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Neighbors for life

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Just before Thanksgiving 2006, Mary Ann Wickens and her husband, Bob, left their home on Hannett Avenue in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights to spend the holiday with their daughter and son-in-law in La Quinta, California.

Mary Ann never worried about her house when she and Bob were out of town. She knew that Jean Hoke, her friend and across-the-street neighbor for more than 35 years, would look after it. Mary Ann watched Jean’s house and took care of her cat when Jean and her family were away.

What no one knew or could anticipate when Mary Ann and Bob departed Albuquerque 14 years ago was that they would never again live in the house on Hannett. In their 80s at the time, both became ill during that Thanksgiving visit and moved into the La Quinta home of their daughter, Mary Lou Green, and her husband, Dennis.

It was a jolt for Mary Ann’s friend Jean. The two had been so much a part of the fabric of each other’s lives for so many years.

“I’d look over there and expect to see her come out of her door,” said Jean, 89, who still lives with her husband, Don, in their house on Hannett. “I missed her a lot. That’s when I started sending the cards.”

‘Take care. God bless.’

Fall is here. Won’t be long before Thanksgiving. We are O.K. Watched the Balloon Fiesta this past weekend on TV. Quite a crowd. Hope all is well.

Love, Jean. Take Care. God bless. (10-7-19)

That’s the note in a card Jean sent Mary Ann in October last year, one of going on 700 cards she has sent her friend. Jean has mailed Mary Ann a card every week since she found out she would not be returning to Albuquerque.

Now 99, Mary Ann lives in an assisted-living facility in La Quinta. Bob died in 2008. During a recent phone interview, Mary Ann said not returning to Albuquerque was difficult for her.

Mary Ann Wickens, left, and Jean Hoke, photographed on Albuquerque’s Hannett Avenue during Mary Ann’s return trip to New Mexico in 2008.

“I thought we were going to stay (in La Quinta) for two weeks,” she said. “I knew Jean would look after my place. But we had to go home. That’s just what you do. I didn’t like to have to leave my home. We were just cater-cornered across the street from Jean, perfect for me to get up and go over there.

“We loved (Hannett). It was just our cup of tea. The people were all so friendly.”

Jean’s cards have been a comfort to Mary Ann and a connection to her happy days in her old neighborhood.

“It’s just like her coming to visit,” Mary Ann said. “I love it.”

We are O.K. Just thank God that so far the coronavirus has missed our family. Hope you are feeling well. We are having church on Sundays in our cars in the parking lot. Pastor gives services over our car radios. Works well.

Love, Jean. Take Care. God bless. (6-29-20)

Talking up a storm

Mary Ann was born in Deming but was living in Albuquerque by the late 1940s. A schoolteacher, she taught second grade for many years at Lew Wallace Elementary School on Sixth Street NW. Bob worked as a window clerk for the U.S. Postal Service.

In 1965, Mary Ann, Bob and Mary Lou moved into the house on Hannett Avenue. Mary Lou went off to college in 1967.

Jean and Don Hoke came from Pennsylvania to Albuquerque. They and their three children settled into their house on Hannett in 1969.

Mary Ann and Jean met soon after Jean moved to the neighborhood, and Mary Ann remembers that she had Jean started talking right from the start.

“We just talked up a storm,” she said. “We’d talk over coffee. Usually at Jean’s house because she’d bake cookies and cupcakes. We’d talk over coffee for an hour.”

The weather has been too hot here and we have had several thunder and lightning storms. I can’t believe what the weather has been all across the country. We are O.K. Hope you are too.

Love, Jean. Take care. God bless. (8-10-20)

Since 2006, Jean and Mary Ann have seen each other only in 2008. That was the year Mary Ann and Bob returned to clear out their house on Hannett after selling it and also the year Bob died. But Jean and Mary Ann still talk.

“Ever so often I get the urge to call her and hear her voice,” Jean said.

Mary Ann sends cards to Jean on special occasions, but she said it is easier for her to phone her friend.

“We talk about what we used to do in Albuquerque,” Mary Ann said. “Jean always tells me to say hello to Mary Lou and Dennis.”

Hope you are well. We are expecting some snow (Mon. Oct. 26th) some time today. Temperature to drop in the 40s from 71 yesterday. We really need the moisture. We are O.K. Big hello to Mary Lou and Dennis.

Love, Jean. Take care. God bless.(10-26-20)

Best it can be

The block of Hannett Avenue that Jean lives on and that was once Mary Ann’s home runs west to east off of one of Albuquerque’s busier north-south streets. But Jean’s house and Mary Ann’s former residence are tucked away up the block, near a quiet corner removed from the bustle of the traffic. It’s a block of single-family residences, front yards, trees and hedges.

Jean says the neighborhood is not like it used to be when Mary Ann lived across the street.

“We knew more people (on Hannett) then,” she said. “I only know the names of about three people up on our end of the street now.”

That’s one reason she writes cards weekly, not just to Mary Ann but to several others as well, although she said her correspondence with Mary Ann is the longest-running.

“It makes me feel a little closer to people,” she said. “It’s just something I want to do. It’s just part of me.”

Mary Ann’s daughter, Mary Lou, said her mother looks forward to Jean’s card every week, especially now that coronavirus restrictions inhibit in-person visits with family and friends in La Quinta.

“Jean’s cards bring the outside world to her,” Mary Lou said.

When Jean writes to Mary Ann, it’s a brief glimpse back into the time when they talked up a storm over coffee. It’s not the same, of course, but cards and phone calls are the best it can be.

“I write messages,” Jean said. “See how she’s doing, tell her how we’re doing. And if something is happening in the neighborhood, I’d tell her that.”

Hope all is well. We are O.K. Had a little rain early Sunday a.m. Can’t believe Thanksgiving will be here soon. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be quite different this year. I guess one day at a time is the answer for now.

Love, Jean. Take care. God bless. (11-9-20).

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