F.C. Native Dies from Lou Gehrig’s Disease at 54

Falls Church native Ann Elizabeth Downer-Hazell died in Boston, Massachusetts on November 19, 2015, at the age of 54. The cause of death was ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Ann attended The Seaton Lane School, Madison Elementary, and George Mason High School, from which she graduated in 1978. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1982.

A daughter of Foreign Service officer Robert E. Downer (deceased), Ann lived with her parents and sister in Manila and Bangkok during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the family traveled the world together. Through her high school’s Gifted and Talented Program, Ann traveled to Costa Rica with a group of naturalists from the Smithsonian Institution. The author of the young-adult high-fantasy fiction series, The Spellkey Trilogy, Ann started writing the first of her novels in a spiral-bound notebook when she was 13.

The finished novel was eventually published in 1986, soon followed by the other two books in the series. She also wrote two novels for middle-grade readers and a number of nonfiction books on nature and animals for young readers. Ann studied with the Radcliffe Program in Publishing, as well as attending several writing workshops, including Breadloaf and Kindling Words. In her career, Ann worked for the American Physical Therapy Association’s publications department, WGBH-TV and The Harvard University Press, where she spent many years as an editor.

Later, she struck out on her own, starting her own imprint and working as a freelance editor. She was a devoted wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. She is survived by her mother, Vesta S. Downer of Falls Church; her husband, Edward Hazell of Somerville, Massachusetts; her son, Bennet O. Hazell; her sister, Judith E. Downer, her brother-in-law Alan R. Gordon, and her nephew, Robert L. Gordon, of Queens, New York. Donations in her memory may be made to Compassionate Care ALS or The Massachusetts Audubon Society.