On stage in 2016 to accept a prestigious National Book award, a beaming Andrew Aydin declared “Mama, we made it.”
Lynn Van Buren was too sick to attend the ceremony recognizing her son, Congressman John Lewis and artist Nate Powell for “March,” their acclaimed comic book trilogy about the Civil Rights movement.
But she’d always been cheering.
The trilogy took years to complete, and Van Buren was that critical sounding board.
“Every night, Momma sat on the phone with me, listening to my ideas and seeing me through all the ups and downs and all the hard work,” said Aydin, digital director for Lewis’ congressional office.
Anne Lynn Van Buren, entrepreneur, master gardener and devoted mother, died June 28 of a rare brain disease. She died at Emory University Hospital, where she was born 70 years ago.
A celebration of life will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. James United Methodist Church, 400 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, Atlanta.
Van Buren grew up in Atlanta, graduating from Sylvan High School and working full-time to put herself through Georgia State University. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she developed a passion for the city’s in-town neighborhoods, which she parlayed into a 20-year sideline of restoring old and in-need-of-repair homes.
Van Buren worked at Southern Bell during the day and would spend every penny and every spare hour rehabilitating homes in the Inman Park area, her son said.
She married in 1980 and had son Andrew Van Buren Aydin three years later. When she and her husband divorced, “he left taking everything, including the toilet paper,” Aydin said.
Van Buren quit work and devoted all of her energies to raising her son, although she later took jobs with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and the preschool at St. James Methodist Church in Brookhaven
“She was determined Andrew was going to have a good upbringing,” said her aunt, Pattie Ivy of Athens. “She wanted him to be the best.”
She and her son took road trips to national parks, historic sites, museums and gardens that would last several weeks during summers.
Reading was one of her passions, and she perpetually had stacks of library books at her bedside for Andrew.
Van Buren also encouraged her son’s love of comic books, allowing him to attend comic book conventions starting when he was 12 and regularly taking him to comic book stores.
“She sacrificed everything for me,” Aydin said. “She gave me the opportunity to have a great life.”
After the school day, Van Buren would be waiting at home ready to hear about Andrew’s day and how he was feeling. Their daily discussions continued into his college years and through Van Buren’s final days, he said.
As her son entered high school, Van Buren decided to follow her passion and enroll in the Georgia Master Gardener program. Her service project involved beautification of one of her favorite places, the Sandy Springs public library. After completing the program, she continued her studies in plant sciences, earning a degree in horticulture at Gwinnett Technical College.
Janice Shackelton, a longtime neighbor from Brookhaven, said Van Buren “was very independent and strong, raising Andrew as a single mom.”
She regularly took on big projects with a passion and saw them to completion, Shackelton said.
One example, she said, was Fernbrook Farm, a 20-acre family farm near Henderson, N.C., that Van Buren built and lived in after Aydin was off at college.
The home was almost complete when Shackelton came for a visit. A spectacular acre of sunflowers lined the driveway, leading to a beautiful stone house that was Van Buren’s creation, she said.
Family described Van Buren as tenacious, outspoken, beautiful and, above all, hardworking. She also was fiercely devoted to her friends and had a deep love for children and dogs, her Aunt Pattie said.
She recalled an incident when Van Buren’s dog Morgan ran off, frightened by the sound of gunfire, leaving 10 two-week-old puppies.
Van Buren was working at the time and recruited help from her aunt and mother. Each woman took responsibility for five puppies, feeding them from baby bottles every two hours until they were six weeks old.
“She wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Pattie Ivy said.