FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE: February 4, 2021
Called “Mama Kenya,” Colorado Laywoman Ann Fort Remembered
On her nineteenth mission trip to Kenya in 2019, at the age of 95, United Methodist laywoman Ann Fort, Lone Tree, Colorado, bade farewell to her Kenya friends, saying the next time she hoped to meet them was “on the other side, in heaven.” Just over a year later, Fort, 96, passed away Christmas Eve, December 24, 2020, after a short battle with cancer.
Affectionately known as “Mama Kenya,” Fort will be remembered in special services of celebration in Meru, Kenya, according to Bishop Nicholas Mutwiri of the Kaaga Synod. Memorial services in the United States have been delayed by the family until the spring or summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Visionary and vigorous until her death, she challenged everyone to a global generosity and a humanitarian commitment to break the bonds of poverty and chains of stigmatization. She embarked on her first trip to Kenya, after she was widowed at the age of 74. Returning 19 times, most often leading mission teams, she built a magnificent living legacy of schools, water projects, churches, orphan care, university scholarships and medical assistance. Hundreds of Mountain Sky Area United Methodist clergy and laity joined her intrepid work trips.
“’Mama Kenya’ will be deeply missed and mourned by our people,” says former Kenya Bishop Catherine Mutua. “Ann loved Kenya, not the animals of Africa, but ‘us’ the people. She worked so tirelessly and consistently to pay children’s school fees, feed street families, provide medical camps, create scholarships, construct sewers, and build churches.”
Fort is survived by three sons, a daughter, and their families. She was a long-time member of Hope United Methodist Church in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and led the building of a sanctuary for the Chuka MCK Town Church in Kenya. For many years she served on the Rocky Mountain Global Ministries Committee, often promoting the Bridge of Love conference offering for Kenya.
To continue her legacy, she established the Ann Fort Kenya Fund through the Center for Health and Hope. www.centerforhealthandhope.org/annfortkenyafund “She planned her mission work would continue,” said Dr. Don Messer, the Center’s Executive Director. “AIDS orphans are going to school, and even college, because her compassion extended beyond her lifetime. She not only loved singing ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ but she intended it to keep it shining!” On a future trip, Messer will fulfill her wish by placing some of her ashes in the Ann Fort Garden in Kenya.
Rev. Annie Arnoldy, Director of Connectional Ministry for the Mountain Sky Conference, was a close friend with Ann Fort for decades. Arnoldy grew up at Hope UMC, and recalls that "Ann began going on youth mission trips as a cook. Then she went on our college mission trip, and finally, led more than a dozen of us young people on trips to Kenya over the years. She mentored a generation!"
Fort’s life is chronicled in Shirley D. Meier’s biography, “Ann Fort: Threads of a Splendid Life (2014).” https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Fort-Threads-Splendid-Life/dp/1478731028 “Now I’m writing ‘The Last Chapter,’” says the author, “to ensure Mama Kenya’s whole story is never forgotten.”
For more information contact Donald E. Messer, Executive Director, Center for Health and Hope, Centennial, Colorado. He can be contacted at 303 877 1955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.