Ann Haymond Zwinger

Obituary
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  • "An exceptional person. I have always treasured her books ,..."
    - Nene Wolfe
  • "So sad to hear of the loss of such a remarkable and..."
    - michael and kathleen hague
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    - Mavis Groves
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Ann Haymond Zwinger, noted author and naturalist, died peacefully on August 30, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. She was born March 12, 1925 in Muncie, Indiana, the daughter of William T. Haymond, a lawyer, and Helen G. Haymond, an artist.

Ann graduated from Wellesley College, followed by graduate work at Radcliffe and Indiana University. She was working toward a doctorate at Harvard when she was "swept off her feet by a young Air Force pilot," Herman Zwinger. As a military wife she followed her husband across several states while raising three daughters. Transferred to Colorado Springs July 1960, they decided that it was a city of the arts, a beautiful natural environment, and a town where they could settle down.

Zwinger began to draw the plants she found on the forty acres she and Herman purchased in the mountains near Colorado Springs. She named the land "Constant Friendship" after the ship that brought the first Haymonds to the shores of America. She began to catalogue all the plants on their land, fascinated by the ecosystems at 8500 feet.

In 1969 Rachel Carson's literary agent, Marie Rodell, visited Colorado and was introduced to Ann by a mutual friend. Rodell asked Zwinger what she would most love to do. "Write about our land." A single chapter written with Rodell's encouragement was immediately accepted by Random House Publishing; that chapter became her first book, Beyond the Aspen Grove (1970).

Zwinger went on to publish twenty more books of natural history, spanning thirty-one years and covering American deserts, alpine tundra, and Baja California, Mexico. She became a specialist on Western rivers, and partnered with naturalist Edwin Way Teale on a book about canoeing the Concord River.

Her works solicited admiration and recognition from numerous naturalist and literary organizations. She was nominated for a National Book Award in Science in 1973, won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing in 1976, the Western Arts Federation Award for non-fiction in 1995, the John Hay Award from the Orion Society in 1996, and the "Spirit of the West" Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association in 2001. Her exquisite illustrations of plants and animals illuminate her books.

Zwinger frequently contributed to dozens of periodicals, including Audubon, The Smithsonian, Natural History, Islands, Orion, Plateau and Nature Conservancy magazines, as well as numerous other anthologies. Her illustrations and words served as visuals and forwards to many more publications, at the request of other authors. She was a member of the John Burroughs Association, The Thoreau Society, The Author's Guild, The Colorado Author's League, Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, and the Xerces Society.

Because she had "rivers in her veins" growing up on Indiana's White River, she fell in love with the Colorado, Green, and San Juan Rivers, completing hundreds of trips as she taught and wrote. Because of her deep knowledge base of high deserts and river canyons, she was invited along on many trips as a naturalist "in residence." She often rowed a Sportyak, a bathtub-sized one-person boat, through large rapids facing backwards, and paddled on many more inflatables.

She was a much sought after speaker and teacher, often serving as a role model and mentor to young people across the country. She taught at Colorado College, Carleton College, Smith College and many other venues, inspiring others to venture into the wild, carefully observe, and write about it. In doing so, Ann was presented with honorary degrees from Colorado College, Carleton College and the University of Colorado. Wellesley College awarded her the Alumnae Achievement Award in 1977.

Zwinger believed in serving the wider community, beginning with her dedicated involvement at Girl Scout Councils in both Kansas City and Colorado Springs. She was a sought-after board member, joining the boards of the Thoreau Society, Orion Society, John Burroughs Association, Colorado Public Broadcasting, the Nature Conservancy of Colorado, and the Palmer Foundation. She was most proud of the two decades she served on the board of American Electric Power Company (AEP) from 1977 through 1997, at the time the largest private utility in the country. She was the first woman to serve on a major utility board, and co-founded the Utility Women's Conference in 1984, as a Chair and member through 1997.

She is survived by three daughters: Susan, Jane and Sara and by Sally Ann, her granddaughter. We will all miss her presence and contributions to our lives.

You ask me:

Why do I live

On this green mountain?

I smile

No Answer

My heart serene

On flowing water...

~ Li Po

8th c. Chinese poet


Published in The Gazette on Sept. 7, 2014
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