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Mormon Ann Romney – Matriarch and Special Lady

The world was able to learn a lot more about the patriarch of the Romney family during the recent presidential campaign, but all the while the matriarch of the family worked behind the scenes giving her full support. However, supporting her husband in his political career is only one of the many “hats” that this special lady wears. Not only is she the devoted wife of Willard Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate, she is also the mother of five – Taggart, Matthew, Joshua, Benjamin, and Craig, all of whom love, adore, and respect her very much. She is also the proud grandmother of 18 grandchildren. In addition to her responsibilities as a wife and mother, she has also had to deal with both cancer and multiple sclerosis in her young life. Not willing to be defeated by the tests and trials of life, she also gives unselfishly of her time to charitable organizations, in particular, children’s charitable organizations.

The words of king Lemuel from the prophecy that his mother taught him as recorded in the Old Testament book of Proverbs probably describe her attributes best. In the 31st chapter of Proverbs are recorded the words:

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. . . .She riseth while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. . . .She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. . . .Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. . . .Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. (Proverbs 31: 10-12, 15, 20, 23, 25-28.)

Ann Romney MormonWho is this remarkable lady? She is Ann Lois Romney. Born Ann Lois Davies, the daughter of Edward Roderick Davies and Lois Davies on April 16, 1949, she was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She has two brothers. Her father, originally from Caerau near Bridgend, Wales was a self-made businessman who co-founded Jered Industries, a maker of heavy machinery for marine use located in Troy, Michigan in 1946. He had also held the part-time position of Mayor of Bloomfield Hills. Being raised as a Welsh Congregationalist, he became strongly opposed to organized religion, but at the request of Ann, the family occasionally attended church, and she identified herself as an Episcopalian. She also helped out at her father’s plant at times.

Ann first learned of Mitt Romney while attending elementary school. She attended Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, a private school that was the sister school to Cranbrook School, the all-boys school where Mitt attended. The two were re-introduced and began dating in March 1965.

While Mitt was attending Stanford University for a year, and then left to serve a two-and-a-half year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) in France, she made the decision to become a member of the LDS faith in 1966. In doing so she accepted the guidance of Mitt’s father, George Romney, who was then Governor of Michigan, who included her in Romney family events while Mitt was away. Because of his kindness towards her, she chose him to baptize her.

Ann graduated from high school in 1967 and began attending Brigham Young University (BYU). She also spent a semester at the University of Grenoble in France during her freshman year and was there during the 1968 Winter Olympics. Mormon missionary rules only allowed her two brief visits with Mitt and very rare telephone calls with him. She became very involved with campus life at BYU and spent several days a week as a volunteer in the academic affairs office. While attending BYU, she began dating future business academic Kim S. Cameron and sent Mitt a “Dear John letter” of sorts, to which Mitt responded with letters imploring her to wait for him.

Mitt returned from his mission in December 1968, and the two were married in a civil ceremony on March 21, 1969, at her Bloomfield Hills home, with a reception afterward at the Bloomfield Hills Country Club. Among the 250–300 guests were U.S. House Minority Leader Gerald Ford and automotive executives such as Semon Knudsen and Edward Cole, and President Richard Nixon sent congratulations. The following day the couple flew to Utah for a wedding ceremony inside the Salt Lake Temple. Her parents were unable to attend the ceremony inside the temple since they were non-Mormons, but they were present at a subsequent wedding breakfast held for them across the street. Both of her brothers converted to Mormonism within a year of her doing so. Her mother converted just before her death in 1993. Her father, however, never converted to the LDS faith, but the family performed a baptism for the dead regarding him a year after his 1992 death.

In 1975 Ann received a Bachelor of Arts degree in French. From 2003 to 2007 she was the First Lady of Massachusetts while Mitt served as Governor of the state. During her time as First Lady of Massachusetts, she served as the Governor’s liaison for federal faith-based initiatives. She was also involved in a number of children’s charities, including Operation Kids.

