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
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 VisitorCenter.
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 BostonNationalHistoricalPark will be forever
grateful to Anne for her devotion to the Park Service, and for her life. We miss her terribly already.