Dr. Charlie Anderson reached across a car seat 48 years ago to hold hands with a woman he adored. "I told her she was special," Anderson recalled recently. "She just smiled."
Edy, the woman with the unforgettable smile, was already his friend. She became his wife and life-long partner.
"She was a happy lady. And I was a happy guy. The two of us meshed," Anderson said.
Her smile lit up rooms and friends and people struggling with all manner of challenges.
She smiled as she took a leap off cliffs into lake water with her children or blistered down a Taos Ski Valley run or made her sons haul her down the mountain on a toboggan after she broke a leg.
That smile, her nurse skills and her formidable intellect coaxed people in Los Alamos to work with her on launching the first home visit nursing service in the 1970s, which survives today. Later she used those same skills to convince people in Taos to launch the Taos Community Foundation and to help Anderson, a pediatrician, open the Taos Clinic for Children and Youth.
She conjured that smile through tears and repeated gut-punching grief that would have laid most people low - the deaths of her youngest son at age 22 and later a daughter-in-law and two young granddaughters.
Edy Anderson kept her adventurous spirit and that smile nearly until the day she died at age 85 of natural causes May 25. "Even right up until she died, it was just, 'What's the next journey and I love you,' " said Ted Wiard, one of her sons, who owns Golden Willow Retreat, a counseling center in Taos.
Weeks later, her friends and family can't talk about her without laughing and crying practically at the same time.
That's the kind of person she was.
"She taught me how to enjoy life, yet walk through the rough stuff," said Wiard.
"She was about finding joy in the journey, finding humor, using intelligence, heart and humor to fully live life," he said. "She was able to really walk her truth."
Raised in Michigan, Edy made New Mexico her home.
Between Edy and Charlie they raised eight children. They camped all over Northern New Mexico and for awhile were professional guides on the Río Grande.
They kept a heavy workload but made time for their family and giving back to the community.
Edy was the kind of manager for whom staff was willing to sacrifice jobs. After the couple left Los Alamos and moved to Taos in 1976, Edy became director of nursing at Holy Cross Hospital, which was managed by Presbyterian at the time. "Basically Edy ran the hospital back then," Anderson said.
When a labor dispute over pay arose with the board, Edy resigned, saying it wasn't fair that she had one of the best nursing staffs in the state and they were the lowest paid. When she returned to Taos, all the nursing staff threatened to walk off the job if she wasn't rehired, Anderson recalled. The board gave in, rehired her and gave the nurses raises.
Millie Fernandez, who helped the Andersons with their children and their house for 40 years, said Edy was a dear friend. "We shared everything together. If we had any problems, we always used to talk to each other," Fernandez said. "She became more like a mom. My mom died when I was 11 years old."
Edy returned to school to earn a master's in business administration at the College of Santa Fe and was director of nursing for public health clinics from Santa Fe to Chama and Ratón for years. "She loved it," Anderson said.
In 1997, Edy retired following the death of her son Ted's two young daughters. "She was really affected by that," her husband said.
She turned heartache into action, working with Fred Winter and Elizabeth Crittenden-Palacios to start the nonprofit Taos Community Foundation.
"She saw so many people who through lack of funding, didn't get the help they needed," Wiard said. "She saw the need for a safety net."
Crittenden-Palacios, who was executive director of the foundation until 2016, said Edy was a girlfriend, the kind she could consult with on tough decisions and go shopping with. "She had a strong vision, a woman who was clear and pragmatic about where we were going as a foundation. But also in her life, she was pragmatic," Crittenden-Palacios said. "She was a strong mentor and a guide when things would get hard."
And she gave the kind of helpful little tips that one just doesn't forget - like telling Crittenden-Palacios when traveling to unplug a hot curling iron, wrap the cord around the handle and run the hot barrel under cold water so it could be packed right away.
As she faced the decline of her formidable intellect and memory due to dementia, Edy continued to show others how to live in the moment.
"Her smile and the way she was and the way she moved, I will never forget," Crittenden-Palacios said. "I will always miss my friend."
Anderson and Wiard will miss that smile as well. They continue to meet at Taos Java every weekday morning as they had for seven years while Edy was alive. Now her seat is empty.
"Not a day went by that we didn't touch or that she didn't smile," Anderson said.
"Just holding her hand started a romance that never stopped."
Now he is grappling with the practical stuff that still must be taken care of and the sadness.
"And no one to hold."
Edy Anderson is survived by her husband , Charlie Anderson, children Barb, Tom, Rob, Ted Wiard, and Chauncey, Gingy, Finlay Anderson, as well as many, many grandchildren. She was preceded in death by Richard Wiard, her son, Leslie Wiard (daughter in-law), and Keri and Amy Wiard (granddaughters).
A memorial service was held June 1 at the KTAOS Solar Center. Donations in her memory can be made to Golden Willow Retreat, PO Box 569, Arroyo Hondo, NM 87513 (goldenwillowretreat.org); or Taos Community Foundation, PO Box 1925, Taos, NM 87571 (taoscf.org).
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