OBITUARY

Anna Bartlett

September 4, 1916November 11, 2020
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Anna “Ann” Bartlett, age 104, died Nov. 11, 2020 after an eventful life that included business success, service to country and an incredible will to survive. Ann was a child of the Great Depression, a World War II “Rosie the Riveter,” wife, mother and grandmother known for her sweetness, courtesy and razor-sharp wit. She passed away peacefully at home in the arms of her family.

Ann was born Sept. 4, 1916 in Gary, Indiana, daughter of steelworker George and wife Julia Maruhnich, who immigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1905. After her mother died in 1918, Ann’s father moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania and became a coal miner, placing his three girls in an orphanage. But he soon married Anna Swetz and they had 10 children, giving Ann seven sisters and five brothers. Life was hard and Ann really did walk to school in the snow, even picking up fallen coal along railroad tracks to fuel the family’s stove.

Ann left school in 6th grade to work as a maid and waitress. After Pearl Harbor, the Philadelphia Navy Yard hired her, and 5-foot 100-pound Ann operated a crane lifting batteries from submarines, climbing a 60-foot ladder from which a predecessor had fallen and died. “My first day, the men looked at me and slapped their foreheads,” she remembered, but she soon won an award for being the best crane operator. Decades later she still recalled the names of the submarines (U.S.S. Barracuda was her favorite), and considered herself a World War II veteran.

On a walk in downtown Philadelphia in 1946, her shoe caught in a sidewalk grate. Stopping to help was a sailor from Texas, Homer Bartlett. With Rock Hudson-like good looks, 6-foot 2-inch height, blue eyes and stories of the Southwest Pacific – plus a love for dancing – Homer caught her eye, and vice versa. They married just four weeks later.

Transferred to Florida, Homer was a tugboat skipper and warrant officer with a Navy career planned. But like many crewmates on the cruiser U.S.S. Phoenix, he had contracted tuberculosis that was now ravaging his body. The Navy transferred him to a hospital on Long Island, New York. Ann moved to New York City to work during the week and visit Homer on weekends as his condition gradually worsened. And there was another challenge – Ann was pregnant with her first child, James (Jim). Six weeks before her due date at Homer’s urging Ann took a train alone to Houston, “So Jim wouldn’t be born on Yankee soil,” as Homer put it. Ann had the courage to make that trip alone, staying with in-laws she had never met and giving birth. She soon returned north, leaving Jim with her family in Scranton as she went back to work. Meanwhile, Homer struggled and was even mistakenly pronounced dead at one point. But then the miracle drug streptomycin was developed, and Homer was one of the first four patients to receive the drug, which cured him.

The family moved to Houston in late 1948 upon Homer’s discharge from the hospital and Navy. Borrowing from Homer’s parents, they built a one-room house in Kashmere Gardens – so poor their refrigerator was an ice-filled washtub for milk for the children, which now included son Wayne, born in 1949. Daughter Sherry followed in 1952.

As Ann cared for the children, Homer first sold appliances, then switched to repairing and selling adding machines, typewriters and cash registers. In 1953 Ann and Homer co-founded Bartlett Business Machines, serving small businesses and later grocery and retail chains. The company grew into one of Houston’s leading independent dealers, selling thousands of machines with Ann serving as office manager and Wayne handling service. After Homer’s 1984 death, she chaired the company with Wayne’s assistance until its 1994 sale, then retired.

Through 38 years together, Ann and Homer pursued dancing; onlookers typically formed a circle to watch the little lady and big man cavort. Their legendary New Year’s Eve garage dances in a new Melrose Park home during the ‘50s ultimately had to end when the crowd grew to 200. And “open house” Sunday mornings drew neighbors and friends for Ann’s tasty waffles.

Ann and Homer were also involved with antique cars, and despite her petite stature, Ann drove even the biggest ones by placing a pillow behind her back. She and Homer traveled statewide on old car tours, and as late as the 2000s she drove a ’68 Mustang convertible, called “Miss Ann” in her honor. She was a 70-year member of the Gulf Coast Region of the Antique Automobile Club.

Ann and Homer also toured the U.S. via motorhome to sightsee and attend cash register dealer conventions and Indianapolis-car races, where they were friends with local drivers who had made it big. After Homer’s death, Ann’s travel continued with bus tours and trips with her children. Ann also appeared in dance showcases wearing custom ballroom gowns. In the ‘90s she found a companion, Bill Swearingen, with whom she danced and traveled until his death in 2005. Meanwhile, she mastered crossword puzzles and hosted massive holiday dinners.

Ann lived independently until 2008, surrounded by beloved neighbors, then moved to The Heritage Assisted Living in Tomball, becoming a staff favorite with her sweet nature. She enjoyed near-daily visits from Sherry and daughter-in-law Eileen, with frequent restaurant and movie runs and daytrips. More than 90 attended her 100th birthday party. In February 2020 at age 103 Ann was named the Heritage’s “Valentine’s Day Queen.” When asked if she would walk to the celebration or ride a wheelchair, she replied, “The Queen doesn’t walk, the Queen rides.” After her health deteriorated in mid-2020, Ann moved to James and Eileen’s home.

Ann is survived by daughter Sherry Daspit and husband Larry, son Wayne Bartlett and wife Theresa, and son James Bartlett and wife Eileen. Grandchildren are Stephen Daspit and John, Warren and Catherine Bartlett, and honorary grand-daughter Cheryl Knox. Great-grandchildren are Blaine Bartlett and Jackson Thibodeaux. Her great-great-granddaughter is Ruby Thibodeaux. Wonderful surviving neighbors are Bess Pickle and family, and Aggie McCloskey and family. Surviving sisters include Helen Fabiani and Pauline and Margie Maruhnich, and surviving brothers are Michael and Frank Maruhnich – most still in Scranton. There are numerous nieces and nephews.

Special thanks to The Heritage staff for caring for Ann, especially Alejandra Mendoza and Florenda Felicia, Tomball at home Quality Care, Heart-to-Heart Hospice and caregivers Gina Anzaldua and Francis Mathews.

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    Monday, November 16, 2020

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Anna Bartlett

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Deborah Fields

November 15, 2020

What a touching tribute to Mrs. Bartlett, the leader of the pack. Her life story and photographs are a wonderful example of why her generation will forever be remembered as America’s Greatest. She persevered to successfully overcome severe obstacles in her early years, always moving forward and never giving up.

And now, the closing of a beautiful life, to be honored with great love and respect from family and friends at her final farewell.

Cheryl Labarba

November 15, 2020

Our family was privileged to be included in many of the celebrations at James & Eileen’s home over the years for Anna’s great grandchildren. She was always a delight to be with. So enjoyed these great photos of the journey through her many amazing years. What an inspiration she was on how to get life right! She was proud of her family and knew she was very much loved. I know you will miss your beautiful Anna. My thoughts are with you.

Robby Markman

November 15, 2020

I met Ann in 1998, through the collector car hobby in Houston. She was a wonderful lady, and a great friend to everyone.
Will miss her very much.

Ferrell and Norma Moore

November 14, 2020

Our fond memories of Ann include seeing her dancing tirelessly to Cajun music at Cav-Oil-Cade antique car tours in Port Arthur, caravanning with the Adcocks, Barbara Narum and her in her Mustang, home from the 1994 Texas Tour in Temple, and attending her 100th birthday party. We send condolences and warm wishes to the entire Bartlett family.

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