Sixty-five Years of Friendship: Isabelle Regan

This tribute was delivered on Oct. 29, 2004, at the 27th annual national FFRF convention in Madison, Wis.

By Isabelle Regan


Anne and Isabel
Photo by Brent Nicastro

My name is Isabelle Regan, and I approve of this message.

This is a momentous occasion for Anne, and important enough for me to travel from California to Wisconsin to say these few words. My love for Anne and my admiration of Anne were the compelling reasons for my coming to the convention to express these feelings in person.

I practiced saying what I am going to say and it only takes about three minutes. It’s hard to describe a lifetime of knowing someone like Anne in three minutes, so I will stick to some of my clearest impressions. No one said I had to limit my remarks to three minutes, but it was either that or two and one half days and by that time the convention would be over.

I am probably Anne’s oldest friend in terms of age as well as the number of years that I have known her. I have known Anne since we were 13-year-old freshmen at Tomah High School 65 years ago. I am sure that we were considered nerdy types.

When we met we became instant friends–a friendship that has lasted through the years. By the time we were seniors, Anne’s dissatisfaction with unreasonable customs and rules was evident. One rule she took exception to was that girls could not wear slacks to school. We wore dresses or skirts with ankle or knee socks. One winter day, we became the first girls to wear pants at Tomah High School, not to rebel against the rules but because it was reasonable on that bitter cold Wisconsin winter day. Anne has never been a rebel without a cause.

One of the books we read aloud to each other during the summer following our freshman year of high school was Pollyanna. The realities of the world cancelled out most of that happy philosophy, but Anne has not lost her faith in the potential goodness of people. Otherwise, why would she work so hard to improve the human condition?

Ever since I have known Anne, she has worked to change and correct intolerable and unreasonable laws, regulations and customs. In these troubled times it must seem like swimming upstream, but I have never seen her bitter–just frustrated and angry with the status quo. And don’t let her sometimes seemingly frail appearance fool you. Her courage and determination have the strength of steel.

In her personal life Anne has lived with high moral and ethical standards, not dictated by religion–but because it’s the right thing to do. Anne and Paul Gaylor’s family is living testimony to the ability to raise children with good moral and ethical values without the influence of religion. Anne’s family’s loyalty and Paul’s unselfish support have helped make it possible for Anne to dedicate so much of her life to the very important work of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Although I reached my rejection of religion separately and early in my life and have mostly been indifferent to it, I have always believed strongly in the work of the Foundation. I have attended several conventions and have enjoyed them all. I know the Foundation and its work will continue, and hopefully in the same manner that it has functioned with Anne as president.

Through the years I have admired Anne’s work for various causes and I believe that all roads led to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Even though Anne is retiring from the Foundation, don’t worry–she’ll be back!

Freedom From Religion Foundation