Tribute to Ann Spruyt, 1930 – 2009

Ann Spruyt, an early and dearly loved student of Trungpa Rinpoche's, died in February 2009.


Ann Spruyt

I did not know Ann Spruyt. I don’t know much. But I do know this. If I were a member of the current sangha, I would be watching, all the time. Who is sidling— Who is primping their practice mind— Who is using— Who wants to be “it”— Who thinks “they got it”— That is why I practice quietly, alone. I appreciate that her mentality was appreciated by my guru. – Laurie Fisher

Dear Cousin Ann,

It’s May 25th. As always I wish you happy birthday. I always looked forward to calling you on your birthday, to sing “Happy Birthday to You”. You always got a kick out of it, even though I can’t sing a lick. For me it was always fun. It was a way for us to connect. It was our “thing”.

I was checking out a picture of you as a young girl. My daughter India looks just like you. She is 13 now. She is also a dancer. She was born on April 8th, just like the Buddha. She has much of your spirit. I know she will do great things in the future

I am glad the Sky got to talk to you (Along with me, my Mom, and Betty Jane) last September 14. That was good for her.

Ann, I am going to go now. I don’t feel like wiritng anymore. I feel like singing…

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Ann
Happy Birthday to you.

Clinton Lee Bembry

Dear Unique Ann,

Ann was one of a kind … to put it mildly. From the first time I met her (assigned for some reason to pick her up at the local airport to Tail of the Tiger during the summer of 1970) when I believe she arrived there for the first time. She spoke a mile an hour, seemingly only a nano-gap between thought and word, and continually a fountain of acerbic, funny, strange, insightful, penetrating commentary on anything and everything. We immediately established a bond — I was never sure why it was so clear and close, but over the years I spent a considerable amount of time with her as friend, comrade and helper. Each and every time I was with her the fountain of barbed, often wild commentary flowed like bubbly. She was the Vidyadhara’s greatest and most loyal critic — never holding back, often pursing her lips in consternation, miming, preening, prancing while unleashing her latest theatrical barrage — often when he could notice her off to the side of events. Perish the thought if you were a —pretty young thing’ sidling towards, around, or near CTR — Ann would pantomime your every cutesy movement and then whittle it down to the stiletto commentary. She had no patience for anything less than genuine and honest — indeed she had little patience at all, and none for fools. But at the same time she was a continually devoted practitioner and student. Hearing her recount some of the most prurient and exotic, sad and damaging pieces of her life was also a heartwrenching adventure —- her life as an artist, dancer, East and West coast woman of the Kerouac era — lover and spurned partner of Marlin, and on and on and on. I moved her up to Pinebrook Hills, her Lee Hill roost, or perhaps it was the world’s most cluttered retreat cabin. Not sure why she wanted to be up there — removed but observant. I’d call her or she’d call me before many big events and we discuss (mostly me listening) the both sides of why she should or shouldn’t attend, what was going to happen, who was going to be acting puffed up and why it was so irritating to her. I tried to encourage or convince her to come and often she did, but on the way home the debrief was most likely her eviscerating every trip and presumed trip enacted by everyone we saw — she saw through everyone’s act — no one exempt – CTR, Lady Di and down the line. Anne was one of the most precise and bright, sharp and penetrating intellects, funny honest, funny twisted, funny sad, funny revealing people — no more than one of — she was the pinnacle. Every moment with her was on the hot spicy seat of stream of consciousness yet surgical barrages of commentary on everything momentarily right and wrong in the universe. But what a dear fulsome heart. In later years, after we had moved to Halifax, I would try to see her during my brief returns for Naropa meetings. Sometimes she would slam the phone down on me. Sometimes she’d invite me up; and sometimes I’d just get a long soliloquy of catch up commentary on the state of affairs in Shambhala and beyond. In more recent years she rarely picked up the phone and I rarely spoke with her to my regret. I miss her dearly and wish I had been able to be closer to her near her death. Dear Unique Ann.

-Marty Janowitz

Hi Ann,

Much love to you….

We spent a few weeks together at the 1973 Seminary, in Rinpoche’s house, with Bob Halpern and Taggi…Oh boy. …

I truly got to appreciate your amazing life.

Much love in deed.

-Julia Sagebien

I loved Ann Spruyt

She was my first MI in Boulder when I moved there on my own to be able to see more of Rinpoche. I came from the warmth of the Chicago Dharmadhatu in ’79 to what felt like a very chilly sangha of the at-that-time centre of the mandala.

Ann was the perfect MI for me. She was devoted, she was kindly, she was humourous, and she was unpretentious. I was so fortunate to know her. –Nancy Castlebury

From Betty Kronsky, Ann’s sister

Ann Claire Spruyt, an early and devoted student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, died on the morning of February 23rd, at Boulder Community Hospital, as the result of complications from a surgical procedure to correct an arterial blockage in her leg. Ann and everyone else thought she was doing well, and suddenly she had internal bleeding. She had only a night and a day to understand that she was dying, and those who formed a loving circle around her felt that she understood and surrendered. Ann was 78. She is survived by her sister, Betty Kronsky, of Santa Fe, NM, who came to the dharma after Ann and as a result of her influence.

Ann was cared for in her last years by Windhorse, a caregiving agency established according to Buddhist principles. They cared for her well and came to love her. They were present for her in her last hours.

Ann will be remembered by many of the early students of Trungpa Rinpoche as an enthusiastic and devoted student. She moved to Boulder in early 1971, as a result of her first meeting with the Vidyadhara in San Francisco, where Ann was then living and studying dance. (In Ann’s early years in New York, she had studied ballet and voice and had shown considerable love and talent for those creative expressions. She always had a special place in her heart for drama and dance.)

Ann was known in the early years of the Sangha as a free spirit, with a great sense of humor, and Trungpa Rinpoche appreciated her vitality and unique spirit. Ann baby-sat for Trungpa Rinpoche’s children, was a good friend of Lady Diana’s mother and of Lady Diana herself. Rinpoche came to her home for tea on her birthday on more than one occasion and invited her to accompany him to seminary in the early years. Lady Diana visited her in her home as recently as last spring and was on the phone to her in the hospital a day before she died.

Ann’s devotion to Rinpoche was known to all those who were close to her. We are certain that he was with her when she passed. Ann was honored by receiving permission for her body to lie in state at the foot of her teacher’s altar in the Shambhala Center shrine room in Boulder. Lying in a simple pine casket, her body was visited by many sangha members and by many of her caregivers, as well as by younger students in the sangha who wished to face death unflinchingly; so that even if they had not known her, they wished to sit with her. She was there during the Shambhala Day celebration Wednesday evening, February 25. On February 26, Vicki Howard officiated at Sukhavati ceremony for her. Vicki had also been present during those early days with Trungpa Rinpoche and has remained an honored member and minister for the Shambhala Center.

Ann was cremated on Friday, February 27, with her sister Betty and two devoted caregivers in attendance and saying prayers. She wanted her ashes to be sent to Gampo Abbey and to RMDC, as well as having some of her ashes interred with her parents and grandparents. Her sister Betty plans to make tsa-tsas with some of her ashes and bring them up to the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico.

We would be happy to hear some stories of Ann in those early days. Unfortunately, because of increasingly poor health, Ann has not been able to attend many events at the Shambhala Center in these last years, but she did manage to attend the talk of the Seventeenth Karmapa last May. She kept her tickets for that event on her altar these many months.

-Betty Kronsky, Ann’s sister.