A woman of faith whose love for God, family and the community exuded through the hospitable way she graciously opened up her home is how those who knew and loved Annye Hudson Fisher, founder of Annye’s Prayer Garden, remember her.
Fisher, who created her home-based Annye’s Prayer Garden as a free, public botanical sanctuary for all to experience the presence of God and find solace, died Thursday, May 19. She was 76 years old.
“She was a trooper by nature,” said Beulah Jernigan, a member of Marshall Prayer Troopers, a local prayer group in which Fisher was an active member.
The Marshall Prayer Troopers group was one of many entities that would gather at Annye’s Prayer Garden for a place of fellowship, prayer and serenity.
“She just welcomed us into her home and welcomed us into the garden,” shared Jernigan.
“She said that garden was on her property, but it belonged to the community,” added Jernigan. “She always made us welcomed.”
Funeral services for Annye Fisher are set for 11 a.m., Saturday, May 28 at Marshall Full Gospel Holy Temple. A balloon release was held Thursday at Annye’s Prayer Garden. Arrangements are entrusted to Black’s Funeral Home and Cremation Services.
Rita Veasey, a family friend of Fisher’s who lives in Ohio, noted Fisher’s tranquil garden not only touched the local community, but others throughout the nation, too.
“Her prayer garden is famous in Ohio,” said Veasey. “I live in Ohio, and whenever I would go to Marshall to visit my mother, I have friends that would always come with me, and we got to experience her prayer garden and take pictures.
“Everyone just loved it,” she said.
District 5 City Commissioner Reba Godfrey, a fellow Prayer Troopers member, recalled how Fisher was a bright light to so many.
“Annye was a light,” said Godfrey, sharing how she would always lend a listening ear to a troubled heart and would offer godly advice in the form of a prayer.
Godfrey said she also loved Fisher’s humble spirit. She said Fisher embodied the essence of her name, meaning grace.
“Her name means grace and that’s truly what Annye was — grace and favor and delight, and beauty,” said Godfrey. “She was just beautiful in her speech, in her disposition and I’ve never seen her upset about anything.”
Being a Light
One of Fisher’s greatest passions was hosting her annual Christmas in the Garden and Easter in the Garden events at the site. It gave her great joy to present the annual programs, and open the garden as a place for the Marshall community to come, fellowship, meditate and worship in celebration of Christ.
At the events, attendees would take an enchanting journey through the biblically-inspired garden, pausing at various key locations to hear the story of Jesus Christ and His love at the free events. To complement the seasons, she would often intertwine hymns, caroling, poems and inspirational speaking.
For Christmas, Fisher would begin prepping the garden and decorating it as soon as the city began its preparation for the Wonderland of Lights season.
Godfrey was honored to be a part of Fisher’s interdenominational Easter in the Garden program this year.
“Everyone that I had spoken to that participated on the program was happy that we did it,” she said. “We did not know that that would be the last time that we could do something for her.
“When it was over, she said to me: ‘I am still on cloud nine and others are too. There is a different spirit in the garden. You can feel the presence of God.’ And that’s the same thing others said — that they could feel God’s presence there,” said Godfrey.
Godfrey said in everything Fisher did, she wanted to ensure that God was glorified.
“It wasn’t about doing things for credit; it was about God being glorified,” said Godfrey. “That is the epitome of her life — that God gets the glory.”
God was definitely glorified as Fisher often witnessed her prayer garden attract many passers-by, who would stumble upon the garden and stop in for some quiet time or prayer.
In 2017, then-Wiley College freshman Destiny McGee shared with the News Messenger her testimony of being blessed by Fisher, through the garden. She said one day, while having a tough time, she just walked off campus to explore and happened to stumble upon the peaceful plot.
“I found this garden,” she said at the time. “The first thing I read in there was a scripture.”
She was so moved by Fisher’s hospitality, that she began helping with the garden with her volunteer group, Moving in Silence.
Godfrey said that’s the type of impact Fisher had on others by letting her light shine.
“That scripture that says: ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven’, that’s what Annye did,” said Godfrey.
