Anne M. Heldenbrand, 91: Founder of polio support group, known as 'Cannon Annie'

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

OCALA, FLORIDA – Anne Maier Heldenbrand, 91, passed away Sept. 30 in Ocala, Florida, surrounded by her family.

Heldenbrand was born April 26, 1924, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania to John B. and Bessie C. Maier.

She graduated from Royersford (Pennsylvania) High School and Pierce Business School in Philadelphia. She was a secretary for the Saturday Evening Post before marrying Ladd Heldenbrand and moving to Ohio. Besides the couple’s two children, at one time their home in Columbus housed two African lions, eight aardvarks and a chimpanzee.

After Ladd graduated from veterinary school at Ohio State University, the family moved to Portland.

Heldenbrand’s nickname was “Cannon Annie” because she had three signal cannons she fired to salute ships going in and out of Portland Harbor. The Navy officially recognized her as “Black Powder Annie.” She was asked to fire her cannon from the top of Fort Popham as the USS John S. McCain, a new Aegis Destroyer, sailed down the Kennebec. She was many times invited by the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath to fire at visiting vessels. She was saluted by the QE2, the Coast Guard Eagle and a British submarine. Heldenbrand also fired her cannons at the opening of the Casco Bay Bridge after former Gov. Angus King cut the ribbon, and was the starting and finishing gun for the Portland Tugboat Musters. She was often the cannon section when the Portland Symphony played the “1812 Overture” in outdoor concerts.

She was the first woman to fly into the Arctic Circle in Labrador, where a lake was named after her.

Heldenbrand loved volunteering; she served on the board of directors of the YWCA and was a past president of the Lioness Club. A survivor of the polio epidemic in the 1950s, she was a founding member of the Maine Post-Polio Syndrome Support Group. She was a longtime supporter of Southern Maine Technical College and a bell ringer for the Salvation Army. She also brought cookies and pies to the tugboats that delivered supplies to the Portland Lightship.

Heldenbrand shared her husband’s love of fishing; many times they canoed and portaged the Allagash River.

She also loved cooking, entertaining and family gatherings.

After her husband died, Heldenbrand published a book about their lives called, “Chimps in the Kitchen, Lions in the Cellar.”

Heldenbrand moved to Gainesville, Florida, in 2009. In 2012, she moved to an assisted living facility called The Windsor of Ocala. She loved her life at The Windsor, where the staff and aides enjoyed her many stories and hugs.

Heldenbrand was predeceased by her husband, Dr. Ladd L. Heldenbrand, of South Portland; her brothers, Dr. John Maier and Dr. Paul Maier; and her sister, Jane Dreyer.

She is survived by her daughter, Nan Heldenbrand Morrissette of Dunnellon, Florida, and her son-in-law, Thomas Morrissette; her son, Keith Heldenbrand of South Freeport and her daughter-in-law, Christina Heldenbrand; two granddaughters, Jennifer Kastelic of Portland and Alexis Heldenbrand of South Freeport and three great-grandchildren, Althea, Jonah and Sophia Kastelic.

In lieu of flowers, a donation to either The Salvation Army, 2 Sixth St., Old Orchard Beach ME 04064 or Hospice of Marion County, 3231 SW 34th Ave., Ocala FL 34474 would be appreciated.

Memorial services will be held Oct. 24 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Ocala.