Anne Vilas Irish

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MIDDLETON–Anne Vilas Irish died on Jan. 26, 2021 at UW Hospital.  Anne died as she lived–with grace and a strong, steady will, driven by concern and compassion for the people around her and the world in general. All that knew her would agree that the world is a better place because of her. 

As a quiet activist, Anne was a positive influence on so many people–from the women she worked with and for at the Foothill Free Clinic in Pasadena and the generations of children who learned the joys of reading at Pooh Corner on Madison’s Monroe Street, to her many bookselling compatriots when she was director of the Association of Booksellers for Children and her softball and painting buddies who zoomed together during the COVID-19 pandemic. While her husband Chuck is seen as a revered professor by hundreds of foreign students he helped bring to Madison for the study of law, it is Anne that they all looked up to more as their American mom. Anne raised her children, Rob Irish and Marney Hoefer to have a profound respect for each individual, irrespective of sexual orientation, race, or economic circumstances. Anne’s patience and creativity were an important reason for Marney and Rob’s understanding and respect for the world around them. Chuck has lost his soulmate, his life coach, and the source of almost all of his happiest and most pleasant memories. Anne and Chuck have been looking forward to a post-COVID-19 time when they could belly up to the bar to laugh with the bartender and the friends and strangers around them.

Anne’s world was an ever-expanding constellation of family and friends and she developed so many deep connections over her life that it is hard to distinguish friend from family in her household. Anne welcomed Marney’s husband, Brian Hoefer, and Rob’s wife, Jennifer Lee, with such warmth and enthusiasm that at the time of her death she really had four children. She was a wonderful grandmother to her two grandchildren Will and Ben Hoefer, instilling the love of reading and exploration. Anne loved her special status as the adopted American (grand)mother of Zhou Jian, his wife, Xixue Mei, and their children, Dean and Ellen. Over her lifetime she has developed wonderful, long lasting friendships with people on six of the world’s continents, with some of her more adventurous friends planning on adding the seventh sometime soon. Her love was not limited to people, and while at home she could usually be found with a cat or two in her lap, most people knew her as a dog person with a long lineage of beautiful rescue dogs always by her side. 

She is survived by her husband and children, her two sisters Peggy Parsons and Betsy Block, her two sisters by marriage Kitty Weaver and Susan Wedwaldt, as well as many wonderful grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, family and friends who share in our grief.  

A family burial will take place at Natural Path Sanctuary. A celebration of Anne’s life is being planned for the late summer/early fall of 2021.  Gifts in remembrance of Anne may be sent to Middleton Outreach Ministry, Waunakee Neighborhood Connection and Planned Parenthood; or simply do something nice for somebody, preferably a stranger, and then smile thinking of Anne. Careful–it may be habit forming.

Anne did a lot in her 78 years of life, but all that knew her feel she was taken too soon. Wow! What a woman!

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