Fisher felt blessed to make her garden available to the public, when needed. In 2010, she had the honor of having Annye’s Prayer Garden showcased as one of Marshall’s 10 best kept gardens featured in the Starr Home 2010 Garden Tours.
She would also offer it as a lovely backdrop for groups like Girl Scouts to host their events. Chanitra Sanders, leader for Girl Scouts Troop 7145, said Fisher graciously allowed the troop to host their troop’s carnival, Mommy & Me Tea, and picnics there.
Having been a leader of several Camp Fire Girls’ groups herself, Sanders said Fisher was very supportive to her Girls Scouts troop.
“Whenever I would ask could we do stuff over there, she was more than happy to do it,” said Sanders. “Her house was just open. She was very selfless.”
The Rev. Edwin Lee, Fisher’s pastor at Pine Grove Baptist Church, also shared how selfless she was as she served in many capacities at the church and called her a strong asset to the church.
He said Fisher, along with her husband Richard Fisher and fellow church member the late Gloria Veasey, always spearheaded the church’s Thanksgiving basket giveaway.
He said Fisher was also dedicated to the church’s Vacation Bible School every year, serving as the arts and crafts teacher. Additionally, she beautified the church, decorating it for all occasions and holidays.
“She was Just a wonderful person, a spirit-filled person,” said Lee.
Lee said in his 16 years of pastor at the church, she also served as either chairperson or co-chairperson for the pastor and wife’s appreciation program, something he’s always cherished. This year she also chaired the banquet committee for the church’s 150th anniversary.
“She was very instrumental in things really happening,” said Lee. “Our church family is going to really miss her giving in our service.”
Family and Friendship
When it comes to family, Lee said Fisher was actively involved as well.
“Most people don’t realize that I’m married to her niece, so as far as family, she’s very involved with the Hudson family reunion,” he said of Fisher’s maiden name. “She would always open her home for family gatherings. She’s just very family-oriented. She’s going to be truly missed.”
Lee said he, too, enjoyed being a participant in Fisher’s events in the garden.
“I always enjoyed whenever she would ask me to be a part of anything that she was doing,” he said. “She’s almost a once in a lifetime person.”
Rita Veasey said not only did Fisher show love by sharing her garden, she also exhibited true friendship. When Veasey’s mother passed away in January, Fisher made sure to check on Veasey daily.
“She was a busy lady because she took care of her sister and she was so involved in the community and church and her family, but she still made time for me, to talk to me and talk to my brothers as well,” said Veasey. “She was a beautiful soul and very loving and very giving.”
“She was a good woman,” said Veasey, sharing how heartbroken she is of her passing.
Godfrey, who has always been a family friend of Fisher’s as well, said she, too, is heartbroken.
“Our families go way back to my great-grandmother,” she said, noting their families all attended the same home church, Zion Hill, growing up. “I am just so outdone about her passing.
“It was so unexpected, and I just don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said, noting how Fisher was such an instrumental part of the Marshall Prayer Troopers.
“I already miss my sister,” Godfrey said, reminiscing how they loved meeting monthly at her home or garden to fellowship over a bowl of Fisher’s popular homemade ice cream.
When Godfrey became the newly elected city commissioner recently, she said she couldn’t wait for Fisher to see the surprise she had to enhance the district.
“The street lights on both sides of the prayer garden were out, and since I was elected, I turned in 62 lights to be turned on in the city. And I was waiting on hers to be turned hers so I can run and say: ‘Annye, did you see that the lights are on?’”
Godfrey said the bright lights remind her of Fisher.
“I just love her,” said Godfrey, sharing how Fisher had a servant heart.
Fellow Prayer Trooper Jernigan said she too will miss her. She said she’s known Fisher forever, as Fisher’s husband of Fisher’s Barbershop was Jernigan’s late husband’s barber.
“I had just a double blessing of her because her husband was my husband’s barber until his death. She’s just a jewel,” said Jernigan. “Her favorite scripture is Psalm 103: ‘Bless the Lord Oh My Soul and all that is within me bless his Holy name, bless the Lord oh my soul and forget not all his benefits.’ I can hear her saying that now. She was just a prayer warrior. I just can’t say enough about her.”