This is St. Louis, so we’ll start with a high school story.
Anne Tkach, who tragically passed away in a house fire earlier today, was a member of the Webster Groves High School class of 1985. Her senior year book’s listing reads exactly like this: “33, 95, 122, 130, Wind Ensemble 9-10-11-12, Windjammers 9-10-11-12, Jazz Band 9-11, Percussion Ensemble 9-10-11-12, SSC 10, Pit orchestra 10-11-12, Thespian 10-11-12, (Corresponding Secretary 12).” While her senior photo didn’t appear as an individual, hyper-posed shot, she was rounded up for a group photo with other stray seniors.
Though it’s a dark, against-the-wall group pic, she’s clearly, comfortably wearing her daily uniform of that time: a plain sweater over a long-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt, with sensible pants. She was a pixie-cut preppie, a member of the National Honor Club Society and already a musician of some skill.
Able to blend into all the groups a suburban high school offers up, Anne was the student who’d say “hello” to everybody. As a transfer into WGHS during my sophomore year, I was split into classes with both freshmen and sophomores, which, for an already-shy kid, was a pretty bad place to be, socially. Especially in a school with as many deep-seated cliques as Webster, being both new and a half-participant in two classes was painfully awkward. Not surprising to anyone reading this, I’m sure, Anne was among the students who’d take time out to say something to a random goofball in the hallway. Her lifetime of being a welcoming, decent sort was already in full flower by the time she was in high school, a young woman who moved between those WGHS castes with ease.
Though her musical tastes were being shaped by her daily after-school activities, she was an independent thinker on that level, early on. In one of those gifts that people give without knowing, she’d turn my friend Kurt Groetsch onto the band R.E.M.; then he’d infect me with the bug of college rock and off we went, all of us in search of new and interesting music, trading mix tapes, discussing Option magazines, walking to Streetside Records. For some of us, that love of music meant a lifetime of listening, for others a combination of listening and playing. Anne was destined for the latter.
While Anne was as foundational a St. Louis musician as you can find, she added just a touch of the exotic, having moved out west, playing with New Mexico’s Hazeldine over several years and on records at the dawn of the 2000s. Returning to St. Louis, she established herself as a player with a host of acts: Nadine, Ransom Note, Bad Folk, Magic City, The Skekses, Lost Monkey, Sole Loan, Rough Shop. (And forgive me for missing any here, as there were surely more, including one-offs, tributes and never-made-it-out-of-the-basement acts.) Her versatility as a player was remarkable; that was clear from a single listen to her onstage or from scanning the diverse nature of acts that wanted her membership.
Remarkable, too, was her ability to make people feel at ease within the scene. (Any scene, really.)
Though primarily known as an accomplished painter, Jenna Bauer also played bass in a couple of projects, including one with fellow connector Bob Reuter.
“Anne and I met at Frederick's Music Lounge a long time ago when I was playing with Bob,” Bauer writes. “She was being her silly self and snaked her way up to me introducing herself as a member of the female bass players club. With thankfulness in her tone, as if to say ‘We're not alone!’ She, Mik Miano and I used to spend a few Sunday nights at Brett [Underwood’s] bar at the Tap Room. I've got a few sillier stories from snowy nights there.”
Anne’s wide-ranging impact on our corner of the world extended to food sustainability efforts. She enjoyed a role as the store manager of Tower Grove’s Local Harvest for the better part of the last decade; she joined the staff mid-way through the company’s first year of operation and was a near-constant presence at Local Harvest’s different locations/concepts on Morganford.
There, Dee Ryan worked with her and she “was a good and kind friend. She cared so much about her home. She had so many families: the local music community, the local food community. She made a difference to people every single day. She and I supported each other during difficult times and I am so deeply sad that she is gone. Whenever I would apologize for anything to her she'd say ‘Never apologize for rocking!’ I will miss her. I will miss her hugs. They were real hugs.”
Local Harvest’s co-owner Maddie Earnest notes that even early on the process of mourning, “I just keep hearing her infectious laugh and picturing her walking in her trademark ‘Local Harvest’ overalls. That woman had so many talents. She could play damn near any instrument, sing, and could knit up a storm. As a manager, she took care of ordering from our many, many vendors and she had a good rapport with them. We are just beyond sad at Local Harvest and she will be sorely missed. Anne was so dedicated to Local Harvest, and went above and beyond in her care for the store and the employees.”
At Local Harvest today, there was a palpable sense of loss, a heaviness, a feeling that’ll travel around Webster Groves and South City in coming days; no doubt, lots of good memories will be traded, too. Tonight, there’s talk of a get-together at Ryder’s Tavern on Chippewa, her frequent haunt in recent months. On Saturday, Peck of Dirt and This City of Takers will be playing at the Schlafly Tap Room, a show that was to have included Magic City. Doubtless, many friends will gather in both places for tears, drinks, stories.
Ryder’s, in fact, is the last place I spoke with Anne, a couple of weeks back. I stopped in for one, got in conversation with her and left a couple of drinks later. In 33 years of knowing each other, we’d gotten to that point of being able to drop in and out of conversations with ease, picking up on weird riffs that ranged from memories of a Rooster Lollipop show at the old Way Out Club to comparing the best kinds of soil to grow hot peppers. If middle age brings anything, it’s the loss of worry about what topics are cool. With Anne, of course, every topic was given a little extra enthusiasm and she was a good listener, as good as you’d find.
Leaving Ryder’s that day, Anne insisted that I touch base with her the next time that I headed over to Collinsville’s Rural King, which I’d been posting about on Facebook recently. I found it funny, on some psychic level, that Anne, who seemed to exist in a headspace not regulated by times and trends, read anything I posted there, but I assured her that I would. She was overdue for a new pair of bib overalls, she said, maybe two. We may, or may not, have done a shot; the nearest memories are sometimes the foggiest. And then I left, certain that we’d pick up on these discussions during our next third-of-a-century circling one another’s orbits.
Peace to you, Anne, and thank you for being you.