Anna Marie Suppes, 96, has a passion for shells. Collecting shells has long been a hobby; now she is turning her collection into beautiful artwork.
Many of her projects are displayed in her apartment at Crossroads Assisted Living.
Jewelry boxes, picture and mirror frames, trinket holders, jewelry, and magnets are favorites of hers. Her most recent masterpiece is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. She spent two weeks creating the shrine and displays it proudly in the entryway of her apartment.
Anna Marie has a remarkable selection of shells gathered by her and given to her over the years.
Conch shells, sand dollars, and starfish ... that's just the beginning to the large variety of seashells Anna Marie has in her collection. When she and her husband bought a camper, they decided to travel throughout the United States and Mexico. It was through their travels that Anna Marie realized her love for shells. During the next six years, she and her sister collected buckets brimming with beautiful shells. They became experts at cleaning the shells, which included dunking the shells in acid water, followed by bleach water, clean water, and lastly laying them out in the hot sun to dry. Once, when she and her sister made it out to a sandbar in search of more beautiful shells, the waves camein quickly, almost trapping them! Luckily, they made it out safely, and didn't let the experience slow them down from shell collecting.
Once Anna Marie collected over 200 sand dollars in Mexico.
Favorite spots for shell collecting included Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Lake of Cortez, San Felipe and Fisherman's Wharf. Anna Marie acquired her collection over a six-year period.
She says she once knew where every shell came from, as well as its name, but now she has to pull out her reference books occasionally to refresh her memory. "I'm getting old; I can't remember like I used to," she says.
Every year at Christmastime, she gives a shell gift to every Crossroads employee. Last Christmas she gave out red poinsettia magnets made with small shells that she painted.
Anna Marie not only enjoys shells, but is also an expert quilter and beaded jewelry maker. Grandchildren have received baby quilts and upon getting married. She is an avid reader, loves outings and enjoys visiting with her many friends and family members. Of the 11 children in her close-knit Catholic family, only Anna Marie and two younger sisters are still living. Sister Betty lives nearby and takes her to church at St. Michael's every Sunday.
Anna Marie was born in Kansas but the family moved to Wyoming and Idaho in search of a drier climate for her asthmatic mother. She vividly recalls moving trips with all 11 children, her mom and dad, and all theirpossessions. On one journey, they used some of the canned goods they were moving to barter for a trailer repair.
Anna Marie was a nun for 20 years and a teacher for 36 years. She started her teaching career in high school, but quickly decided she couldn't cope with the older kids. Through the years, she's taught middle school, elementary school and special education in Iowa and Colorado. After "retiring," she taught at St. Michael's Catholic School.
Her husband John farmed 80 acres near Olathe. Between raising beets, beans and other crops, they designed and built their home. In later years they sold the farm and moved a trailer onto a small parcel carved from the 80 acres. She and John also lived in Arizona for a few years. John worked as a security guard and they explored the desert and ventured to the Sea of Cortez, where Anna Marie's interest in shells was sparked. She also recalls making bookmarks from the wildflowers she and her sister collected in the desert.
As she likes to stay busy, Anna Marie always has a project in progress. At the age of 94, she decided to write her autobiography. She pulled out her mother's and her sister's diaries, read back through her own entries, and filled two looseleaf notebooks with the story of her life. The first notebook contains memoriesfrom her early years; the second is dated 1956-1999 and encompasses her married life. She has allowed only a few people to read her autobiography because she says it contains some "intimate, crazy things."
She and John were married 49 years when he died. They adopted two children who now live in Arizona and Nebraska.
To Anna Marie, the world has always been an interesting place and she continues her quest to learn about other countries and other cultures through large print library books. She still has much to learn and to share with others. "Life is interesting if you want it to be," she said.
This article was written by Pat Sunderland and is based, in part, on information from Crossroads' monthly newsletter and from Sally Blyton, a friend of Anna Marie's.blog comments powered by Disqus