Life lessons keep Connie Anderson sailing along


Connie Kirby Anderson was married in 1946 to a minister, raised three children, and considers being a stay-at-home mom the best job in the world.

At age 56, her husband died of a massive heart attack and left her with three teenagers to care for with little insurance or income.

Within a year, the 42-year-old mom sold her house, furniture, cars and bikes to make a dollar, keeping only a shed full of family belongings. She gathered enough money to buy a 54-foot sailboat named Camelot, and sailed the Sea of Cortez and western Pacific with her teenage sons for two years.

Following this adventure, the boys continued high school and then Anderson went back to college. She graduated from La Verne University cum laude with a B.A. in mass communications in 1974. At age 48, she became a journalist and authored three columns; the latest, “Out and About” for the Del Mar Times, served as the basis for her book, “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This,” written in 2005.

Anderson held positions in communications as a news and feature writer, a reporter/analyst and columnist in 49 states and Puerto Rico. Before retirement in 1991, she was director of networking for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in New York and vice president of San Francisco Theological Seminary, where she directed a $15 million capital campaign for endowment.

She and her husband, Dr. Houston Burnside, live in La Mesa and have a studio “hideaway” in Del Mar.

What brought you to Del Mar?

After a 23-year career that involved constant traveling, I needed to be in one place near family. I chose Del Mar because my son, Robby Anderson; his wife, Liz; and grandchildren, Riley and Haley, lived here. Now I travel across country to see my other two families, but my base is always Del Mar.

What makes Del Mar special to you?

This tiny village is home to people who love the sea, care for the environment, and bend over backwards to help fellow citizens and those beyond our boundaries — The Del Mar Foundation and Del Mar Community Connections. I wanted to be a part of this community of givers, so people and their generosity make Del Mar special to me.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Del Mar?

I wish the neighborhoods could save a vacant piece of property earmarked for sandlot baseball. Organized sports are great, but an occasional pickup game allows children to play free. I like that!

What inspires you?

I love the open sea. In some ways, it brings an aloneness that reaches down deep. Not having other ships, or land, or even birds and other living things nearby, makes one want to discover what is inside of him or her. Hence, it can inspire great thoughts and the music of the soul.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Eric Hoffer, Hillary Clinton, David Hyde Pierce, Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus, Princess Diana and my mother.

What are you reading?

“The Peabody Sisters of Salem” by Louise Hall Tharp, and “A Salty Piece of Land” by Jimmy Buffett.

What is your most-prized possession?

I’m all about relationships — my husband, my special women friends, and my family (especially my grandchildren and great-grandchildren) are dear to me. Tangible items are a first edition “Colette” that I inherited from my aunt, and my personal diary written aboard our sailing vessel Camelot, 1970-72.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy aqua aerobics, writing, indie movies, an afternoon at Viejas, and a Sunday afternoon strolling in San Diego’s Old Town.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

I have to say my education is my greatest accomplishment. Married at 19 with babies coming along in a few years, I longed for more time for myself. I wanted to pursue what the world had to offer me.

I’ll never forget the day I graduated, walking across the stage at 48 years old with all the youngsters who were beginning “real” life so young. Getting that degree started me on a new path of learning and opportunities to contribute my talents in a field I dearly loved. It’s been a great ride.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

I have striven for a practice of inclusiveness since I was a young girl. I think the world becomes a better place as I widen my Circle of Grace to include those who are different from me.