Golf, Tennins and Paddle Classic

Posted by Avenues in News on 12/28/2020

Dear Avenues Family and Friends,

It is with great sorrow that I have to inform you that our friend and colleague, Ann Marie Ehrlich, passed away on December 21 after a prolonged illness unrelated to COVID.

During her 40 year career, Ann Marie helped to bring a level of recognition to Avenues that gave rise to the prominence that we have today.

Her youngest sister, Kathy, was born with Down syndrome and early on, Ann Marie learned the importance of supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities so that they could live the lives of their choosing with their families and friends.

She began her work with us on December 4, 1978, as a part-time office assistant. Back then, individual program plans were a haphazard collection of hand-written notes and forms. Ann Marie was responsible for transcribing these into formal, typewritten documents. Penmanship was not my strength and we spent plenty of time together as Ann Marie deciphered my scrawling into something much more presentable. Her attention to detail was evident back then; little did I know how important this would be in her future work at Avenues.

Over the next five years, Ann Marie became a full-time office manager, supporting many administrative needs of our growing organization. In 1984, Ann Marie proposed a change to the Avenues Annual Dinner. Traditionally, this event had been a low-key, pot-luck dinner held in the auditorium of a local school. Instead of the perfunctory agenda of reports, elections and speeches, she had a vision to elevate this event into a celebration of the people of Avenues.

A local banquet hall was chosen and a very successful Annual Dinner took place. Event planning and management soon became an integral part of Ann Marie’s responsibilities. A Fashion Show was added in 1986 and shortly thereafter we began to plan for the 35th anniversary of the founding of Avenues.

Ann Marie envisioned this to be our first ever, formal dinner-dance event. It was named the “Love Affair” in recognition of her own and everyone else’s love for people of Avenues. Our event took place on February 6, 1988, at the Hotel Sofitel in Rosemont. There were 275 guests were in attendance and its success thrust Ann Marie into the spotlight as a premiere event planner.

The list of accomplishments continued with the addition of our Avenues/Gorman Golf and Tennis Classic, family meetings, summer and holiday parties for Avenues participants, Sasser Society Dinners, Snowbirds in Florida and other important functions for Avenues.

In 2020, two years after her retirement and just before the pandemic shutdown, our 32nd annual Love Affair was held. Building upon the foundation of success established by Ann Marie, $500k was raised for the programs of Avenues. More than any other event, the Avenues’ Love Affair will be a lasting legacy of Ann Marie’s impact on Avenues.

At her retirement party, I made the remark that if Michelin were handing out ratings for special events, Avenues would receive five-stars as a result of Ann Marie’s work. Her attention to detail, whether on program plans or table decorations, set a very high standard for us to look up to.

We send heartfelt condolences to all of Ann Marie’s family and friends. She will be missed by all.

Bob Okazaki
President/CEO Emeritus


Tags: ann marie ehrlich

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