Anne M. Desmond

Anne Millar Desmond (“Annie” to most people), recently of Point Richmond in Richmond, Calif., and earlier of Morning Sun Mindfulness Center in Alstead, as well as multiple places on the East Coast (including Quincy, Mass., during nearly three years of treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston), in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in Botswana, Africa, died Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, at the UCSF Parnassus hospital in San Francisco after three and a half years of valiant effort to heal from advanced cancer.

Annie is survived by her husband, Timothy Ambrose Desmond, and her son, Finnegan Jacob Millar Desmond — both of Alstead; her brother, Rowan Campbell Millar of Santa Cruz, Calif.; her parents, Marilala (Laila) Campbell Millar and Charles (Chuck) Rosier Millar of Richmond, Calif.; and many loving aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family and friends.

Annie, a co-founder of the Morning Sun Mindfulness Center (2011–2018) in Alstead, and a teacher and then education program director at Slide Ranch (2004–2011) in Muir Beach, Calif., was an educator, communicator, leader, performer and activist (as well as a devoted mother, family member, community member, and friend). Her career and avocations spanned environmental and spiritual education programs for children and families, management in nonprofit programs and organizations, writing and editing, facilitation of events, singing, dancing, and spiritual and community leadership and involvement (including participation in the Occupy Wall Street movement and other movements for social justice and for social and spiritual upliftment).

Annie was born Anne Posey Dimakatso Millar on March 7, 1978, to Marilala (Laila) Campbell Millar and Charles (Chuck) Rosier Millar, in Mochudi, Botswana. She lived in the village of Palapye and later in the capital, Gaborone. The family moved back to Westminster West, Vt., when Annie was 2, then in the autumn of 1981 to San Francisco — where she attended Buen Dia Family School and Rooftop Elementary School and was a member of the San Francisco Girls Chorus. When the family moved to San Jose, Calif., in 1989, she completed grade school at DeVargas Elementary School, 7th and 8th grade at Hyde Junior High School (now called Hyde Middle School), and high school at Cupertino High School and Middle College (at De Anza community college). She participated in the Sunnyvale Children’s Theater program, where she acted in numerous musicals and plays — including as Glinda, the good witch, in “The Wizard of Oz.” During high school she participated in a Habitat for Humanity project, helping families build homes in Guatemala. She studied voice throughout junior high and high school with Peggy Spool, now director of the Vivace Youth Chorus in San Jose. Annie was soprano soloist at her Middle College graduation and sang throughout her life, including with the Conspiracy of Venus, an a cappella women’s vocal ensemble in San Francisco.

Annie earned a BA degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 2000, with an emphasis on political science and cultural anthropology. She spent her summers in a labor organizing internship through the Union Summer program in San Jose, in an editing internship at Synopsys in Mountain View, Calif., and in improving her Spanish at the University of Havana in Cuba. She spent her junior year studying in Costa Rica and Mexico (where she learned about grassroots development and social change through a program with the School for International Training). During her semesters on campus at Sarah Lawrence, she sang in the a cappella group Res Miranda and worked both at a Haagen-Dazs ice-cream shop and as a legal intern and bilingual researcher for the Westchester Hispanic Coalition. After college, Annie trained and worked further as an editor at NetApp in Sunnyvale, Calif. She used her writing and editing skills both professionally and pro bono throughout her life for friends (including author Sasha Cagen) and family (including her husband, author Timothy Ambrose Desmond).

Annie’s early employment included work with Tom Snyder Productions in Boston in human resources; with City Year in San Jose and nationally, with cities around the country, to help with auditing; with Altshuler Berzon in San Francisco as a paralegal; and with Buen Dia Family School (also in San Francisco), which she had attended and loved as a child, as a substitute teacher and a development intern.

During her years at Slide Ranch (2004–2011), Annie started as a resident teaching intern, helping groups of children who came from schools around the San Francisco Bay Area to learn about where food comes from and to experience the beauty of the ocean, the woods and the organic farm at Slide Ranch. Eventually becoming education program director, Annie was often a spokesperson with the board of trustees and with the public for participants as well as staff (she had originally applied to work at Slide Ranch because of her own meaningful experience there as a child). As education program director, Annie managed hiring, training and supervision of teachers and other education program staff, and gave presentations about Slide Ranch to schools and families in Spanish and English. In 2005–06, she also worked part-time for Project Avary (Alternative Ventures for At-Risk Youth) in San Rafael while continuing to work at Slide Ranch.

In 2010, Annie married Timothy Ambrose Desmond in an outdoor ceremony at Slide Ranch. The two had been drawn together through common interests in social justice issues, sustainable agriculture and spirituality — gradually falling in love and deciding to get married and have a family.

In 2011, Annie and her husband accepted an invitation from two former Buddhist monks, who had lived at Thich Nhat Hahn’s Plum Village monastery in France, to join them in founding the Morning Sun Mindfulness Center in Alstead. Morning Sun was envisioned for families and individuals committed to mindfulness but not seeking strict monastic life. Annie brought her skills in program management, communication and education to the project, which has grown and developed as a community as well as a retreat center providing outreach and events for a larger community. She and her husband had their son, Finnegan, there, built a house, helped develop the mindfulness center and participated in community life and outreach.

In April of 2018, Annie returned with her family to live in her beloved San Francisco Bay Area for her final months of life. During this time, she participated in life fully whenever she could. Even in her final weeks in the hospital, although she was sometimes in great pain, Annie spent many meaningful moments with family and dear friends. During much of this time, she continued to reach out to her loved ones and others around her, including the hospital staff, with an amazing strength of spirit and with loving, joy, intelligence and humor. Annie was known among her friends and family for living a life full of joy and love, even when times were hard, and for her commitment to helping make the world a kinder place for everyone. Many friends said Annie’s bright spirit had a profound impact on their lives because she listened to them with such an open heart and such loving, acceptance and compassion.

A memorial will take place at Slide Ranch, 2025 Shoreline Highway, Muir Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 2 p.m. There will also be a memorial at Morning Sun Mindfulness Center, 655 Gilsum Mine Road, Alstead, on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m.

Anyone wishing to donate to a nonprofit organization that was dear to Annie’s heart can send donations to Slide Ranch or to Morning Sun Mindfulness Center. Anyone interested in contributing memories of Annie to a compilation for Annie’s beloved son and all the other people who loved her, please email Laila Millar at lailamillar@gmail.com.