Staff Remembers VIP Anne Powis

VIP Anne Powis
VIP Anne Powis

We are saddened to report the loss of Ann Powis, a dynamic, passionate, and long-time Boston National Historical Park volunteer who passed away on November 30, 2009. Anne had worked as a park volunteer at the 15 State Street visitor center for 27 years.

Anne was born and raised in Vienna, Austria and received training in hotel management at an academy there after completing high school. To graduate from the academy, Anne had to be fluent in French, English, Italian and German, which greatly enhanced her ability to interact with international visitors in Boston.

Anne began work in the hotel industry in Vienna after graduating from the academy and “was at the front desk when the Nazis walked in” in March, 1938, she told park ranger Dianne Donnelly in a 1997 interview. Anne and her parents fled Vienna for Hamburg in November, 1938 before making their way to England. In February, 1940 Anne and her parents arrived in Boston where she worked in the hotel industry until 1970.

After her retirement, Ann began to volunteer for several different organizations, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston NHP. Every Friday she would don her khaki volunteer shirt with the NPS volunteer patch on it, which she had further adorned with a butterfly pin on the shoulder.

Anne was particularly adept at greeting and welcoming visitors because of the training she had received in Austria. As she told ranger Mike Bradford, she could spot a German a mile away (she was Austrian, after all!). One time she literally went the extra mile—a group of German students had arrived with no warning, and they were not that proficient in English. Already in her 70s, Anne agreed to be translator as ranger Bradford led the group on a tour of The Freedom Trail. As Anne began to translate, she said in German, “ranger Bradford will be your leader for today.” The German word for leader is “Fuehrer.” As soon as she said this word, a nervous titter of laughter went through the group. The Nazis cast a long shadow both historically and personally.

A lover of art and music, Anne would frequently talk about the exhibits she saw at the Museum of Fine Arts, or tell anecdotes about her work there. She loved to travel, making several trips with friends to Charleston, SC, to Florida, Europe, and to other places. She also loved her family, her daughters, and her grandchildren. They stopped in frequently to pick her up at the Visitor Center.

For all of her volunteer efforts, Anne was given several awards by the National Park Service. But, as she once said, “all I ever wanted to do was to give back to my adopted country some of my time in gratitude for sheltering me in a time of trouble.” This she did in full measure and the staff at Boston National Historical Park will be forever grateful to Anne for her devotion to the Park Service, and for her life. We miss her terribly already.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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