The iconic name of Barbara B. Mann will live on forever in Southwest Florida. But the woman, Barbara B. Mann, died Sunday morning at age 100, just a few weeks when she would have been 101 years old on January 4.
Mann will go down in history as the person who brought the performing arts to Fort Myers and spawned many other organizations that pertained to the arts to a community starving for first class cultural entertainment.
She dedicated herself throughout her whole life in bringing the arts and culture to Fort Myers.
A public memorial service for Mann will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fort Myers. That is where she once served as choral director and organist. The minister of the church announced her death there this past Sunday during worship services.
She is the mother of Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann Sr., who represents Lehigh Acres, and Pat Mann, who said his mother's health had been failing for several months and that she had been under Hospice care with nurses at her side for 24 hours a day.
He said the family was handling the news as well as could be expected.
"We knew it was coming. It's tough," Pat Mann said.
Frank Mann said her legacy was that the very finest New York production can produce their plays in Fort Myers.
"Her whole life has been theatre, acting, music and the arts," he said.
Barbara B. Mann became the first president of the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers and she was also a talented pianist and singer and had also started the community concert series in Lee County.
Frank Mann said his mom was energetic most of her life. He said he never saw her rest and never took a nap.
"When she got up in the morning, it was full speed ahead, you better get out of the way or be going with her," he said.
He recalled the night as a state senator from Southwest Florida when he called his mother from Tallahassee in 1986 to inform her that the legislature had lent several million dollars to build a performing arts center in Fort Myers. He said she told him he better not be kidding and when he assured her it was true, she was filled with happiness.
The arts performing hall was built on the campus of Edison State College and it carried her name, The Barbara B. Man Arts Hall, of which hundreds of thousands of people, locals and tourists have visited for all types of productions from the Rocketts from New York to first class large traveling Broadway plays. When she was 98, she even got up on stage and danced with the famous Rocketts.
Over the years, she attended many of the productions brought to Fort Myers.
Mann, when she was 10, moved to Fort Myers with her mother and sister after her parents had divorced. She attended Fort Myers High School and received her diploma from Thomas Edison himself, who spent part of his time living with his wife, Mina, on McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers.
Later in life, she admitted that she admired his wife probably more because of her kindness and that she had presented her with a basket of flowers once when she had starred in a play in Fort Myers.
Mann will be cremated and requested no funeral service, her son Pat said.
However, the memorial service will be held Saturday and it is open to the public with an overflowing crowd expected.
In addition to her two sons, she is survived by five grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.