Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Loss of Ann Freeman-Meyvaert

Freeman-Meyvaert, Dr. Ann

81, of Cambridge, Mass, died February 28 at the Neville Nursing
Facility at Fresh Pond from complications due to Alzheimers. She was
born in Springfield, Mass. on June 30, 1926. Her mother, Helen
Sawhill, an accomplished violinist at the Oberlin Conservatory of
Music, gave up a career in music after her marriage in 1923. Her
father, Hedges S. Freeman, a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic
Institute, served in the U.S. Corps of Engineers in France during
World War I. Although he died in 1935, Ann always claimed he had been
a dominant influence, teaching her even as a child to try to solve
problems in a rational way. Her health as a child was considered
rather delicate, so she had the perfect excuse for burying herself in
books she always claimed. Later in life she developed a particular
love for Trollope's novels, and after completing one reading of the
set would happily launch herself on a second and even third round.
After finishing Springfield Classical High a scholarship took her to
Wellesley College where she was the first to enroll in a newly
established interdepartmental major in Medieval Studies. She
graduated in 1948 with honors and Phi Beta Kappa. In that year the
Greek play put on as part of Commencement was Euripides's The Trojan
Women, in which she starred in the role of Cassandra. A Trustee
Fellowship from Wellesley allowed her to enroll as a graduate student
at Radcliffe College, where she planned to continue studying the
Middle Ages and hoped to find an appropriate thesis topic. Not every
graduate student has the good fortune to discover that their thesis
has solved an important literary problem of the distant past. Ann's
rather short Ph.D. thesis, presented to Harvard's History department
in 1956, successfully showed that Theodulf, a Spaniard, had been
Charlemagne's ghost-writer for the long Latin polemical treatise
bearing the king's name (the Caroline Books) and aimed against the
Greek council of Nicea II in 787. It was immediately published in the
pre-eminent journal Speculum and established her scholarly
reputation. All her later scholarly work, right to the end, continued
to center around Theodulf and his treatise, culminating finally in a
new critical edition of the work published in Germany in 1998, just
before Azheimers began to raise its ugly head. It was work on her
thesis topic that brought about a link with Paul Meyvaert, then a
monk in a monastery in the UK, on the Isle of Wight. The story of how
that link grew, flourished and resulted in a happy marriage that
lasted 43 years, is told in Jeffrey's Story: The Autobiography of
Paul J. Meyvaert, published in 2005 by the Arizona Center for
Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Many readers have said that what
has moved them most profoundly is Ann's sterling and genuine
character as it emerges from her letters quoted in the book. The
description of "home bird" fits Ann best: she was happiest at home,
and home had to have a cheerful fireplace, plenty of shelves nearby
filled with good books, records with the operas she loved so much,
the Rozenkavalier with Frederica von Stade, being her favorite. The
home picture was even more complete if one of the several dachshunds
she owned during her lifetime was waiting to be petted or taken for
an early morning walk at Fresh Pond's Kingsley Park. Ann Freeman
Meyvaert is survived by her beloved husband, Paul J. Meyvaert; her
loving daughter, Jenny; her uncle, Holland H. Freeman of Paradise,
CA; her brother Dr. James H. Freeman, of Redding, CA. Burial will be
private at Mount Auburn Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions
may be made in Ann Meyvaert's name to The Alzheimer's Association,
Massachusetts Chapter, 311 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA 02472.
Published in the Boston Globe on 3/4/2008.

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