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A mother copes with pain of loss

Sunday, May 09, 1999

By Barbara Cloud, Post-Gazette Columnist

I couldn't believe that Margaret Hoover, a mother of three grown children, could awaken each day and face the pain, the loneliness, the heartache, the unanswered questions.

"The void," she says. "There is such a void."

One of her children is no longer with her. This is the third Mother's Day that she will be without her eldest child, daughter Ann.

She's still hurting, but she is coping.

I wrote a column several weeks back about the lack of compassion today. Margaret wrote to share some of her feelings on that subject since her daughter's death in 1997.

As soon as I read the second paragraph that began with, "My daughter, Ann, had bought property in Oakland," I recalled the story and the headlines. I turned to the third page to see Margaret Hoover's signature.

She apologized for her penmanship, saying "emotions still show. It will be two years March 25."

I was so moved.

This was Ann Alison Hoover's mother writing to me, and I gripped the papers as if they might fly away and I would not be able to honor this mother by replying to her and offering my condolences, albeit two years after her beautiful daughter died.

I did not know Ann, but her death made headlines because a housing dispute, usually routine, became bizarre and ended in a horrific murder-suicide.

Roy Kirk hanged himself while in police custody. He owned the vacant rowhouse next to Ann's on Lawn Street in South Oakland. There had been complaints for two years, almost as soon as she bought her house, with all the appropriate legal work done to get Kirk to clean up the property he owned.

Ann went through all the proper channels, and a court hearing was set for March 25 at the Allegheny County Courthouse.

That's where Margaret Hoover was, along with her husband, Thomas, family and friends, who wanted to be with Ann on this important day.

"I was always worried about her, but she loved her house so much, and she had high hopes for the neighborhood." When Ann was not at the courthouse when Margaret arrived, she sensed something was wrong. Then she was told Kirk had not shown up.

"My husband and I had decided to take the bus to the city from Ross that day, so a friend drove us to Ann's house. I went in and saw her coat and purse still there. I feared something had happened but never dreamed what was coming."

Kirk had evidently dug his way through walls of the dilapidated house to enter Ann's house, and he had killed her that day or the night before the hearing was scheduled.

Still, as we sat in the lobby of the Westin William Penn, where we decided it would be quiet enough for us to talk, she said she has forgiven the man who took her daughter's life.

She kept a journal early on, and she was never afraid to grieve.

"I cried, oh, I cried a lot. But I lost my brother when he was just 6 years old, and I remember my own mother's strength at that time. You have to go on, but you are never the same. Nothing is the same."

She was very close to Ann, her firstborn. Only when I asked her to tell me about Ann did she begin to cry at the wonderful memories. We held hands for a bit.

Then we resumed talking about her talented and caring 44-year-old daughter, who looked like her mother.

She was a fine musician and helped raise funds for the Pittsburgh Symphony. She loved animals, especially her poodle, Nikki.

Margaret's head tilted back when I asked about Ann, and at first she had a great smile as she sighed, "Ahhhhh," as if it would take awhile to tell me about her. But the tears welled up, and understandably she could not go on.

I wondered about Mother's Day for Margaret. She will be with her two other children and three grandchildren today.

"Make sure you know what's important. That's what a tragedy like this makes you realize," she said.

"Faith. My faith has gotten me to this point. Then family, of course, and friends. But faith first."

She's a member of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Perrysville.

"We just sold Ann's house. It was so beautiful, and we had worked on so much of it together. It had a great view. It was also a great house for parties. There was lots of laughter."

Ann's Steinway piano is now at her mother's home, but nobody plays it.

"Maybe I'll start to play a little soon," she said. "You know I have no doubt I will see Ann again. I truly believe that."



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