was French, English and history, while Richard’s focus was science and math.
Ann was also a genealogist who honed her skills before the arrival of the internet. She spent countless hours at the Mormon library during the ’70s and ’80s scrutinizing microfilm and micro-fiche.
Her discoveries there, and elsewhere, led her to author several genealogical books, each focused on a particular branch of her and Richard’s respective origins. Though self-published, these books were popular enough to merit subsequent reprintings and are now in libraries all over the nation.
Then, when Ann was 85 years old, she set out to display the fruits of all this research on an enormous, colorful lineage chart, which now covers a wall in her home. Ever curious, she continued her genealogical probing even while designing it and was delighted when she realized that four passengers on the Mayflower needed to be included. Not bad for a little girl who learned to love history thanks to a thank-you note and to a benefactress—a woman whom she never met.
Ann is survived by her three children, Mark, Penelope (husband Tom) and John (wife Annette), six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. She will be remembered by family and friends who admired her intelligence, quiet wit, upbeat personality, thoughtfulness and her lifelong pursuit of knowledge.
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