The morning of Feb. 20, 2023, a pair of eagles took flight from a nearby tree and soared over the valley as viewed from the windows of Ann Marie Dwinelle Henry’s family home in Twisp. With the blue sky of a new day, sunshine flowing into the room and her loved ones gathered around, Ann took her last breath and passed away.
Ann was born to Harold William Dwinelle and Mabel Marie Danielson Dwinelle in Jamestown, New York, on Aug. 24, 1931. In Ann’s words, “It was a momentous day!” Her innate love of life and welcoming smile appealed to all.
Family was important. When prompted, she would eagerly tell stories of her early childhood. Picnics, card games, books, travel and dinners with friends and relatives played an important role. With the joy, came inevitable challenges. She grieved the passing of her favorite gramma at age 4. Ann survived polio, countless childhood diseases, and accidents caused by her curiosity and adventurous spirit. Her father, responding to her cries one morning, rescued her from the dangers of the crib. She had managed to get her head stuck between the rails. Quickly discerning that purple was not a normal color for his daughter’s face, he extracted her from the dangerous position.
To her mother’s chagrin, whether intentional or accidental, she often fell off the end of docks (only on a warm summer’s day and usually dressed in her best clothes). Self-described as a tomboy, she eagerly engaged in snowball fights, sledding, ice skating, target practice, swimming, boating, hiking, and childhood games. Exploring nature in the rolling hills and woods of Ashville and on the shores of Lake Chautauqua was a perfect fit for Ann. When Ann was 12, the family rejoiced over the birth of her only sibling, William Alfred. Though many years separated them, Ann was fond of her little brother.
Following her graduation from Jamestown High School, she attended Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. An Outing Club, recently established by her future husband, William Henry, piqued her interest. In spite of mosquitoes, tipping canoes, muddy hikes, and the peculiar personalities of some of the participants, they soon fell in love. When Bill entered medical school at University of Pittsburgh, Ann transferred to Carnegie Mellon. On June 13, 1953, shortly after graduating, Ann and Bill were married in Jamestown.
Their honeymoon adventures, traveling the states and exploring National Parks, confirmed the awe they shared for nature. Upon completion of medical school, Ann and Bill moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for his internship. The first of five children, Susan Gail, was born in Harrisburg. Following internship, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy and trained as a flight surgeon at Pensacola, Florida. Ann returned to the family home to bring Cynthia Ann into the world. Bill’s naval duty moved the family to Kodiak, Alaska, and then Whidbey Island, Washington, where Laura Jean joined the growing family. Upon completion of his tour of duty, Bill chose to establish a private medical practice in Twisp. Jane Elizabeth was born soon after. The arrival of the first-born son, William Oliver, completed the family.
Life in Twisp was multifaceted. New to the private sector, Ann sought ways to connect with the community. She joined bridge clubs, hiking groups, book clubs, started a private kindergarten, Bluebirds, and became one of the first EMTs for Aero Methow Rescue Service. She also volunteered on the Loup Loup Ski Patrol, started the Ski School, established a welcome committee, launched a local AAUW, League of Women Voters, worked with others to improve wilderness trails, thinned and picked apples, and supported the community where needed.
As a member of the Methodist Church, she taught Sunday School and assisted Reverend Dabritz in field trips and outings. An interesting turn in the journey of Ann’s life occurred when she agreed to be a cook for Claude Miller’s Cascade Safari. Her initiation to wilderness epicurean efforts involved shopping and preparing meals for up to 30 people tent camping for a week, miles from the nearest store. Impressing Claude with her ingenious methods, she became his wilderness chef for over 30 years. Ann’s affection for the Pasayten Wilderness was shared with her family. Frequently one of her children or grandchildren would accompany her. Expressing gratitude, Claude arranged for family trips where all were able to comprehend the beauty, majesty, and corresponding thrills of mountain life. The children learned early that hands do not belong in pockets!
Ann’s devotion to family and friends as a connector, a leader, a follower, a supporter, and enthusiast was inspirational. A season of life events disturbed Ann’s quiet and personal faith. In 1968 her beloved father passed away. Six years later, her husband suffered a serious head injury. While both of these losses and subsequent challenges were significant, the tragic unexpected death of her youngest daughter in 1979 shook Ann to the core of her being.
Already involved with pursuing her Master’s Degree in education, she continued in somewhat of a daze. Upon completion, she accepted a position teaching classes at Wenatchee Valley Campus North in Omak, preparing women to re-enter the work force. Ann was taught to overcome sadness by going for a walk or doing something thoughtful for someone in need. Instructing her students and encouraging them in their endeavors encouraged Ann herself. Curiosity about life had resulted in extensive travels throughout the United States and abroad. She wove her experiences into her teaching style, inspiring others to embrace curiosity, struggles, and to explore cultures.
With the unexpected passing of her husband in 1998, a new approach was required. She renewed her focus on her growing family and dedicated herself to volunteer work and community service. There are few nonprofit services in the Methow Valley in which Ann did not play some role. Her delight was in supporting Aero Methow Rescue Service, an ambulance company she and Bill had established. Continued and expanded by her daughter Cindy Button, endorsed by the community, Ann often expressed her appreciation for their focused and demanding work.
Always eager to try something new, Ann continued to travel with friends through Roads Scholar where she zip-lined through the forests of Costa Rica observing birds, painted spring flowers of the desert, squeezed through narrow passages formed by Southwest rivers studying the unique geology and marveled over the thermodynamic activity of Iceland. She enjoyed Improv, line dancing, arts, crafts, outdoor sports, animals, helping others, and spending time with family.
Her parents Harold and Mabel, husband Bill, and daughter Jane, predeceased Ann. Survivors include her brother Bill (Melody) Dwinelle, Tampa, Florida. Children: Susan (Stewart) Cusick, Wenatchee; Cynthia (John) Button, Twisp; Laura (Greg) Grimstad, Twisp; and Bill (Darla) Henry, Anaheim Hills, California. Ten treasured grandchildren and 13 precious great-grandchildren (with one more on the way) complete the list of dear family who gave her great joy as they willingly participated in her many adventures.
The family extends special gratitude to Jamie’s Place, Aero Methow Rescue Service, Hospice, and her dear friends who showed her respect, compassion, and love.
Please come to a celebration of Ann’s life at 1 p.m. on Saturday March 25, 2023, at the Winthrop Barn. Food will follow. Join us in remembering Ann and sharing personal stories with one another.
We can almost hear her say, “Come on now … enough, let’s get going. Let’s go do something!”
Please make Remembrances in her honor to the following: Aero Methow Rescue Service continuing the family legacy; Jamie’s Place encouraging the care of the elderly and provision for caregivers; Methow Conservancy supporting responsible care of the land; Methow Valley Educational Foundation promoting education; or to the charity of your choice.