Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors, two long-time Hillcrest residents who have given so much to so many, wrap up a decade of service with a move south
By Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
For the past 10 years, residents, business owners, visitors and supporters of the popular San Diego enclave known as Hillcrest have had their very own set of pied pipers – longtime couple and Hillcrest residents, Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors.
As they release their tenth and final edition of HillQuest and prepare to move a mile south to Bankers Hill this month, Uptown News decided to tip their hat to these two gallant women who have made the betterment of this local community their priority for over a decade.
A legacy is formed
Although a quick summary of their history can be found in the opening pages of HillQuest, so much more can be said. In 2002, after a two-year, long-distance courtship, Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors formally merged their lives together in Hillcrest on several levels; the personal, professional and social.
On a personal level, Nancy returned to her hometown of San Diego after running a daily newspaper along the central California coast for several decades. This was serendipitously just two weeks before Ann, a Hillcrest resident since 1981, learned that she had breast cancer.
Not long after Nancy’s arrival and their battle with cancer began, they combined their professional talents in publishing, advertising and design, continuing Ann’s thriving Ad-Ink advertising agency, and in 2003, launching an ambitious new project called HillQuest: Urban Guide – to Hillcrest and Beyond.
This new venture allowed the couple to completely immerse themselves in every way possible, making them steadfast staples of the social scene and gracing them with dozens of fast-friends on every corner of the neighborhood.
The decision merge all those aspects of their lives paid off; not only for the couple, but for the community. Ann soon regained her health as the couple and Hillcrest, began to thrive.
Since day one, HillQuest has been the ultimate resource, chock-full of history, area personalities, trivia tidbits, fold-out maps, local walking tours, business listings, informative articles about neighboring communities, ideas for where to shop and eat, and so much more. It is not unusual for a lover of Hillcrest to keep every edition on their shelves, since there really is no reason to throw them away.
Always released the last week of June and covering the following twelve months (July – June), the handy 4 ½” x 8 ½” hardcopy booklet has a standing distribution of 30,000 copies every year. That means 300,000 total copies have been distributed in the streets of Hillcrest since 2003.
The trivia “nuggets” (as Nancy calls them) that line the margin of each page in every edition cleverly unearth themselves throughout the year as the couple partakes in walking tours, trips to the library, or running errands around town in their personalized (and hard-to-miss) golf-cart.
Once the couple began to delve into the history of this unique community for the book, they began to realize the challenges involved in acquiring the necessary stories and photographs of days gone by. With Hillcrest’s 2007 centennial fast approaching, they decided to take action and in 2005, they established the Hillcrest History Guild (HHG), a non-profit clearinghouse that archives, stores and dispenses historical facts, articles, documents and photographs, all specifically about Hillcrest at http://www.hillcresthistory.org/. To support the guild, the couple started several local community events over the years, including “Hop in the Hood,” a “Toast of Hillcrest,” and the Whole Foods “Movies on the Roof,” personally hosting them all each year.
In addition to their popular HillQuest handbook, a supplemental website — HillQuest.com –- is updated daily by the women throughout the year with news and changes that might affect the community.
Electronic “flipbooks” -– a digital version of every issue that has been produced over the past 10 years — can also be found there for those wishing to read a previous edition. To round out the social media aspect of the venture, there is also a popular HillQuest Facebook page and a Twitter account for avid fans and followers.
Although the focus has always been on Hillcrest, Ann says that by adding “and Beyond” to the title, it gave them “license to venture outside the boundaries of Hillcrest,” and they do; not only when addressing historical factors of important landmarks such as Balboa Park and the regions bridges, but also by sharing fun and informative facts about Hillcrest’s neighboring communities, today.
As the popularity of the handbooks grew over the years, Nancy says that other communities around San Diego often came to them with requests to start similar products for their neighborhoods, but it just wouldn’t have been the same.
“You gotta have the passion for the neighborhood,” she said; and in a word, that is something the two women both fervently shared about Hillcrest – passion. “All that we’ve learned, and doing that learning together, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our community involvement.
“Being able to take the passion we had for our own neighborhood and share a publication that we enjoyed working on with people who enjoy reading about our older neighborhoods was very rewarding,” said Nancy, when asked what a highlight of the last 10 years would be. “HillQuest opened the doors to meeting many people and learning so much about how the neighborhood ticks. It’s fun being able to have a business that requires us to be so involved in the community. It’s never been work and to top it off we get to spend our days together, too … we love each other and the neighborhood created by so many over the past century plus.”
In addition to all the history and trivia they have churned out over the years, the couple has also found time to be involved in a large number of local community organizations, many of which they founded themselves or helped establish.
