It’s going on a couple of weeks now, and I’m still sad.
Late on that Friday night of January 21, Ann Pickett passed away. Wife of Sonny, mother of Wendy and Ben, grandmother to several and friend to seemingly all she met, she was truly one of those folks who touched countless lives in Pascagoula and beyond.
A little context here: I have known Elizabeth Ann Riser Pickett since we were in grade school at Beach Elementary, she in the fifth grade and me in the sixth. Sonny and I go back even further, having entered the first grade together.
My first specific memory of Ann is when we were in the Pas-Point Junior Players together. This was a group started by Ms. Mary Alice (Bubs) Miner to give the youth of Pascagoula an opportunity to learn about theatre. Early on we put on a double feature, with Ann starring in “The Weird Sisters” and me portraying the lead in “The Frustrated Corpse” (you’ve seen those, right?). Not exactly Broadway, but the start of a beautiful friendship.
All the way up through the Pascagoula School System, Ann was always very involved with activities, quietly making a difference. As a senior at PHS, she was President and Queen of Hi-Jinx, the iconic local social club. By then, she and Sonny were an item, and they married in 1972.
After college, marriages, and career beginnings, a bunch of us who grew up together were reunited in Pascagoula. During this time, Ann and I were able to strengthen our friendship even more as fellow employees at Singing River Health System, where she was Director of Occupational Therapy for over 20 years.
Let me tell you, nobody had a better reputation at SRHS than Ann Pickett. Her patients loved her, her fellow health care professionals held her in high regard, and the administration considered her a star. Quick story here: one time, she called me at work and said, “come down to OT—I want you to meet somebody”. When I got there, she introduced me to one of her patients, Billy Buffett, Jimmy’s colorful uncle (referenced in the Buffett classic “Pascagoula Run”). Jimmy himself used to occasionally come by and visit Billy when Ann was treating him. Cool stuff.
As mentioned, Ann’s specialty was occupational therapy, and she was an exceptional practitioner. She was also somewhat of a medical ombudsman, able to advise you on a variety of subjects. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve called Ann and said, “hey, my ____ is bothering me,” and she’d have some idea about what to do.
As alluded to earlier, numerous couples locally all started hanging out together as our lives, families and careers grew. Mary Jon and I, Larry and Patty Smith, Rex and Tricia Gordon, Mike and Kathy Khayat, Gary and Diane Stevens, Don and Dena McKee—too many to name. In the late 70s or so, we started having what became an annual New Year’s Eve Party. It waxed and waned a bit over the years, but I can tell you that until this year, the Lucases and Picketts spent every New Year’s Eve together. We also spent the Fourth of July together for the past 40 years in a row together, give or take.
See it was that kind of easy, solid friendship. We may not necessarily see each other all that much during the entire year, but, we talked all the time, and, by golly, we were going to do New Year’s and the Fourth together. Tradition is a nice thing.
Actually, Sonny and Ann have always been an interesting couple. Not exactly opposites attract, but something like that. While Ann was always active in the community, interested in the arts, and ready for a lunch or dinner with friends, Sonny is happy going to work at Home Town Lumber (where he is co-owner), going out on his boat, or heading to his hunting camp for the weekend. Together they have made a great pair: Ann with her quiet dignity and heart of a servant, Sonny with his wonderfully brusque exterior and fierce loyalty to family and friends.
Boy, have the two of them loved their family. Between them, the Picketts and Risers have a long reach in our community, and all concerned have been embraced by Ann and Sonny. We actually call their section of Williams Street the Pickett Complex, with Ann and Sonny’s home in the middle flanked by Wendy on one side and Ben on the other.
To all of that brood, Ann has been a magnificent mother, wife, grandmother, daughter, cousin, in-law, and caregiver. Even through her own personal health problems of the past several years, she was always, and I mean always, there when somebody needed her, family or friend.
So, we all have a great sense of loss as Ann has gone on to join other angels in Heaven. We also have wonderful memories of a loving, caring woman who did so much for so many. Ann, your legacy is intact as one of the special people to have graced our community over the years. Thank you and Godspeed, kind lady.