Arts champion dies

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, December 27, 2012

One of the greatest early champions of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts died last week.

V.M. “Barney” Annas was 85 when he died Dec. 21 and had suffered a long illness, friends said. But before his health declined, he tirelessly supported the arts and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Suffolk Center.


Annas was a former stockbroker who grew up in Suffolk. Friends and fellow Suffolk Center volunteers (and fellow Suffolk High School alumni) Betsy Brothers and Jack Eure remembered Annas this week.

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“He was one of the greatest cheerleaders for Suffolk,” Brothers said. “He always loved and adored Suffolk and loved Suffolk High School, and was instrumental in bringing the cultural center project to focus for a lot of people who didn’t know about it.”

The project renovated the closed Suffolk High School and made it the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Eure said Annas was a good fundraiser partially because he knew everybody and didn’t mind asking for money, but mostly because he also donated to the center.

“I’ve always heard to be a good fundraiser, you have to be a good donor,” Eure said. “You donate, and they know you’re putting your money where your mouth is.”

Eure said Annas was part of a core group that helped raise $8 million from the private sector for the project. Much of it came from Suffolk, but Annas even approached people he knew in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

“He was not bashful at all,” Eure said. “He was just a natural fundraiser.”

Numerous other arts organizations benefited from his passion. He was a board member for the Virginia Opera, where he was a leading fundraiser and served on the executive committee. He also was the second president of Virginians for the Arts, a lobbying group, and he won the Vianne B. Webb Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 from the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads. A 2006 commendation from the General Assembly honored him as a notable patron of the arts.

Annas is the brother of Jack Annas, who owned an opulent home at 204 Bank St. that was sold at auction earlier this year after Jack Annas’ wife died and now is being turned into a bed and breakfast.

Visitation will be held today at R.W. Baker Funeral Home, with a funeral Saturday. Annas is survived by two daughters and their husbands, two grandchildren and four siblings.