Stoughton lost one of its most dynamic citizens on Monday night, with the death of Anne Havlin. Anne was the Director of the St. Anthony’s Free Market, a food pantry located inside the religious education department of Immaculate Conception Church. She had waged a three year battle against cancer, always wearing a smile, and the face of courage.

Her husband Tom told me that, “It ended the way she wanted it. She was surrounded by her children.” Tom also shared how important that Christmas was to Anne. She had already wrapped all of this year’s gifts for her husband, her four daughters, and her five grandchildren. He told me that Hospice had told him last Friday that the time was short, and if they were to celebrate, it should be soon. So, Christmas was held on November 4, where Anne watched her entire extended family opening gifts, surrounded by Christmas decorations, and the smiles of youngsters. “The girls decorated the house, and everyone came over,” Tom said, “Anne had such a wonderful day. She passed away the next night.” Tom and Anne went on a Disney vacation and cruises while Anne fought her cancer. “She enjoyed every moment of life. It’s just too bad it wasn’t longer,” he said, choking back tears.

I had the pleasure of serving with Anne for many years on the “Doin It for Diane” Committee, which coordinated an event in the name of the late Diane Murray, who was an active supporter of the food pantries in the Stoughton area, along with her husband, Dr. David Fisher, a retired South School principal. The Committee donated 100% of its proceeds to both food pantries in Stoughton. Anne was a driving force on the committee, always sharing insightful thoughts, with a sense of humor. That humor sustained her in her battle—along with her amazing husband, Tom, and her four daughters, who made sure she enjoyed herself in her remaining time.

Father Joseph McDermott of Immaculate Conception Church told Snyder's Stoughton:  "She was a wonderful worker for the church and the whole town of Stoughton. She helped people of all faiths, and no faiths. If they were in need, she was there. She also was secretary for our religious education program (which serves 700 students each year) and a volunteer with our Life Teen program.  She was a self-starter and a great leader. She had wonderful ideas. Her illness slowed her down from doing what she wanted to do, in the end. She was a kind, compassionate, understanding and generous person. She got along well with everyone. She was a very strong and energetic person. She will be sorely missed."

Terry Schneider, Executive Director of the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce, and a co-founder of the Doin’ it for Dianne Committee, wrote, "If you are lucky enough, you might meet someone during your lifetime who has the qualities and heart of an angel---someone whose interest is purely to help others with no care for accolades or notoriety for herself, other than to expand promotion of her benevolence.  Anne Havlin is and, now I must accept getting used to saying, ‘was’ such a person, and I believe that I have become a better person for knowing her.  Anne has been promoted to the 'upstairs office' and will be watching over us.  Her compassion for others will continue through our actions, thoughts and good deeds since Anne taught us how to care for those who need our care."

Molly Mills, one of Anne's daughters, didn’t realize just how beloved she was. She wrote on Facebook, “Over the last couple of weeks, I have been hearing lots of stories about my mom, some I have never heard before. It's pretty amazing to see the ways she has reached out, made a difference to people, and befriended people. Some of the stories are funny, some of them heartwarming, some both. And all of them make me happy to be her daughter.” Her daughter Erin Lockhart wrote Snyder's Stoughton, "We are all so devastated right now, but the outpouring of support we've received from friends and from the community has helped. She was wonderful, and we miss her. Dad is our hero, he was the most amazing husband, taking care of her every single day for the last few years."

Chris Petrie, Chairman of the Board of the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce, said it was Anne who got him involved, in the first place. He told me, "She's the main reason I got involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the food pantry. The day that I met her--that's how it started for me.  Joel (Honig) and I did a tour of St. Anthony's, and then we volunteered my band for the ‘Diane It for Diane’ event.  When she was first in the hospital fighting ovarian cancer, that's when Joel and I volunteered to pickup the food for the pantry.  With her out, they had no one else. She was always positive, smiling, whether on oxygen or undergoing chemo. You'd never know how sick she was.  She cooked pans of food for the volunteer painters, and Tom took it to us, only a few weeks ago. She was just amazing. It was a long battle for her.  She fought so hard.  She will be greatly missed by the church, the pantry, and all of her friends."  

Christine Gallagher worked alongside Anne at St. Anthony's Free Market. She said, "Anne made the food pantry what it is today. It was her life's work. She was so caring for everyone. It is a wonderful place for people to feel secure and good about themselves. She encouraged people to feel comfortable. Personally, she was the best friend to have. She was the most caring person, with a great sense of humor, and she was so smart. She was eloquent. She cared about everyone.  She did so much for so many with little fanfare. The food pantry will carry on without her, but her spirit will always be there."

Suzanne Blacker, who runs the “other” pantry in town , the Ilse Marks Food Pantry, said, "I've known Anne for a long time. We loved her here. She made us laugh. She was a gem of a person. She always had something funny to say to lift our spirits. She was such an easy person to work with. It just doesn't seem fair."

Realtor Peg Carbone, who has been collecting donations for St. Anthony's Free Market every Thursday for years, wrote, "We know that one of God’s angels has moved from this earth to Heaven where she can watch over all of us and St. Anthony’s Market--a cause that she was truly passionate about. We will continue to make it successful for her. It was truly an honor to be a part of her life."  

At a recent meeting of the “Doin’ It for Diane” Committee, someone made a suggestion that it be-renamed for Anne. She bristled at the thought. She was such a modest individual. But, whether or not the Committee, or the food pantry itself, is named for Anne, she will forever be associated with it. In 2008, the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce honored her as the Volunteer of the Year for her work there. She was given many accolades, including citations from the highest people in state government. But, ever humble, she smiled through the ceremonies, and only urged people to get involved in feeding the hungry. Her spirit and her smile live on in all of us who got to know her. May she Rest in Peace.

Anne's Wake will be at Farley Funeral Home on Thursday, November 8, from 4-8 p.m. And, her funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church on Friday, November 9 at 10:30 .a.m

Anne receiving Volunteer of the Year

(Story by Mark Snyder. Photos courtesy of Facebook, and .