November 26, 1924 to October 30, 2014

Unparalleled joy in life

Margaret Anne Von Der Ahe, whose incandescent spirt and unparalleled joy in life were never dimmed by circumstances, died on October 30, 2014, four weeks shy of her 90th birthday. Annie, as everyone called her, had a way about her all right: the gleeful delight when greeting a friend for lunch, how giddy she got when talking about her grandchildren, the outlandish holiday jewelry she loved to wear, how she never took anything for granted, from the most insignificant flower to the most spectacular sunset.

carMargaret Anne McGranaghan was the first child born to Jerome and Ellen McGranaghan in Oneida, New York, on November 26, 1924. Her birth was promptly followed by the first annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, which she claimed was a celebration in her honor. Annie was whip smart and beautiful, flying through school and achieving degrees in Mathematics and Physics from Marywood University and Syracuse University.

       “a hell of a broad”

She found her way West just after World War II, where she met and married Walter R. Von Der Ahe. They settled in Long Beach, started a family, and later moved to an ocean-view home in Palos Verdes Estates.  In 1958, Walter and Annie purchased property on the Truckee River and in 1966 made it their permanent residence. As a mother of four in the Sierras, she promoted the Far West Ski Association; she was a member of Corpus Christi Parish, and Squaw Valley Sporting Club. She was a member of the TRPA in the seventies.ANN AND WALT

She inspired and cultivated amazing bonds with women and men of all ages throughout her life. An attentive friend, drinking buddy, travel partner, fast walker, spontaneous singer, and lover of raunchy jokes —this and more garnered her reputation as “a hell of a broad”.  Always dressed for occasions, Annie proudly showcased “the best legs to come out of NY State” (stocking-ed, of course). She was fluently versed in the finest things, but appreciated the 99 Cents Store more. Incredibly self-aware when it came to consumption (she felt the responsibility of her global footprint before the term was coined), she grasped the awesome scope of the universe, and her enormous heart understood the power of empathy, goodness, and selflessness.

At age 75, she walked 75 miles

unnamedAffectionately known by her grandchildren as Grannie Annie, she deeply valued her independence. In her 60’s, Annie returned to southern California, learned the computer, and rejoined the work force as a travel agent at Eckdahl Sundin Travel. At age 75, she walked 75 miles in the Avon breast cancer fundraiser from Santa Barbara to Ventura carrying the name of her granddaughter’s second grade teacher.   This serious scholar kept an immaculate house that was always spotlessly tidy, and adorned with artifacts of her impeccable taste and personal history. Every weekend she lovingly hosted her eldest son, Eric, and his partner, Mary, cooking meals and taking them on outings. Spending time in her space, amidst her inspiring collection of diverse music, art, literature, and knick-knacks, was an elevating experience.

Hollered out to the moon

Her affection of such possessions was only trumped by her constant appreciation of the natural world. The woman hollered out to the moon whenever the full saucer hung in the heavens. She constantly talked about the size or age of trees only to interrupt herself with a drop of her jaw, a deep inhale, and her trademark laugh of wonderment. Anytime she had company she insisted they stop whatever they were doing as the sun set, and join her outside, because “they were MISSING the SHOW!”  Her sense of humor is legendary.

Anne Von Der Ahe loved her family. Boy oh boy, do we love her!

She is survived by Chris and Laurie Von Der Ahe, Maria and Steve Harrison, and Matthew Von Der Ahe, six grandchildren, and innumerable friends.


A Celebration of Anne’s Life

A beautiful Celebration of Anne’s life was held the Palos Verdes Shores Clubhouse

on Saturday, December 20, 2014.

It was a wonderful day and Annie would have loved it.

 Anne’s son, Eric Von Der Ahe, was also memorialized.

He was a heck of a piano player, friend and skier.


  1. Margaret McDonald Stewart

    I treasure our visits, chats and your briefest of emails. ” I’m fine how are you?”

    Anne, my parents’ dear friend, Dorothy’s business partner, travel companion and cheerful cheerleader. My godmother, certainly no fairy. I loved it when she would visit, to come and cook with me, drink wine and clean the kitchen. Anne liked to tell me Catholic jokes – I suspect she told them to my Dad.

    When I was a young girl, I admired a painting hanging in her home and she took it down and gave it to me! She was generous with her things, her time, her love, herself, and her prayers for others.

    I feel blessed to have witnessed the almost seven decades of close friendship between my parents and Anne. Anne was an example to me of commitment, fun, wild curiosity about the world, perseverance and faith.

    I loved her. My whole-hearted wishes for comfort and peace to Eric, Chris, Maria and Matthew.

  2. Kathy Lowrie

    Anne taught me how to live. Well, she tried to show me by her resilience, humor and courage. Boy was she fun! I recall the halcyon days in Palos Verdes Estates; our endless potlucks, the trips to the fat farm in Mexico, all our kids and their antics. Annie, Jeanne Williams, some clued in neighbors and me. Anne was the type who sheltered you when you suddenly lacked a roof over your head, buoyed you when you lost your way, and cheered your every accomplishment and milestone. We NEVER lost touch; never underestimated our friendship and never took the other for granted. I have so much more to say, but will wait to get my head together over her loss, if I ever do. Love, love you Annie! Kathy

  3. Kathy Lowrie

    When I think of the early days with Annie, it has to be up in Tahoe, first in the huge, brown-shingled house on the Truckee River, a house with its very own natural swimming hole, and later in Anne’s second house, also on the river. In the first instance, I think of spending whole summers there with Jennifer, my daughter, when she was a baby. Who else but Anne would invite a young mother and her infant child to live with you for whole summers at a time? Jen and I lived in the guest house out back, and I remember getting up at the crack of dawn to write.

    Then there were the priests and nuns who would visit on weekends, the raucous Sunday barbecues consisting of filets and broiled tomatoes topped with mayo and parmesan; watching the kids float down the river in inner tubes; Father Shiminsky, wearing a cassock over shorts and tennis shoes, saying mass in the dining room with its magnificent view of the river, guests lined up on either side of the table. I had a massive crush on Shiminsky and only later found he had left the priesthood to marry. One other note, boy could those priests drink!

    I remember Annie teaching me how to make ravioli, making the dough and spreading it out in sheets on the dining table, making the cheese filling, crimping the sides of the raviolis, the wonderful sauce. I’ve never again tasted raviolis like that!

    Back in Palos Verdes Estates, where the Von Der Ahes, Williams and Starks lived practically in each other’s backyards; our homes were that close, there were the girl trips to the Rancho La Puerta fat farm in Tecate, Mexico. Annie, Jeanne Williams and I and a couple of others (I’ve now forgotten who) would drive down to Mexico, a carful of riotous women happy and relieved to be rid of our children, husbands and or significant others for a long weekend. On my first trip with the gals, Annie kept lecturing us about the fat farm. “NO ALCOHOL ALLOWED!” she said. “If anyone gets caught bringing booze or wine onto the ranch, they are sent packing, IMMEDIATELY.” She also warned about Tecate, how dangerous it was at night.

    By the time we got to the ranch, it was early evening. We all unpacked and gathered in the room Annie, Jeanne and I shared. For some reason, I had my back turned when I heard Anne say,


    I turned around and everyone was looking at me.

    “You’re kidding,” I said.

    It turned out that sneaking out to buy wine and smuggling it back into the rooms was a fat farm ritual. I don’t even remember venturing out to get booze that night, but we did. And the town was lovely, quaint and perfectly safe, which Annie and Jeanne knew all along. The only truth was that La Puerta did restrict alcohol. But we smuggled plenty inside.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you, Annie.

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