FORT MYERS, Fla. - Southwest Florida is saying goodbye to a woman who was its leading citizen for decades. Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate the life of Barbara B. Mann. She passed away last Sunday at age 100.
People came to First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers to honor the founder of so many arts, music, and civic groups. The pastor of the church suggests this may be the closest thing to a 'state funeral' this area has seen. And, that's really the case. Leaders in business, politics and cultural organizations paid tribute to a lady and her remarkable legacy.
Music filled First Presbyterian, welcoming people to pay their respects to Barbara B. Mann. They filled the sanctuary, where flowers and pictures of Mrs. Mann surrounded the pulpit. She led the effort to build this church and had been the organist and choir director there for decades.
"For 70 years, she was the person responsible for almost all the arts and culture here," Charles Edwards said.
Speakers reminded us of Mrs. Mann's accomplishments: founder of the Symphony, the Concert Association, Alliance for the Arts, Women's Club and namesake of the performing arts hall at Edison State College.
Some say Mrs. Mann set an example to follow. "One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was, stay busy, it keeps you young! I have taken it to heart, so I will never retire," said friend Susan Bennett.
Speakers included those who knew Mrs. Mann for 70 years as well as elected officials. "He's the one who convinced me I could lead the Edison Pageant," former pageant director Margie Willis said. "I was not sure I could do it, but she said you can do anything if you just put your mind to it."
"Clearly, her legacy is the sophistication we enjoy now, just plain good living," Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson. "We love her and miss her."
Mrs. Mann planned this service some years ago and made sure it included one of her favorite hymns, "He Touched Me."
Members of he Mann family feel the service provided a forum for people to say "farewell" and "thank you" to this spirited lady. "You know, you are born and you die and there is a dash in between," Mann's son Pat said. Well, her dash was a very busy one all the way through."