The ROA held its yearly national convention in Washington, D.C., and during the convention it was protocol for the officers to stop in for a visit with their U.S. Senators and Representatives. At that time one of our Ohio Senators was John Glenn.
Below is a photo of Tom with other members of the Ohio ROA visiting John Glenn in his Senate office in 1996. (That's Tom, third from the right, behind John Glenn's left shoulder).
Senator Glenn came by one evening for an informal reception during which the attending ROA members could meet and mingle and chat with him. As spouses were invited to the reception, Tom brought me along.
I remember seeing John Glenn surrounded by a crowd of officers and their spouses trying to meet and perhaps have a word with the man who, besides being our Senator, was a national icon, the first American to orbit the earth.
Tom and I were standing away from the crowd when Tom said, "Look, there's Annie Glenn."
"Where?" said I, following his line of vision.
"There, standing by herself."
I saw an older woman with beautiful brown eyes standing alone in a corner of the room. "That's Annie Glenn?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Tom. "Let's go over and say hi to her."
"Wait, do you really think we should?" I asked. "I mean, maybe she doesn't want anybody bothering her?"
"Yeah, we should," said Tom. "Nobody likes to be standing by themselves. Come on. I want to talk to her about stuttering."
I will admit now that I was already cringing while I followed behind the Lieutenant Colonel as he strode over to John Glenn's wife. Annie Glenn, it was generally known, had had a severe and debilitating stuttering problem for most of her life, and it was only in her 50's that she finally received therapy that enabled her to overcome her stuttering and to communicate clearly. Tom also had several speech impediments during his childhood including a severe stuttering problem which required a decade of speech therapy with a number of practitioners to overcome.
As it turned out, I need not have worried about us offending Mrs. Glenn. Her face lit up in a friendly smile when we said hello and introduced ourselves. Tom, always one to get to the point, immediately asked Annie Glenn about her stuttering problem and shared that he'd had one, too.
The two then got into a discussion, swapping stories of their experiences and treatments. I stood by in wonder that this woman, who traveled in circles of the eminent and powerful, who was good friends with President and Lady Bird Johnson and best friends with Robert Kennedy's wife Ethel, had not a bit of star dust about her. One could tell that she was genuinely warm. And nice. And gentle. She was as involved in her conversation with Tom as if we were all friends. And during that moment it felt as if we were.
Annie Glenn as I picture her looking when we met her.
And through my mind keeps drifting, like a fitting elegy, the words of an old Stephen Foster song:
Thou wilt come no more, gentle Annie,
Like a flower thy spirit did depart,
Though art gone, alas, like the many,
That have bloomed in the summer of our heart.
Rest in Peace, Gentle Annie Glenn.