Ann Frick Vernon of Estes Park, Colorado, died at home on July 20th, 2020, after a tenacious fourteen-year struggle with cancer. If more than one “worst” cancers exist, melanoma is surely among them, and it, too, was tenacious. She died with her husband, two sons, and sister at her bedside.
Ann was born on September 22nd, 1944, in Palo Alto, California, to Sara June Frick, a lab technician, and Charles Frick, an aerospace engineer who became the first director of the Apollo 11 project. She was educated at Santa Clara University and the University of California at Davis, where she received a Master’s degree in Art. On June 30, 1968, she married John Vernon, a graduate student in the English Department at UC Davis. Together, they lived in Salt Lake City for two years, then for more than forty years in Vestal, New York, while spending their summers in Estes Park, Colorado. In 2000, they moved permanently to Estes Park. Their two sons, Charles and Patrick, were born in 1976 and 1979, respectively, and live nearby. Her daughter-in-law Cindy gave birth to Ann’s granddaughter, Josie, on New Year’s Day in 2016.
When Ann and her family lived In New York, in the eighties and nineties, she worked tirelessly for the Broome County Nuclear Weapons Reduction Campaign, an organization that still exists in Binghamton, New York, as the educational arm of Broome County Sane/Freeze. In both New York and Colorado, she was an ardent environmentalist, a member and contributor to countless environmental groups, a conviction prompted by her love of the landscapes of Utah and Colorado, particularly Canyonlands National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Ann’s artistic roots were in California, where she studied with Robert Arneson, William T. Wiley, and Roy De Forest at the University of California at Davis. During a long career, she displayed her work at the Alan Frumkin Gallery in New York, the University of Utah, Ramapo College in New Jersey, the Directions Gallery at Colorado State University, Washington State College, and Spark Gallery in Denver. Her work is in the collections of the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock and the Manetti-Shrem Museum at the University of California at Davis. Her love of the American Southwest and especially southern Utah has inspired much of her work of the past twenty years, particularly her Desert Pilgrim series of drawings, which are anchored in the landscape of Mexican Hat, Utah. In these drawings, itinerant figures in desert settings call to mind Hieronymus Bosch’s work, as well as the fifteenth century “Lady and the Unicorn” series of tapestries. The main figure, a painter in the desert with an oversized brush as her staff, has various creatures and icons as ancillaries: an owl, a snake, a dog, and a world globe often carried by calaveras and miniature soldiers. Together, they wander through red rock cliffs and across vast southwestern plains with rivers and burning cities in the distance. This work may be seen on Ann’s website at annfrickvernon.com.
Ann was a strong woman with strong opinions about life, religion, politics and morals. She did not suffer know-it-alls and phoneys. She could be determined and fierce in expressing her opinions, yet she was also vulnerable and often outgoing and even wonderfully irreverent and silly – for example, with four-year-old Josie Vernon. She was never more vulnerable than in the final year of her life, which she faced with courage, nobility and grace. Her love of nature was a constant force in her life. She saw things in the glittering world that most of us miss, and much of what she saw was given expression in her visionary paintings and drawings.
Fold your wings, Ann. And, to the world: ample make her bed (words of Emily Dickinson).
There will be no memorial service for Ann until the coronavirus is tamed. However, the 6 p.m. bilingual Mass at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church on September 5 will be dedicated to her. And there will be an online memorial for Ann at Allnutt Funeral Services (allnuttestespark.com) with photos and remembrances, and the opportunity for friends to post messages. Ann is survived by her husband, John, her sons, Charles and Patrick, and her sisters, Barbara and Kathleen. Instead of flowers, please make a contribution in her name to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) at 425 East 100 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111, or online at suwa.org; online, look for the honorary donation option beneath “Membership.”