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Generosity at Core of Anne Thorne Weaver’s Life, Giving Back to the Community Comes Second Nature to Omaha Woman Whose Live-out-loud Personality is Tempered by Compassion and Service

April 21, 2012 3 comments

Omaha, a city with a very high capita rate of millionaires, is known for its unusually generous philanthropic community and while the names of a dozen or more major philanthropists here are quite familiar to anyone who keeps up with local news there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of other donors in the metro whose name recognition is far less despite the fact their support is every bit as significant as their more publicized counterparts.  Until assigned to do the following story on Anne Thorne Weaver I admit I never heard of her, which is understandable since I neither regularly travel in or report on the blue blood circles of Omaha.  It turns out she’s someone I and a lot of other Omahans should know about since she does a lot to support some of the very institutions that contribute to the quality of life here.  If her only claim to fame was signing checks, that would be one thing.  But it turns out she’s a vital, interesting person quite apart from her giving.
Anne Thorne Weaver

 

 

Generosity at Core of Anne Thorne Weaver’s Life, Giving Back to the Community Comes Second Nature to Omaha Woman Whose Live-out-loud Personality is Tempered by Compassion and Service

©by Leo Adam Biga

Soon to appear in Metro Magazine

 

Anne Thorne Weaver has known privilege and pain but like a real-life Auntie Mame she views the world as a banquet to be sampled.

A giving heart

The adventurous traveler and enthusiastic hostess says, “I’ve had a really a good life. I’m one of these few people that would go back to the beginning and live it all over again.” The generous Weaver has spent her adult life volunteering with local service clubs and nonprofits in order to better her adopted hometown.

When most persons her age defer to the next generation, she’s still an active board member and patron with various organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Museum of Nebraska Art and the Nebraska Methodist Hospital Foundation. Her work on behalf of causes earned her the 2011 Junior League of Omaha Distinguished Sustainer Award and community service awards from the WCA and Methodist Hospital Foundation. On June 5 the Women’s Center for Advancement’s 25th Tribute to Women recognizes her community philanthropic efforts.

“It came as a big surprise to have been selected,” she says.

She’ll arrive at the program from her summer sanctuary in Okoboj, Iowa. As soon as the evening’s over, she’ll head straight back to her beloved lakeshore cottage. It takes a lot to get her to leave the retreat, where she’s known to throw a party or two. Not even weddings or funerals can pry her away, unless it’s a close friend or family member, “For this though I’m leaving Okoboji, that’s how honored I am,” she says.

 

 

An Okoboji sunrise, ©edithmyrant,blogspot.com

 

 

Plaudits are not why she helps others but if her example can spur others to follow her lead then she’s glad to be in the spotlight. By responding to needs she gets something in return more meaningful than any accolades. “When you give, everything is given back,” she says Besides, she adds, “I enjoy the people with whom I work a lot, I really do. I’m not going to do something if I don’t enjoy it. I only work on it when it’s going to be fun.”

Some of her favorite things

Knowing first-hand the critical difference volunteers make in fulfilling the mission of nonprofits, she says, “just imagine what this town would be like without volunteers. I mean, everything would be closed – the libraries, the hospitals…” She credits the Junior League for its volunteer training and placement activities.

Refined in many ways, she’s also never outgrown her tomboy nature and love of nature. “My big passion is the Humane Society,” she says. Still an “Iowa girl” at heart, she enjoys the simple pleasures of the state fair.

Her appreciation for both fauna and the finer things is seen in her Loveland neighborhood home, where art objects share space with pets. She’s devoted countless hours to supporting the arts. “I am on the opera board and the symphony board and I love them both,” she proclaims. A relative newcomer to the Omaha Community Playhouse board, she says, “I’m finding it really interesting.”

She previously volunteered with the Joslyn Women’s Association and the Durham Museum, whose original board she served on.

“Another one of my great loves is the art center up there,” she says, referring to Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboj, where she supports several things close to her heart. Nearby Spirit Lake is home to a favorite worship place, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church. “I really love that little church,” she says. Weaver belongs to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha.

An inveterate seeker with a burning curiosity, Weaver’s extensive travels have taken her to Timbuktu, New Guinea, the Galapagos Islands and the Grand Canyon.

A helping hand

She likes aiding people get where they want to go, too. In her work with the Patriotic Committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames she helps award scholarships to Native American nurses serving reservations and helps send an essay contest winners to a Congressional Seminar in Washington D.C. “It’s a wonderful opportunity and a life changing experience for these kids,” she says.

She chaired the volunteer bureau Junior League Omaha once co-sponsored. For JLO’s Call to Action program she served on a team of ombudsmen. “We had to learn where everything was in Omaha that could assist people. If somebody had trouble or a dispute, we would tell them where to go to get it resolved.”

Her giving back is an expression of the saying that to whom much is given, much is expected. Born into a Mayflower family of self-made and inherited fortunes in Des Moines and Chicago, she harbors deep respect for American history and ideals.

Formative years

As a child she was immersed in history living at Terrace Hill, a circa 1860s mansion  with 90-foot tower overlooking downtown Des Moines. The home was once the residence of the Hubbell family, whose late tycoon patriarch, F.M. Hubbell, is her great-grandfather. The National Historic Place home is now the Iowa governor’s residence. She’s pleased it’s well preserved. “They’ve done a beautiful job on the restoration. It never looked that good when we lived there. It was just home.”

Terrace Hill

 

 

After her folks split she was shuffled between two sets of grandparents. “They were two totally different worlds,” she says. “In Des Moines I could wear blue jeans and men’s shirts. But in Chicago I couldn’t leave the house without wearing a hat and gloves and having my nose powdered.”

Her grandparents set a model for philanthropy she’s followed.

Despite being an only child, she recalls Terrace Hill as anything but lonely. She had the run of the place and its extensive grounds. Adventure was everywhere.

“It was just a wonderful home to grow up in. My cousin Patty and I spent a lot of time together. We’d run up in the tower and hop out on the roof. We just jumped all over the place. We spent quite a bit of our time in the pool. We were like fish.”

For company there were also the servants, “and I loved them,” says Weaver. “Two couples had been there 40 years, so they were my family. I’d take my meals with them in the dining room.”

A life well lived

Not everything’s been rosy. Growing up, her parents were largely absent. Her only marriage ended in divorce, though she and her ex remained friends. One of the couple’s four children took his own life at age 21.

Today, she’s alone but hardly lonely. She entertains at home. She attends social and civic engagements galore. There’s her volunteer activities. Breakfast with the girls. Doting on her pets. She goes on excursions whenever she feels like.

“I don’t know where the time goes,” she says.

Her bucket list includes touring the American West’s national parks and Ireland.

A matriarch in age if not spirit, she recently celebrated her Almost 80 birthday bash with friends in Des Moines. The progressive party moved from the botanical gardens to an art center to a country club to Terrace Hill.

“The joy to me is, they say you can’t go home again, but I can.”

As part of an unbroken lineage of service she feels responsible “to prepare whoever follows you to do an even better job than you have done.”

For Tribute to Women tickets  call 402-345-6555 or visit http://www.wcaomaha.org.

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