Farewell to a grand Durango lady

HANNA MARTENS/Durango Herald

Ann Flatten, who has had an impact on numerous community organizations, shares a bittersweet evening with friends, including David Wylie, during a going away party Monday at the Lost Dog Bar & Lounge. Flatten, who has been involved with groups such as Music in the Mountains, the League of Women Voters of La Plata County and the Durango Chapter of the American Association of University Women, is moving to the Phoenix area to be closer to her daughter, Karen Langhart.

There is no denying that when you live in a place where people want to retire, you get a lot of talented people moving in. They volunteer their time, talents and energy to our community, and we are much the better for it.

But hardly anyone has had the impact on as wide a variety of fronts as Ann Flatten, who is moving to the Phoenix area to be near her daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Rick Langhart. On Monday, a cross-section of the community gathered at the Lost Dog Bar & Lounge to send her on her way with heartfelt thanks and a “come visit soon” affair. It was organized by Mary Barter, Sally Bellerue, Lou Falkenstein and Marilyn Sandstrom.

Flatten, who’s in her early 80s, had a notable career as a teacher and principal in Southern California before she and her late husband, Orris, moved to Durango. In our corner of the woods, she put that experience to good use. She has volunteered with Durango School District 9-R in areas such as serving on the search committee for a new superintendent, which recommended Barter. Barter commended Flatten for her intelligence in the matter. Flatten also supported Nancy Heleno and the founders of Mountain Middle School as they put their plan together.

But more than that, Flatten has shared her wisdom with those of us outside the education system. She worked on the League of Women Voters of La Plata County’s education position in 2002, was an indispensable member of the national League of Women Voters’ study on the role of the federal government in education in 2011 and consulted on education issues many times.

In 2008 and 2012, Flatten combined her interests in education with her commitment to civic engagement, working with The Durango Herald to publish and distribute LWV’s newspaper, Electing the President. But she didn’t stop there. Flatten worked with Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio high schools to educate them on the importance of registering and voting, and the process of electing a president. Then she helped DHS students elect their student council and register to vote if they had turned 18.

Throw in being an election judge and presenting information about ballot issues to assorted organizations, and – much as I hate folks “interpreting” what the Founding Fathers had in mind – she would be their role model of an engaged citizen.

Then there’s her commitment to the arts. Flatten served on the board of directors of Music in the Mountains for a number of years, including an influential stint as president, when she made Music in the Mountains Goes to School happen. (I wrote about that program in my Wednesday column.) With the change in movie theater ownership last year, Flatten worked hard to keep the live high-definition broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera available here, and she has been a familiar face at the Durango Film festival.

Flatten has also lived her belief that women of all income levels should have access to good health care by serving as an escort at Planned Parenthood. And I’m running out of space to include details on her contributions to the American Association of University Women, but they include helping found and lead its Edouard Book Club.

Flatten is so much more than a list of accomplishments. She has modeled generosity of spirit and motivated people to come together to get things done.

Perhaps the only thing she couldn’t do was to break the logjam to get Denver television broadcast here, but since even Colorado’s senators have failed to convince the Federal Communications Commission to budge on the issue, I’m going to give her a pass on that one.

A number of people helped pull together this portrait of Flatten’s involvement here, including Sandstrom, Ellen Park, Falkenstein, Mary Ruth Bowman, Tiffany Parker, Lee Conger, Marilyn Brown and Stephanie Huss. Thanks to all of you.

I told someone at the gathering that I want to be just like Flatten when I grow up, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized I don’t have a prayer of reaching that goal. So the best I can do is hope that reading about her inspires someone else to attempt to reach such heights.

Godspeed, Ann.

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These folks celebrating their birthdays are going to have a festive weekend, what with Father’s Day and all – Art Gesh, Sue Griffith, Carol Salomon, Sylvia Kehle, Kay Cooley, Nick Dudley, Ryan Ehrig, Lia Neergaard, David Jackson, Stewart Leach, Nancy Brown, Vicky Moreno, Katie Hotter, Yvonne Portell, Jigger Staby, Amber Lashmett-Levine, Jack Morrison, Chris Scott, Clay Siekman, Sharon Watkins, Arnold Trujillo, Erin Hamlin, Dylan Baken, Diane Curtis, Pauline Ellis, Jill Simplicio, Allison Betts, Ann Duft, Diane Diiro and Janet Williams.

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Congrats to several area schools that participated in the Pennies for Patients fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Bayfield Middle School students, working with teacher Janae Hunderman, raised more than $570. In Ignacio, the elementary school, working with Keri Ostergaard, raised about $444; the intermediate school brought in $759 with the help of Jennifer Diethrich; and the high school, thanks to Lynn Blakesley, came up with $416.

In Durango, four schools participated: Escalante (almost $810, thanks to Sharee Erickson) and Miller ($41, with Tiffany Mapel) middle schools; and Fort Lewis Mesa ($448 with Autumn Frickel) and Riverview ($560 thanks to Doug Geygan) elementary schools.

They were among 502 schools in Colorado and Wyoming that raised more than $472,000 to beat blood cancers. Those 47 million pennies weighed more than three airplanes.

Who says pennies are worthless?

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Gardens are abloom for the anniversaries of Hamilton and Jan Wright, John and Katie Benner, Fred and Lois Anderegg, Dan and Kim Harms, Mike and Dianne Milner, Warren and Ruth Phillips, Ed and Phyllis Tucker, Jeff and Erica Max, Jim and Marjorie Appel, David and Jeannie Bennett, Mike and Meme Eberspacher, Kip and Nellie Boyd, Trent and Gisele Pansze, Bob and Donnis Lawrence, Darrell and Diane Trembly and Darren and Tonya Wales.

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