Ann Majestic passed away peacefully on August 16th at home with her husband of 37 years, Hank, by her side. She loved living in Trinity Park and being a partner at Tharrington Smith for over 30 years. At reunions, she took pride in saying that she had the same spouse, the same house, and the same job.
Ann had a brilliant mind and a wonderful, understated sense of humor. Sweet, loyal, and a great influence to many, she is deeply treasured and will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
A self-described Navy brat, Ann was born in Hawaii but lived in many places. Her family settled in Aiken, South Carolina when she was in high school, and from there she went to Duke University. It was there she met Hank, her husband to be, 44 years ago.
Upon graduating from Duke, Ann worked at the National Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC. She’ then went to Harvard University where she earned a Master’s Degree in Education. For the next two years, while her husband was finishing his Ph.D. in clinical psychology, she worked in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia.
At the encouragement of her long time mentor, Terry Sanford, Ann applied her passion for higher education to a legal career and received her J.D. from Duke Law School. Promptly after graduation in 1982, Ann joined Tharrington Smith, where she grew to become a legend among school attorneys. Ann dedicated her life to improving education – and special education in particular – in North Carolina where she represented several school boards, including the Wake, Durham, Orange, Alamance-Burlington, and Moore school systems. She also served as counsel to the North Carolina School Boards Association and the North Carolina Psychologists’ Association.
In 1998, Ann received the Distinguished Service Award of the North Carolina Bar Association for outstanding service to the education law section. Most recently, Ann was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys for her outstanding record of service to the Education Law community.
Ann brought to her work a fundamental sense of right and wrong and was always thoughtful and professional. With her incredibly sharp legal mind, she was always able to hone in on the critical issues in a case and to apply accurate and insightful legal analysis. Her commitment to excellence in the representation of her clients never wavered.
As one of the most respected and most prominent school attorneys, she was a frequent and sought-after speaker at both the state and national levels on a variety of school law topics. She was always willing to generously share her insights and her legal reasoning with her colleagues. She also understood that the practice of education law in particular and the practice of law generally is a public service that requires a selfless devotion to the needs of the people served.
Ann mentored an entire generation of young school attorneys in the state, who learned from Ann how to excel in their profession. She was a giant in her chosen field and will be missed. One school attorney recently said of Ann, “For many years, at gatherings of North Carolina School Attorneys, Ann was the biggest presence in the room.”
In addition to fulfilling a demanding professional role, she was a wonderful wife to Hank, mother to Michael and Catherine, grandmother to Wes, mother-in-law to Nicole and Brooks, and dear friend to many. She was a wonderful sister to Mary, Bob, Jane, Barbara, and Mig; and a loving daughter of Gertrude “Kit” Little and the late Ashley Little. She also loved being a “Beauty Mother” with Nyra, Amanda, and Cathy.
Ann loved to garden, and her exquisite backyard was a testament to her sense of beauty. Catherine once accused her of being obsessed when long after the sun went down she was still planting with the aid of a flash light. When Ann protested this characterization, Catherine pointed out that denial was one of the first indicators of a problem.
Known as “Annie Pie” by family and friends, Ann loved to cook and made a Bourbon Pecan Pie that had no rival. She and Hank hosted many memorable Thanksgiving dinners for 20+ family members and friends. Ann also loved spending time at Bald Head Island, sitting on a rocker, conversing with friends and family. She loved reading, knitting, and playing games, especially Up and Down the River with Dave and Claudia. Ann was ever so appreciative of all the love and support she received from her friends Nancy, Karin, Marybeth, Vickie, Sissy, Karen, Jonathan, Rod and Allison.
Ann’s funeral will be 3:00 PM Wednesday from First Presbyterian Church, where she was a member. Private cremation will follow. The family will receive friends 6-8 PM Tuesday in the church. Ann requested she be memorialized at the Duke Gardens of Duke University. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Ann Majestic Memorial, Sarah B. Duke Gardens, c/o Teresa Dark, Box 90341, Durham, NC 27708. Arrangements are with Hall-Wynne Funeral Service & Crematory.