Lessons in Life: Anna Jacobson says life's too short not to be happy

Eighty-three year old Anna Jacobson has lived in her trailer home in Bonita Springs for 22 years.  Anna and her late husband Douglas sang country music together since the 1950's all over the country including Connecticut where Jacobson is from, her voice is a natural talent.    Photographed on September 25,  2009.  Kelli Stanko/ Special to the Daily News

Photo by KELLI STANKO

Eighty-three year old Anna Jacobson has lived in her trailer home in Bonita Springs for 22 years. Anna and her late husband Douglas sang country music together since the 1950's all over the country including Connecticut where Jacobson is from, her voice is a natural talent. Photographed on September 25, 2009. Kelli Stanko/ Special to the Daily News

At almost 84, Anna Jacobson doesn’t let the small stuff _or the big for that matter _ worry her.

“I had a friend. When you went to visit her she always fussed around the couch and straightened it up every time someone got up. She worried about the butt prints. And life is too short to worry about little stuff like that,” Jacobson says, nibbling contently at coffee cake, her favorite treat.

A longtime resident of the Imperial Harbor mobile home park in Bonita Springs, she has been a widow for the past 7 years.

Other than some pain in her leg due to arthritis, though, she finds she has nothing to complain about.

Born in Cromwell, Conn., on Nov. 29, 1925, she’s the daughter of Polish immigrants and was born in her mother’s house.

The second youngest of six kids, she spent her childhood on the farm her parents owned. All the siblings helped with chores, which led to the tragic death of two of her brothers in 1935. After some ice broke and they drowned in freezing water, Anna, who at the time was 9, was never let near ice again.

Even so, she doesn’t like to dwell on the sad episodes of her life. She waves it off, takes another bite of coffee cake and a smile creeps back on her lips.

Sweets are one of the things she appreciates in life. Keeping in touch with her family and meeting new friends are two of the other things that make the lively 83-year-old happy.

Every morning she wakes up around 7, makes coffee, turns the TV on for background noise and fires up her computer.

With three daughters, two sisters and a brother who live in Port Charlotte, Los Olivos, Calif., and in Connecticut, she has a lot of writing to do.

She writes daily e-mails to her daughters. To keep in touch with her sisters, 88 and 90 years old, she prints out her e-mails and sends them through the regular mail – not everyone in the family is as technologically gifted.

But they were always healthy.

Growing up on the farm in Cromwell, everything they ate came from their garden, and milk and butter also were homemade and fresh every day. But young Anna, as much as she liked the farm, had other ideas for her future.

Her best friend, Lucy, lived just down the road from her and on their way to school they discussed what kind of guy they were going to marry.

They both agreed that once they grew up they would marry a guy from somewhere other than Connecticut, someone mysterious and different.

It didn’t work out that way: “I ended up marrying her brother, Douglas, who lived next door to us all my life and she ended up marrying her neighbor down the road!”

She laughs and points at a large picture of her wedding day that she keeps hanging in her living room.

When she talks about her late husband, her eyes still sparkle. A quiet, shy boy, Douglas was six years older than Anna. To her, he was just her friend Lucy’s brother, until he came back from World War II and asked her to the movies.

Her taciturn, good-looking neighbor all of the sudden became something much more important than just her friend’s brother.

On Jan. 11, 1947, she and Douglas married.

Jacobson would have wanted to get married earlier, but her mother wouldn’t let her until she was 21.

“I can see why now, but you know, when you are young you’re always in a rush to do everything …”

Douglas and Anna had a big wedding with three bridesmaids, three groomsmen and a bride who couldn’t dance. The day before her nuptials, she fell down a flight of stairs and hurt her leg – but she was determined to get married the next day and, in her typical style, she didn’t let the detail spoil her party.

He turned out to be not only a great husband, but also a fun one.

Although they both worked full time, they liked to call in sick on Fridays and take off for the weekend to go to New Hampshire, eat seafood and go to the race track.

As Anna Jacobson puts it, you can’t always work, work, work _ you need some time off to enjoy life. And when her friends and co-workers asked her if she was afraid she’d get fired, she just shrugged.

“It’s just a job, you know?”

She was never fired.

She worked for Pratt & Whitney Aircrafts for more than 20 years before retiring and moving to Florida.

And then there was the music.

Douglas Jacobson came from a musical family. Both he and his sister, Lucy, played the guitar, and Anna _ who always liked to sing _ had finally found someone to play for her.

They liked country and western music and together they played at spots across Connecticut, going by the name of Jake & Annie.

In 1950, they participated in a singing contest held by a local TV station in Meriden, Conn., and to her pleasure and surprise, Douglas and Anna Jacobson won first prize.

“Not only were we on TV, but we won money and a big blue ribbon with our names on it,” she remembers with pride in her voice.

Once they moved to Bonita Springs in 1987 they continued to sing and performed on a weekly basis at the Harbor Clubhouse, the meeting point for residents of the trailer park where she still resides.

Her arthritis might give her some grief, but when she sings her voice is still clear and round and her fingers tap lightly on the dining room table.

Never one to say no to life and opportunities, she traveled every time she could. In summer 1976, a friend asked her if she would be interested in going to Hong Kong.

She said yes immediately, ran to get a passport and along with two of her friends, she embarked on a long trip to Hong Kong, stopping on the way in Alaska and Okinawa.

She was fascinated with how different life was over there and everything _ the food, the accent, the culture _ was so new it made her head spin.

“People like to say that they’ll go traveling when they are older, when they retire. But you should really travel when your young, when you have the opportunity,” she says.

And although she doesn’t travel much anymore, she has her ways to keep herself entertained. She has her daughters _ Linda, Debbie and Elaine, her grandkids and her greatgrandkids, but she also has her neighbors and friends to care for her.

Hers is not a lonely life. Neighbors stop by regularly, offering help with cutting the grass or taking the trash out.

She pays a monthly fee to Meals on Wheels, an organization that delivers pre-cooked meals to those who can’t or won’t cook. What she likes the most about it, though, is the fact that from Monday through Friday a different person stops by every day to drop off her meals and chat. She has come to know these volunteers _ who they are, what they do _ and sometimes marvels at how kind and friendly everyone is.

But then again she shouldn’t and she knows it.

Because, as she likes to say, life is too short to worry about the little things and it’s also too short to be nothing but kind and friendly to others.

* * *

Connect with Chiara Assi at www.naplesnews.com/staff/chiara_assi

Are you or do you know anyone who’s over 80 and interesting? Whether it’s a passion for tap dancing or an incredible life journey, we want to hear your story. E-mail us at features@naplesnews.com

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