Annisquam – Sarah Ann Andrews Hackett, great-grandmother, central elder of Annisquam Village life, humanitarian entrepreneur, and beloved friend to so many – died peacefully in her sleep on December 26, 2022, at the age of 96.
Sarah was born in 1926 and grew up in the Annisquam home that has been in her family since its construction in 1829. She attended school across the street at the Leonard Street School, where her mother Ida had been a teacher. Her father Earl was a well-known Gloucester dentist and civic leader, and Sarah attended Gloucester High School.
While a botany major at the University of Vermont, Sarah was deeply inspired by Albert Schweitzer, renowned doctor to the poor in Africa. Her dream of following in Schweitzer’s footsteps was delayed when, after marrying David Powell Hackett, three children came along. Early in their marriage, the family lived in Batavia, N.Y., where David commuted to his teaching position at the University of Buffalo, and where Sarah delved into the rural life of sheep raising, shearing, and weaving, rug hooking, maple syrup production, and furniture building.
The Hacketts moved to California when David was given a professorship in biochemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. There, Sarah studied to become a nurse, with a fourth child on the way. Only 6 months after the baby’s birth, the tragedy of David’s death rendered Sarah a single working mother raising four children.
As Sarah’s three oldest children were finishing high school, Sarah met the metalsmith artist Phillip Fike. They married and moved to Detroit, where Phillip taught art at Wayne State University. While living in Detroit, Sarah earned a master’s degree in public health at the University of Michigan. She moved back to New England to work as director of visiting nurse agencies in Cambridge, and in 1985, Sarah started Community Health Network, providing supplemental nursing staff for Cambridge area homecare and hospice.
When Sarah retired from this work in 1993, she found an opportunity to begin living out the sense of vocation that she had felt as a young college student, volunteering for six months as an administrator for the St. Boniface Foundation clinic in the rural village of Fond des Blancs, Haiti. She was hooked. Struggling at first to learn about tropical diseases, Haitian norms, and the Creole language, Sarah persevered, returning annually for 28 years, living in Fond des Blancs for several months each time.
Sarah was known by everyone in the village as a reliable friend and creative hub of entrepreneurial projects, starting up one program after another to improve the health, education, and economic self-sufficiency of the people, especially women. One of these enterprises, Haiti Projects, earned the Espíritu Award from the Isabel Allende Foundation in 2009.
At the age of 91, Sarah launched her last project for Fond des Blancs, the Greening Haiti Fund, which works to reverse deforestation and soil depletion through environmental education, soil revitalization, and tree planting. Their work goes on, and contributions in Sarah’s name would be most welcome; just visit their website at greeninghaitifund.org.
Dr. Wilfred Cadet, one of Sarah’s early partners in her work, said that “She didn’t come here as the white American woman saying ‘I know everything, I will get you out of poverty.’ She took time to listen to people, and not to judge them.” Sarah’s approach was one of development, not charity. She trained leaders to take over her projects, so that they could be empowered in self-sufficiency.
Even though her life was marked more than once by tragic personal loss, Sarah Hackett showed perseverance, a generous heart, commitment to the poor, a deep religious faith, and enthusiastic participation in community life both in Haiti and in Annisquam.
Sarah is survived by three children, six grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren. A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held later, at a date yet to be determined.