Aug 20, 2021 - Climate

The incredible life of Anne Springs Close


Photo: Courtesy of the Anne Springs Close Greenway

Anne Springs Close — the nature-preserving, Kilimanjaro-hiking, world-traveling philanthropist and conservationist who was the last living person to have flown across the Atlantic aboard the Hindenburg — died Friday at the home she’d lived in for 72 years. She was 95.

An obituary posted on the page of the greenway that bears her name says the cause of death was injuries sustained from a falling tree branch.

  • She will be missed far and wide.

What she did: What didn’t she do? One big thing most folks here recognize, even if they don’t know the rest of her story, is the cherished stretch of land south of Charlotte known as the Anne Springs Close Greenway, which she saved for us.

  • Concerned about Charlotte’s urban sprawl in the 1980s, she created plan to place 2,100 acres of family land just into a conservancy, while retaining 4,000 acres for development.
  • “Most developers build first, and if there’s anything left over, they would make a green space,” she said. “We did it the other way around. We made the green space first.”

The big picture: You want a blueprint for a full life? Follow her lead.

  • She hiked Kilimanjaro three times, and hiked Mt. Washington when she was 88 years old.
  • In 2014, she was hiking in Switzerland when her friend hiking partner died of a heart attack. Nearly blind after decades of macular degeneration, Mrs. Close was able to feel her way down the mountain alone.
  • She traveled to Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Bhutan, Mongolia, Iran, Mali and Yemen, which she said “probably the most exotic.”
  • Every summer, she took her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to Switzerland on hiking trips, and on horse pack trips on Sheep Mountain in Washington state — “my favorite place in the world,” she said once.
  • She used to drive a Jeep Wagon with the slogan, “Don’t Dump Your Waste in Dixie,” in an effort to close South Carolina’s nuclear waste dumps, according to a 1982 Observer story.
  • And of course, there was the Hindenburg flight, which she took when she was 10 years old and described in vivid detail in this video.

After all of that, Close was sitting on a bench on Monday when a branch fell from a tree and landed on her. Her daughter Gracie Close was with her and was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

While Anne Springs Close was the hospital with the injuries that would ultimately take her life, her obituary says she commented on the irony with signature wryness.

  • “I saved one too many trees,” she said.

Service details: A memorial is scheduled for 2pm on Sunday at the Comporium Amphitheater on the Anne Springs Close Greenway.

Read her full obituary.


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