THE CHRISTMAS lights are dancing at the home of Annie L. McManus, setting off the figures of Santa's sleighs, helpers, reindeer and choral singers on her lawn.
Annie was always very creative, and her Chestnut Hill neighbors relished her garden on Murdoch Road and her holiday decorations, always lovingly and imaginatively wrought.
But Annie McManus won't be there this year. She was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver Dec. 13 at Murdoch Road and Stenton Avenue. She would have been 85 on Dec. 17.
Annie was a longtime teacher at the Cleveland Elementary School, Stenton Child Care Center and the Detention Center, where she imbued her students with her love of art and encouraged them to be creative themselves.
She was born in Conshohocken to Fannie Weaver and Calvin Blaylock. She received her teaching degree from Benedict College in Columbia, S.C.
Annie's concern for others and her legendary generosity endeared her to family, friends and neighbors. She was a popular passenger on SEPTA's L Bus, which she rode with her shopping cart loaded with goodies from the Plymouth Meeting Mall that she bought to share.
She visited the sick and shut-ins at hospitals and nursing homes, taking not only her good cheer, but little gifts to help ease the burdens of illness and loneliness.
One recipient of those welcome visits was her niece, Carol A. Douglas, who was hospitalized for a month earlier this year at Albert Einstein Medical Center.
"The door would pop open and in would come Aunt Annie," Carol said. "She would say, 'I brought you some iced tea and unsalted peanuts.' It was such a pleasure to see her.
"She always went out of her way to help anyone who needed it."
Annie was a big fan of Julie Andrews, and would take nieces and nephews to see the movies "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music."
Annie's husband of 43 years, Allen McManus, died in 1995. Their only child, Clifton, died in 2006.
Annie was a longtime member of Triumph Baptist Church, where she sang on the choir in her younger days. Her favorite hymn was "We'll Understand It Better By and By":
By and by, when the morning comes,
when the saints of God are gathered home,
we'll tell the story how we've overcome,
for we'll understand it better by and by.
She also is survived by a sister, Edith Douglas.