Ian’s Tribute: Ian Gaylor

This was delivered at the at the tribute for Freedom From Religion Foundation president emerita and founder Anne Nicol Gaylor, held on Oct. 29, 2004, at the 27th annual Foundation convention in Madison, Wis.

By Ian Gaylor


Ian Gaylor
Photo by Brent Nicastro

Good evening. I wanted to say just a few words about my mom, Anne Gaylor. You heard much tonight about Anne’s public accomplishments. I would like to briefly talk a bit about Mom’s private accomplishments.

All too often we are disillusioned when the personal lives of public figures such as politicians, artists, celebrities or athletes are uncovered. For example, I have always liked the poetry of Robert Frost, but I was disappointed to learn that he was a rotten husband and father and somewhat of a curmudgeon in his personal life. Similarly, I am disappointed whenever I learn of the personal failings of heroes such as Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King or John Kennedy. Frequently, our heroes turn out to have feet of clay. We can still admire their good works and art, but some of the luster is worn off.

I am here tonight to let you know that Anne Gaylor is just as kind, compassionate and reasonable in her personal life as in her public life. Specifically, she was an excellent mom.

Despite having four children running around the house, she hardly ever yelled at us. She is by nature a very compassionate person and would always affectionately comfort us kids whenever we had “owies” or hurt feelings. She was very generous, patient, gentle and selfless as a mom. She always encouraged us to read books, discuss ideas and take part in political and activist causes. She always urged us to “talk about ideas, not other people.”

Best of all, she never made us go to church.

I want to conclude by relating an anecdote to you that perhaps best illustrates just what a good mom she was. When I was in my late twenties, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my older brother Andy and my younger brother Jamie. (Annie Laurie wasn’t present for this conversation.) We were talking about various childhood memories as adult siblings are wont to do.

During the course of our discussion, the topic of “Who did Mom like best when we were kids?” came up. Normally, this topic is fraught with peril. I don’t recommend it for young or adult siblings. Andy stated that he thought Mom liked him best. Jamie claimed that Mom liked him best. I knew in my heart and insisted that Mom liked me best.

We never did reach consensus that night on who was right. But I believe that we all realized that it takes a pretty talented, fair-minded and lovable parent to be able to persuade each of her children that he or she is the most loved.

So, with Anne Gaylor, you have at least one public figure whose personal life lives up to her public image.

Ian Gaylor, a Life Member of the Foundation, is a fifth-grade teacher at a Wisconsin public school.

Freedom From Religion Foundation