Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A huge influence on me. Meet . . . .

                                                            Miss Pat Ankney.

I have a long list of people that have helped to "shape me" over the years (I would have appreciated thinner thighs, though) and an equally long list that continue to influence me.

Right at the top of my "formative years" list is this woman.  She was a force to be reckoned with; a dynamo.  I never had the privilege of being one of Miss Ankney's students but she taught me a lot as the choir director of the Congregation Church.  I sang in the children's choir right up through the adult choir.  That woman could get blood from a stone.  That's where I learned to keep one eye on my music and the other on the lady waving her hands in the air.  She didn't use a baton for the church choir. I'm pretty sure everyone was afraid she'd throw it at whoever wasn't paying attention.

I also participated, along with several other Allegan kids, in the high school musical, The King and I.  I was one of the princesses.  Even back then I was destined for royalty.  ha!

In one of my earlier posts (the one about going to camp in a wheelchair) I talked about going to music camp up in Caseville, MI.  Ms.Ankney was the musical director there as well.  We spent 6 weeks rehearsing the production.

I'll never forget the year that Ms.Ankney's brother, Ron, was playing "Billy" in Carousel and wasn't giving the soliloquy "enough" so she kept pushing and pushing until he hit that last note with everything he had and then fainted.  Her response was:  "that's the way I want to see you do it tomorrow night during the performance!"

I told you, she was tough.  But whatever she did was excellent.

She left Allegan in the early 60s and went up north to finish her career.  There's a school auditorium in Essexville named for her.  She left her mark there as well.

I sent Ms.Ankey a birthday card every year for many, many years.  We shared the date.  I remember being at a basketball game when I was quite young and they announced that it was someone special's birthday that day and asked the crowd to join in singing Happy Birthday.

I was thrilled.  How did they know?  I'm just a kid and all these people were going to sing to me?  You don't know how close I was to standing up and making a complete fool of myself.  That was when I learned we were both born on January 25.  I threw that in in case you want to write it on your calendar.

Pat (I got to call her that when I grew up) has left the director's stand but she has left behind a ton 'o memories for many, many people.  

Were you lucky like me?  Whose face popped into your head while reading this post?


  1. What a sweet post...and an amazing woman. Who popped into my head? My journalism teacher. Sadly, I didn't stay in touch but I think of him and the fun/challenge of his class often.

    1. Try searching for him. I sent a letter to my old instrumental band teacher many years ago telling him how much I appreciated his dedication.
      He wrote me back (which was a rare thing for him to do) and told me how much he appreciated hearing from me.

  2. Stanley Moffatt

    1. Jackie - nice to "see" you here. I never had Mr.Moffatt but I always heard people speak of him favorably.

  3. Same as you, El. There will never be another Pat Ankney, and those of us who knew her or studied under her were truly blessed. I had her in school for only one year--did I ever feel gypped!--and then the summer at Caseville. I had forgotten that story about Ron. Or maybe I wasn't in the room at the time. Yup, she wouldn't cut anyone a break!
    When she came to the library many years ago to plug her WWII book, I was nervous about meeting her again. Would she live up to the wizard-like image in my memory? Well, yes, she did! Her huge personality filled the room from corner to corner!
    Miss Ankney instilled the joy of singing in my soul, and it's a gift I've always carried with me.

  4. I was talking about Miss Ankney just this morning, and then of course I needed to google her to learn about her life post-Allegan High. She, indeed, was a huge influence in helping me learn to think independently and critically during high school history class...even though our perspectives on politics were remarkably different.

    This is a wonderful tribute to her, Ellen. I'm so glad that you kept in touch with her. From articles that I read today on the Bay City news website, she remained a force of nature until the very end.

    The second most formative teacher I had at Allegan High was Lucy Wise...and I don't think two women could have been more different in personality or teaching style. But I loved them both dearly and 50 years later can trace their impact in my life.