Ann O’Connor Williams Harithas, co-founder of local museum, has passed away
Obituary contributed by Dignity Memorial funeral home
Ann O’Connor Williams Harithas, noted artist, curator, art collector, native Houstonian and descendant of the Thomas O’Connor family, a prominent Texas ranching and oil family, passed away on Thursday, the 23rd of December 2021, at the age of 80 years. Ann was born on the 12th of June 1941, in Houston to the late Roger P. and Maude O’Connor Williams.
“Collage has been part of my life as long as I can remember. My great Aunt made her own glue for pasting the images she cut out of magazines into scrapbooks. I used these scrapbooks to learn my first words and from this point I was hooked. For me, collage is a language and the medium I use to express my thoughts, hopes, and dreams.” – Ann Harithas
Ann’s life was a collage of unique and exceptional complexity. She used her glue of unbreakable loyalty and love with the people and causes she believed in.
From a ranch in Texas, she was capable on a saddle and in boots, learning the discipline needed to handle rope and cattle and becoming simultaneously savvy to fine art while eventually taking on the serious responsibilities and decisions that would affect the future of her family. Born into a life that could offer help to others, she was charitable in a discrete and effortless manner, rarely seeking recognition or spotlight.
Ann encouraged a climate of creativity alongside progressive societal development. Her marriage to visionary museum director, James Harithas, during this period was a dynamic pairing; they formulated as an unstoppable union of concepts and actions, unleashing original alternative possibilities for the entire arts community. She co-founded The Art Car Museum and Parade and The Station Museum in Houston, and the Five Points Museum of Contemporary Art in Victoria. She nurtured the founding of Project Row Houses, sponsoring early organizing meetings in her own home. She funded the Lawndale Art Center at the University of Houston in its beginning years. When in New York she supported exhibitions at the Clocktower Gallery, part of the PS1 /Museum of Modern Art, and the Alternative Museum. Her extensive support provided continuing and significant impact to generations of artists. As a patron, Ann encouraged the best of people, from the internationally known to the local and under-recognized, while applying the gift of trust, friendship and camaraderie.
A lover of music and two-stepping, she knew how to bust a move. From jazz clubs in Manhattan to Texas Conjunto joints, rocking Zydeco extravaganzas and cavernous South Texas dance halls, she liked to have fun, but she also relished the joy of others, gleefully watching the sliding, slinking moves across sawdust covered floors.
She curated and staged massive art exhibitions, throwing unforgettable events to honor artists and legendary musicians. In private moments among friends, she radiated an aura of compassion with a quiet, thoughtful reserve. Her care for others was reflected in the devotion and loyalty returned by people who worked with her. As an artist herself, fashioning collages of extraordinary personal sensitivity, her associations with other artists were most natural. She elevated the spirits of those around her.
There might be a mold for larger-than-life Texas women but it would be hard to replicate Ann Harithas.
She made art for international exhibitions while listening to live rodeo-bull-riding broadcasts in her studio, restored worn Victorian cottages with extraordinary attention to detail, hanging archival evidence of her family’s history next to her incomparable collection of contemporary art. She democratized access to art spaces for all members of a complex community, providing art materials and instruction for underserved children in Texas and New York, all while devotedly attending to her husband, children and grandchildren. She did it all with her unmistakable expressive laugh.
Her sophistication was without pretension, capable of critiquing a 5-star restaurant and extolling a homegrown tomato sandwich on a country porch as her favorite meal. The collage of the life of Ann O’Connor Williams Harithas is one that gave hope, provoked thought, and fulfilled dreams.
Ann is survived by her husband James Harithas; her children, Madeline Maude Kemp Merrill and husband Dave, Molly O’Connor Kemp, Stephanie Ann Loeffler and husband Jim; Thomas Pascal Williams Robinson and wife Julia; grandchildren, Martin O’Connor Haenggi, Roger Williams Haenggi, Madeline O’Connor Loeffler, Henry Williams Loeffler, Violet O’Connor Kemp, Thomas Robinson, Leah Ann Robinson and Henry Lee.
Funeral Service and Interment will be private.
You can read the original obituary here.
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