More Recollections of Annie

Here are a couple of additional pieces about our recently departed neighbor, Annie Laos. They may be informative for people who haven’t seen them already and I will be keeping them permanently on this site in the People & Places category. 

Anna Baffert Laos, a longtime businesswoman and community activist who supported the preservation of historical sites, died April 11 surrounded by family in her downtown Annie Laos Photo 2home. She was 87.

Laos died peacefully in the home she and her late husband, Roy Elias Laos Jr., moved into decades ago. She worked tirelessly renovating the vintage 1897 home — doing the labor herself and also overseeing contractors on major restoration projects, said her son, Roy B. Laos, a former Tucson city councilman.

He said among the values his mother taught him and his four brothers was that education was necessary. She stressed for them to study and learn. “It became important to my mom because her educational dreams were ripped away from her,” said the younger Laos, recalling that Anna enrolled at the University of Arizona to study geology after graduating from Tucson High School in 1947.

He said his mother would say: “I wanted to be a rock-licker,” explaining that licking would uncover the beauty beneath the unpolished areas of a stone. Roy laughed remembering her words. Licking rocks is something excited rockhounds may do to study a stone they believe is a treasure.

However, he said a dean shut down Anna’s hopes when he told her “the College of Mines was no place for a woman.” He said his mother told him that she was told that space was needed for GI’s returning from World War II.

Anna was discouraged and left the UA to go to work for her father in Baffert-Leon Wholesale Grocery Co. in Tucson. She was a member of a pioneering family and was related to the Baffert ranching and horse operation family in Nogales, Ariz.

She met her future husband, a UA pharmacy student who worked for his family’s bus company — originally the Occidental Bus Line that later became Old Pueblo Transit Co. The bus line, which operated from 1923 to 1979, served Tucson’s south and west sides.

Anna was born Dec. 26, 1929, and married Roy Elias Laos Jr. in 1952. For decades, the couple operated Roy’s Arizona Pharmacy at 647 S. Sixth Ave. Anna ran the store and her husband, who died in 2014, was the pharmacist. “My dad was a Marine so he ran the family like a regiment,” said the younger Laos. “He was the disciplinarian and my mother was the mediator.”

“My dad would come home late at night and get us out of bed and give us the discipline,” adding that he and his four brothers all worked at the store. “No question about it. We learned from my dad discipline, order and the work ethic,” said the younger Laos, explaining that his parents were a team.

The pharmacy eventually became a market and liquor store that was operated by Anna Laos. It now is Roy’s Corner Market, which is owned by the former councilman. Anna stopped working in the store in 2014.

Anna and her husband moved into the downtown neighborhood in 1962 — living two blocks from the pharmacy. Anna cherished the integrity of her neighborhood and fought the proposed Butterfield Freeway in the 1970s, a project scheduled to tear down homes, schools and businesses in historic neighborhoods.

Decades later in the Armory Park del Sol development, Laos Street is named for Anna and Roy Elias Laos Jr.

Anna spearheaded a drive to form the Armory Park Historical District, and opposed the closings of inner-city schools because of declining enrollment. Laos also served on Tucson Unified School District committees proposing partial redistricting to handle court-ordered desegregation plans.

Among her preservation work, Laos helped get the downtown El Tiradito wishing shrine site on the National Register of Historic Places. The shrine is at 420 S. Main Ave., south of the Tucson Convention Center.

El Tiradito means “castaway” in Spanish. Visitors light candles and pray at the shrine in hopes of getting their needs resolved.

In a 2010 Star interview, Laos said El Tiradito was the only sanctuary in the United States dedicated to a sinner. According to the most popular legend, a man involved in a love triangle died on that spot after an altercation about 150 years ago.

Due to his sin he could not be buried in consecrated ground. “Since it was unconsecrated grounds, people lit candles so that his soul would go to heaven,” said Laos.

She is survived by her five sons, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 22, at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave. A reception celebrating her life will follow from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fraternal Order of Eagles hall, 1530 N. Stone Ave.


Our neighbor Kimi Eisele posted a link to an AZPM video piece about Annie on the listserv. Here it is:

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