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A Lifelong Connection, Legacy and Love Story

October 18, 2017

Ask Ann Via about her Methodist roots and a deep connection to the mission of Pinnacle Living, formerly known as Virginia United Methodist Homes, Inc., emerges. Her father, Rev. Dr. W. Carroll Freeman, became the pastor at Boulevard United Methodist Church soon after Hermitage Richmond opened its doors. He was very involved in communicating the need for such a community during his stay at Boulevard and beyond. Rev. Freeman was serving as the Roanoke District Superintendent in the early 1960’s when the District Board of Missions began to address concerns about the need for services for older adults in the western part of the state. Ann’s sister went to work at the Roanoke United Methodist Home, now Hermitage Roanoke, soon after it opened.

When the time came to look at living options for her mother, Ann and her family chose Hermitage Richmond. She states boldly that “God was good” as her mother moved in right next door to a dear friend, helping to ease the transition from the family home. The team members supported Ann as well, offering compassion and “hugs when needed” as she adjusted to her mother’s changing health needs.

Just a few months after Hermitage Richmond opened, the Rev. Dr. Bernard S. Via, Sr., the first superintendent and administrator, brought together a representative group of women from across the Virginia Conference. This organization of “Key Women” was the beginning of the Hermitage Guild, representatives from local churches called upon to spread the message about this new mission opportunity. Ann’s husband, Conrad, or “Connie” as he’s known to everyone, is a distant cousin with a noticeable family resemblance when standing next to a portrait of Rev. Dr. Via.

When Ann’s mother died in 2005, a Guild member encouraged Ann to continue the connection to Hermitage Richmond as a volunteer. She started doing mending and sewing for residents on Wednesdays. Soon Ann was working in the Country Store where she continues to visit with residents and offer support. Connie also became an active volunteer. Through her involvement, Ann reminds the congregation at Chamberlayne Heights UMC of the value of our United Methodist Connection and of the need to support Hermitage Richmond and Pinnacle Living through giving of time and resources – volunteering, visiting and participating in fund raising and other events. Ann adds, “My heart is here. I love this place.”

Ann and Connie now face different needs. Their first step in thinking about second-half of life decisions was writing a will when Connie was confronted with major heart surgery forty years ago. Additional life changes were faced following a devastating automobile accident in 2008 in which Connie suffered spinal injuries and brain trauma. When asked about the future, Ann noted, “We’ll stay at home as long as possible, but we’re not looking anywhere other than Hermitage Richmond.”

Their continuing love story is clearly evident in how they care for one another. Ann had not taken more than a few hours away from Connie following his accident until last summer. At the urging of her daughter, Ann planned a two-week vacation with family. She talked with team members at Hermitage Richmond about a respite stay for Connie, but also had an option of a grandson and good friends who would care for him while she was away. When given a choice, Connie chose Hermitage Richmond. It was comfortable; he knew his way around the familiar hallways and people knew him. When a friend asked about their planned vacations, Ann responded, “I’m going to Maine.” Connie added, “I’m going to Hermitage Richmond. I can’t wait to go!”

Ann’s parting words of “This is just home” was a fitting close to our time together talking about her lifelong connection to The United Methodist Church and legacy of support for the mission of Pinnacle Living.

*Ann & Connie Via received the Distinguished Contributions award for their service to Hermitage Richmond in October 2017.
This story was written by Martha Stokes, director of church and community relations for publication in the May 2015 edition of the Advocate.