Living with Multiple Sclerosis and Breast Cancer

During 1997, Ann began experiencing severe numbness, fatigue, and other symptoms, and just before Thanksgiving in 1998, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Mitt described watching her fail a series of neurological tests as “the worst day of my life.” He later stated, “I couldn’t operate without Ann. We’re a partnership. We’ve always been a partnership so her being healthy and our being able to be together is essential.” [1] She initially experienced a period of severe difficulty with the disease, and later said, “I was very sick in 1998 when I was diagnosed. I was pretty desperate, pretty frightened and very, very sick. It was tough at the beginning, just to think, this is how I’m going to feel for the rest of my life.” [2]

Since then, she credits a mixture of mainstream and alternative treatments with giving her a lifestyle mostly without limitations. Initially she used corticosteroids, including intravenously, and credited them with helping stop the progression of the disease. She later dropped them and some other medications due to counterproductive side effects. She has partaken of reflexology, acupuncture, and craniosacral therapy. She is a board member for the New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

In 2008, Ann was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, a non-invasive type of breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy in December of 2008 and has been cancer-free ever since.

Multiple Sclerosis and Equine Therapy

Ann Romney is also an avid equestrian and credits her renewed involvement in it while living in Cedar Park, Utah (where the Romney family had built a vacation home and where they lived while Mitt was in charge of the 2002 Olympic Games) for much of her recovery after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, as well as her continued ability to deal with the debilitating disease.

In late 1998, Ann’s symptoms—including extreme fatigue and numbness in her right leg—were so severe that she couldn’t get out of bed. She was hospitalized and treated with IV steroids intended to halt the progression of multiple sclerosis. After six months of treatment with steroids, she switched to alternative therapies, including acupuncture and equine therapy.

“I really felt that I was on the fast track to being incapacitated for the rest of my life, so I thought, what do I really want to do that I haven’t done in my life?” she told Dressage Today. “And I remembered my love of horses.” [3]

When Ann first started riding, she was so ill that she actually had to crawl out of bed for her lessons, and she could only stay on a horse for a few minutes before she was exhausted. But she quickly began to notice health benefits.

“Riding is truly medicine for me,” she told Dressage Today. “I’d sit on a horse and forget I was even sick. I became so joyful and exhilarated that it brought my emotional state to another place, and physically, it got me moving and got my system charged. I’d feel wonderful for several hours afterward. Then I’d have to pull myself out of bed again the next day. [3]

She says that it was this 2,500-year-old therapy that saved her life. New studies have now shown that the treatment she uses – therapeutic horseback riding—really does have some remarkable benefits to rein in symptoms of MS and other debilitating diseases.

I was very, very weak and very much worried about my life, thinking I was going to be in a wheelchair as well. . . .After I turned to horses, my life has been dramatically different. They gave me the energy, the passion to get out of bed when I was so sick that I didn’t think I’d ever want to get out of bed. [3]

Charitable Work

Ann Romney has been involved in a number of children’s charities, including having been a director of the inner city-oriented Best Friends, which seeks to assist inner-city adolescent girls. She advocates a celibacy-based approach to the prevention of teen pregnancy. She has worked extensively with the Ten Point Coalition in Boston and with other groups that promoted better safety and opportunities for urban youths.

She was an honorary board member of Families First, a parent education program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was also a volunteer instructor of middle-school girls at the multicultural Mother Caroline Academy in Boston.

She has said her interest in helping underprivileged children dates back to when she and her five boys saw a vehicle carrying a group of boys to a Massachusetts Department of Youth Services detention center. She began volunteering for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay soon after that, and by 2002 was serving as one of that organization’s board members. She was on the Faith in Action Committee for the United Way, working with local religious establishments to assist at-risk children and helped to found United Way Faith and Action. Earlier, by 1996, she was a member of the Massachusetts Advisory Board of Stand for Children. And, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, she co-chaired the Olympic Aid charity, which provides athletic activities and programs for children in war-torn regions.

Awards and Honors

In 2005, Ann received an honorary degree from Mount Ida College. In 2006, she received the MS Society Inspiration Award from the Central New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from Salt Lake City-based Operation Kids. In May, 2008, she shared with her husband the Canterbury Medal from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, for “refusing” to compromise their principles and faith” during that year’s presidential campaign.

There is an old adage that states, “Behind every good man is a great woman, and there we find God.” That adage has proven true in Mitt’s life and in the Romney home, and that great woman is found in the matriarch and the true heartbeat of the Romney home, Ann Lois Romney.

Additional Resources:

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

Mormon Giving

Mormon Women

The Many Lessons of Multiple Sclerosis


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