Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

In one of her last By the Way columns for The Triplicate, Ann Garlick wrote about what made her adopted hometown so special.

She recounted waking up late Christmas night with breathing difficulty and severe back pain. She asked her "sleepy and rattled" son, who was visiting from Dunsmuir, to call 911:

"John was asked for the address. He didn't know it. He was asked who lived here. He told them.

"'Oh,' said the other end. 'We know where Ann lives. They'll be right out.'

"My son turned to me in amazement. 'They know you, Mom!'

"'This is Crescent City,' I replied, gasping for breath."

Ann had moved north in 1986 to embrace small-town life after growing up in Los Angeles and working for nearly 23 years at the Orange County Register. She and her husband, Arnold, purchased a home a block from the beach.

She spent her last few years as a widow, but that didn't stop her from being engaged in her community, including memberships in the United Methodist Church, VFW Auxiliary, Emblem Club, Crescent City Women's Club and Daughters of the American Revolution.

Her monthly By the Way columns in The Triplicate documented the volunteer spirit that drives Del Norte. What newspaper readers didn't see were the additional messages Ann passed along when she e-mailed me her columns.

These usually included words of encouragement, and praise for our recent coverage of this or that. And then there were the ideas.

Why not start a weekly entertainment and travel section? How about a column about coin collecting, something that had worked well for her in Orange County?

I'll admit I rolled my eyes sometimes when she suggested additions to the newspaper that seemed beyond the scope of our local mission or the resources of our small staff.

But that's the great thing about being retired: You can think big without necessarily having to deal with the logistics of implementing all those ideas.

Ann always thought big, whether she was talking about herself or her community. Crescent City could become another artists' colony, she mused after the success of the recent Art Walk.

Meanwhile, she revealed, she was "finishing fine-tuning a novel - a whodunit - that I actually wrote many years ago and put away when Arnold got so sick that I had no time to pursue it further."

Time marches on, and then it runs out. Ann died Friday at the age of 84, a couple of weeks after she was injured when she fell at the Post Office - one of her favorite places for meeting and greeting fellow Del Norters.

I still think of her account of her Christmas night ordeal a few months earlier. She praised the paramedics, the hospital staff, and closed with this:

"My heart still melts when I think of all those people, dedicated pros who put service before pleasure, and volunteers who do likewise. I thank the Great Overseer that when I had to reach out for help, someone was there to take my hand. That's Crescent City for you."