Who is Anna?

My mother, Anna Hofer, who is also referred to as ‘Anna Basel,’ lived most of her life in a Hutterite colony. Hofer was her name by marriage but in Hutterite culture, surnames are rarely used and ‘Basel’ is a term of respect which literally translated means auntie. Anna was a strong, articulate, dynamic woman who loved life, people, good stories (which she told superbly), and good coffee. She married my father, Joseph Hofer, and together they had twelve children, ten of which were born in our own home.

More about Anna

My dad was the quiet presence in her and our lives. At the young age of fifty three, dad died of multiple sclerosis, leaving mom a widow at fifty one years old. Perhaps one of the main reasons my mom was able to open her heart so freely to others, especially children, was that she had lost her own mother at the tender age of eleven. She suffered a series of strokes which left her with epilepsy and forced her to learn to write, read, and talk three times in her adult life. She did this very courageously and with great dignity and faith. Throughout it all, she continued to care for her own children as well as she could while consistently opening her heart and home to relatives and children who for various reasons needed her love and shelter; the family would routinely swell to twelve or fifteen. The children did not seem to mind her stumbling speech and she continued to care for them; often telling stories while sowing quilts or patching their clothes.

After my dad died, some of us felt compelled to leave our safe communal home and move to the city. Whether in good health or not, mom was always a gypsy at heart, and she too left the colony and came to live with our family in Wolseley for eighteen years. As her body grew frailer, her spirit became stronger.

It was at this time that an Ethiopian homecare worker named Berhan who, for her own reasons, had left the land and people she loved came into ours and mom’s lives. After Anna died, Berhan continued to relate with the whole Hofer family. By this time, she was considered by all involved to be the seventh sister. She would regularly show up for major feasts with steaming pots of spicy Ethiopian food. She taught the family the intimate art of physically feeding each other; in Ethiopia, it is an act of love and trust. As Berhan phrased it, “When your mom tells me to come, I come.” She was drawn by invisible bonds of love and the door was always open. The especially significant times were Halloween, when Anna would always bless the trick-or-treating children as they came; December sixth, St. Nicholas’ day, which was also Anna’s birthday and Christmas Eve. Sometimes, she would visit at random occasions ‘just because!’ Berhan’s return to Ethiopia was extremely bittersweet as she was going to her homeland to begin the materialization of Anna’s legacy but we were also saying goodbye to a very dear friend.