Unequalled community involvement
According to Nancy, the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) is the “oldest business association” in San Diego and before leaving the HBA last year, Ann had been the longest sitting board member, having serving all four executive directors, starting with Joyce Beers, namesake of the building where the monthly meetings are now held. Nancy also spent a great deal of time with the HBA, having served as both president and vice president over the years. Their other involvements include: Hillcrest Town Council, Hillcrest Clean Team, Save Hillcrest, and Uptown Parking District, just to name a few.
Between moving, restoring and renting the other apartments at their Bankers Hill apartment house, renting out their Hillcrest townhouse as well as their vacation rental in Maui, distributing HQ10, updating the website and keeping all their community involvements straight, it is hard to believe that these two women just keep finding spots on their plate left to fill.
The pair is already involved in the Bankers Hill Residents Group and Ann is now a delegate for the neighborhood parking committee, while Nancy is on the Committee of 100 (a non-profit designed to preserve the Spanish colonial architecture of Balboa Park) and they’ve just barely begun calling that zip code home.
They named the Bankers Hill domicile “The Meadows” years ago, after previous owner Elinor Meadows, an art teacher and community activist who helped save the Quince Street pedestrian bridge that spanned across Maple Canyon near her home. The house, located at Third and Redwood, now hosts five, fully restored apartments overlooking the salvaged and restored bridge. It was originally built as a boarding house and was finally registered historical in 2007, and they will be its perfect curators for this new chapter in their lives.
We don’t see them stopping any time, soon. The couple just celebrated 12 years together two weeks ago, and this weekend, they will be enjoying Ann’s 60th birthday with family and friends at The Meadows – a full ten years after she successfully kicked her cancer to the curb.
From pushing for better parking options and use of parking funds, to leading the resident’s charge to keep the current low skyline intact, to cleaning its streets and preserving its history, these dedicated women have Hillcrest and “building community” running through their veins.
So as the much talked about move south finally comes to fruition, there should be no doubt that the hearts and minds of these two women will always be nestled tightly within “the world that radiates out from the Hillcrest sign.” It is only a mile down the hill, after all.
You can find HillQuest at any of their advertisers. Visit HillQuest.com for a full list of locations. For past hardcopy editions of the Urban Guide, it will cost you $7 (includes shipping and handling). Just contact them through the website.
In their own words
Is there a favorite edition of the HQ10 for either of you?
Nancy: I love them all but HQ5 that came out in Hillcrest’s centennial year is my favorite. We included stories from many individuals … we called them “Reflections.” Ann: I think the final one is my favorite. (We’ll now have time to raise chickens in Bankers Hill.)
Highlights of the 10th edition of HillQuest.
There are lots of great stories. Our favorites include one about Charlotte Baker, San Diego first woman doctor. Charlotte was also a suffragette and fought for women’s right to vote. Another interesting article is about the creation of Sixth Avenue and the loss of many wonderful mansions that once backed up to the park in the early 1900s before it was developed.
What changes would you still like to see in Hillcrest?
We’d like to see the next community plan add more infrastructure or less density. Hillcrest has been a great neighborhood for over 100 years. Perhaps it doesn’t need much changing. We’d also like to see our history persevered for future generations. Many blocks are still identical to the 1920s.
Comments about the couple from members of their community
“Nancy and Ann have been clients, friends, and business associates for too many years to count. Their professionalism and always positive, helpful attitude toward everything is how the world should run! They bring big smiles to the people they help and work with! Bravo!”
– Dr. Jeff Keeny, D.D.S., long-time dentist located at Park Boulevard & Robinson Avenue
“How do you spell civic involvement in Hillcrest? A-N-N & N-A-N-C-Y! This idea came as we were sipping wine, so blame the corniness on the wine, but it’s true. They’ve worked tirelessly for the betterment of the community, from historic preservation to Saturday morning clean-up projects to the centennial & more. They’re fun, caring women who we’ve turned to for information many times … from Hillcrest to Hawaii, they seem to have the answers or know who does.”
– Patty Fares, founder and owner of Urban Safari Walking Tours, and her husband, Rusty Runholt
“Ann & Nancy are the people who got me excited about Hillcrest. Before I met them, Hillcrest was a place where I met friends and played, but I did not appreciate its value as a true community. They opened my eyes, not only to the physical beauty of the neighborhood, but the diversity of people who live, work [in] and visit the area. They inspired me to take a more active role in the community and always encouraged me to be a leader in my neighborhood. Hillcrest felt like home to me long before I ever physically lived in the neighborhood, and a lot of that has to do with the welcoming environment Ann & Nancy created. Thank for your many years of dedication and love for Hillcrest! It won’t be the same without you!”
– Ben Cartwright, current executive director, San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus and erstwhile tour host for Toast to Hillcrest each year.