Ann Burridge McCleary, a 40-year resident of Grosse Pointe Farms, died Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. She was 90.
A former social worker, Ann never failed to write a thank-you note or note of encouragement, bring dinner, visit the sick or comfort a friend, and she never lost her sense of wonder and joy.
She was active in the League of Women Voters, Detroit Historical Society and many other community organizations. In the 1970s, she founded CHOICES and taught assertiveness training to women and men in all walks of life. She also volunteered with hospice.
Ann grew up in Hinsdale, Ill., the youngest of four children — and only daughter — of Janet and Howard Burridge. Her parents were deeply devoted to each other and their children; Ann had many happy memories of the house on Lincoln Avenue, marred only by occasional pangs when one of her older brothers would whine, “Oh, do we have to bring her?” when their mother asked the boys to watch out for her. She shared a close relationship with her brothers and their children.
Psychedelic guru Timothy Leary wooed Ann during a transatlantic crossing when she was 18; the romance ended when the ship landed and before Leary began to “turn on, tune in and drop out.” Ann attended Goucher College in Maryland, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952. Post-college she worked in adoption placement and child welfare as a social worker, before meeting and marrying Thomas R. McCleary Jr. They met at a ski club meeting in Cincinnati, although neither of them ever skied. Ann was dating the president of the ski club and Tom came to the meeting with his housemates who promised there would be girls and beer. While the president ran the meeting, Tom chatted up Ann. They were married April 19, 1958. Their marriage lasted 53 years, until Tom’s death in 2011.
Ann approached her life after Tom’s death with courage and determination, moving to Falls Church, Va., in 2012, to be near her daughter. There she ran classes in the Great Courses at the local community center, took courses in drama from a retired Yale professor in Arlington, participated in the League of Women Voters and book clubs, and volunteered to practice English with non-native English speakers. She founded a social network of single, older women in her condo building who met twice a month for friendship and conversation. She voted in every election, including 2020.
Ann had a wonderful eye for design, color and harmony; her house was always a place where everyone felt at home, filled with the small treasures she had collected on trips — a bronze sculpture of a sleeping fawn she found in San Francisco, framed paintings on papyrus she picked up in Egypt, a miniature lacquer box from Russia. The dinners she and Tom hosted for family and friends were always filled with good, simple food, good Scotch, great conversation and much laughter.
A lifelong reader, Ann devoured books, magazines and newspapers until the end of her life. Willa Cather and W.H. Hudson were favorite authors and she returned to “My Antonia” again and again. She taught her daughter, Kathy, to read when Kathy was just 4, instilling that same passion for literature — something Ann’s granddaughters inherited as well.
One of Ann’s greatest gifts was the ability to make whoever she was with feel interesting, worthwhile and cared for. She was a terrific listener and laughed often.
Her quiet, warm spirit touched all who knew her, but that spirit lives on in her children and grandchildren. She is survived by her son, Tom (Jill) of Oakland, Calif., and daughter, Kathleen (Paul Benninghoff) of Falls Church, Va., as well as granddaughters, Grace and Emma Benninghoff and Meredith and Ally McCleary.