Ann Hersey Zelle, a patron of the arts, author of cookbooks and former co-owner of a kitchen store in Minneapolis, died Oct. 15 in a St. Paul assisted living home. She was 90.
Zelle was a longtime supporter of cultural organizations along with her late husband, Louis Zelle, who was one of the founders of the Guthrie Theater.
She served three two-year terms on the board of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1970 to 1976 and was one of the first two women named to its executive committee. She also served as president of the symphony’s women’s organization.
Her book, “The Enjoyment of Low Cholesterol” in 1973, was one of the first about low-fat cooking, based on recipes she developed after learning her son was at risk for high cholesterol. Long out of print, the book was marketed at the time as “America’s most needed cookbook.”
“My mother took a great interest in low-fat recipes,” said her son Charlie Zelle, who serves as Minnesota transportation commissioner and, like his father, has been chairman of the family’s bus business, Jefferson Lines. “She started inventing recipes because there really was no low-cholesterol cooking at the time.”
Her venture into retail, a kitchen store called 2 Cook, didn’t last, operating only a few years in the late 1970s in St. Anthony Main.
But she and her husband left a mark on the cultural life of the Twin Cities as supporters of the Walker Art Center, the Minnesota Opera, the Guthrie and the orchestra.
“They were very welcoming to the actors, and when they came in [from out of town] would invite them into their home,” said Sheila Livingston, the Guthrie’s director of artistic relations.
Ann Zelle also supported historical organizations, including two in Massachusetts, where her family has roots, and Planned Parenthood, where she was a longtime volunteer.
She was born in Minneapolis and graduated from the Northrop School, now part of the Blake School, in 1941, and then from Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass., in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in history. She worked after college as a staffer for the late Minnesota Rep. Walter Judd in Washington, then took a job at General Mills, leaving in 1952 to marry.
In the 1950s, she and her husband were among the first families to move into a new suburban development called North Oaks. But they later moved to downtown Minneapolis, and for years lived not far from the Guthrie.
Along with Charlie, she is survived by her son Michael, of New York City, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 9 at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis.
David Shaffer • 612-673-7090