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Following the death of my beloved wife Annmarie this past week, I continue to love and cherish the woman I wed 48 years ago. I call her the First Lady of Ayer, though our story started in Dorchester.

My friend introduced me to Annmarie and her family residing on Edson Street. I’d lost my parents early in life, but the Glennons and O’Donoghues welcomed me into the fold.

Annmarie later confessed that she felt the same electricity I felt on our first date when we held hands.

For the next 53 years, we were inseparable.

Fast forward to marriage and my Army career, which had us trotting the globe. Annmarie left the comforts of home to assume the role of military spouse.

I was a first sergeant but Ann was the sergeant major. With sons in diapers, she ran from plane-to-train throughout several foreign countries, setting up home wherever we landed.

Following my service at Fort Devens, we settled in Ayer 25 years ago. Ayer has been our home ever since.

I worked supporting government contracts before serving as Job Corps coordinator, both posts on Devens. Ann would work as a Ma Bell switchboard operator, model, Red Cross worker, community newspaper editor, executive secretary to military commanders, government auditor and a leasing manager — most posts in the Ayer area.

Ayer is where we reared our three sons — James Michael, John Thomas and Joseph Christopher. Ayer is where Ann and I held court over our expanded family, with our sons’ loving wives — Kristin, Diana and Katie — and six beautiful grandchildren — Natalie Lynn, Thomas Michael, Hannah Caitlin, Vanessa Ann Marie, James Michael III and Emily Virginia.

As it should be, our children and grandchildren took over our lives. Family, and especially babies, made Annmarie light up like a Christmas tree. But, undeniably, we loved one another. Our passion rivaled the passion of the movie “A Love Story.”

Though I assumed the role of Ann’s caretaker in her later years, I surprised a Nashoba Hospital staff member who asked, “Is that you, Jim?” She was not familiar with seeing me without Ann, who was the very definition of “my better half.”

Annmarie had an uncanny ability to read people for who they really were. Our successes were due to trusting her intuitions and judgments in virtually all matters.

Yet Annmarie was my harshest critic — from my haircut to my colorblind choice of ties. Ann kept me in check on all fronts.

Ann encouraged me to serve, including years on both the Ayer Planning Board and a dozen years on the Ayer Board of Selectmen. That service was possible thanks to Ann’s support.

Ann also volunteered, revitalizing the Ayer 4th of July Committee in 2010. She also zealously worked on the Town Hall Veteran Memorial project, which honors veterans who call Ayer home.

The town we came to love is a better place because of Ann’s ability to bring people to her cause. Ann’s magnetism formed lifelong friendships with her coworkers from New England Milling and another 10 years at Olde Towne Village as leasing manager.

Ann worked to create a home that was the hangout for our sons and their friends. You can feel the love in our home; it’s due to Ann’s work.

Beauty flowed from within Ann, but it’s notable, too, that she was the prettiest girl in the room. Ann was passionate about our Irish heritage and had an amazing memory. Ann had the brains and talent to become either a court reporter or lawyer (her dream pursuits). Ultimately, Ann channeled her powers into our marriage, children and home.

Her devotion to family remains an example for us all.

I know Ann would want me to say thank you to you all for sharing in our life. Annmarie will live on in our hearts forever. To say her name is to keep her spirit alive.

Loosely translated from German, I sign off with a message for Ann, “Auf Weidersehen Mein Schatz.” (“Until we meet again, my treasure.”)

Jim Fay


Editor’s note: James Fay’s wife Annmarie (Glennon) Fay died on July 29 at the age of 70, following a battle with cancer.

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