Ann Downing Hocker was born on October 17, 1941, as the only child of John and Ethel Browning Downing. A Warren County, Kentucky, native, Ann grew up on the family farm in what is now Westgate Shopping Center and Warren Central High School. Throughout her childhood, she participated in dance. She studied ballet, pointe, tap, and jazz and became a regular performer in the Shakertown Festival as a teen and early adult. She also showed horses, with her speciality in 3-gaited and 5-gaited.
Ann attended College High, also known as the Training School, from kindergarten through high school. After graduation, she came to WKU, where she majored in elementary education. While on the Hill, she continued pursuing dance. She performed in Western Players productions, such as Oklahoma! During this time, she met another WKU student and member of the Western Players, Lt. William E. Hocker.
After earning her degree, she moved to Tampa, Florida, where she taught third grade for one year before moving to Baumholder, Germany, to marry William. Ann loved living in Germany and being an army officer’s wife. While in Baumholder, she gave birth to their first child, Elizabeth. The family returned to the states where second daughter, Caroline, was born at Fort Knox.
The family returned to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for Ann to be close to family while William did his tour of duty in Vietnam. Unfortunately, he was killed in action in September of 1967. Ann raised her two daughters to be strong independent women like their mother and was very supportive and influential in the lives of her eight grandchildren, Nicholas Slattery, Jane Embry Watts, Hannah Slattery, Alexandra Watts, Victoria Watts, MacMillan Slattery, Elizabeth Watts, and Abigail Birk.
Ann was an active member of her community. She was a founding board member and active member of Fountain Square Players, Capitol Arts Committee/Foundation, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a Kentucky Colonel. She was a part of the Overseas Wives Club, the Jr Woman’s Club, Red Stocking Revue, 12th Street Church of Christ (later Lost River Church of Christ), Horticulture Society, Cardinal Council, and the Bicentennial Garden Club.
In September of 1975, a group of women met with representatives of members of the Bowling Green Garden Club to explore the interest in forming a new garden club. Plans were formulated through the following months and an application was made to the Garden Club of Kentucky and the National Council of State Garden Clubs to become a member club. The charter was granted and the club was federated in April of 1976, thus the name “Bicentennial” was chosen. Ann Hocker was a charter member of the group, and in the following 40 years of the club’s history served in every office, including three two-year terms as president. She was also very involved in the Cardinal Council of Bowling Green Garden Clubs and was serving as vice president of the council until her passing.
In the summer of 1984, the Cardinal Council sponsored the first course in a Nationally Accredited Flower Show School, which consisted of five courses given six months apart, with testing and other requirements after each course. Ann enrolled, and after much study of design and horticulture, she became a National Flower Show Judge, progressing through the steps of Student Judge, Accredited Judge. After many years of study and exhibiting, she reached the Master Judge status. During this time, Ann became sought after as a knowledgeable, fair judge and traveled not only in Kentucky but also in other states to judge flower shows. She continued to enter her designs and horticulture in many Standard and Plant Society Shows. She was especially known for her beautiful and creative designs, which won her many top awards in design and horticulture in various shows.
Ann passed away on November 9, 2016, after a valiant battle with leukemia. To honor her memory, the Bicentennial Garden Club established the Ann Hocker/Bicentennial Garden Club Scholarship Fund in 2020. The fund assists deserving full-time WKU students who are majoring in horticulture, with first preference given to students who graduated from a high school in Warren County, Kentucky. Through this fund, Ann’s legacy lives on in perpetuity.