Thursday, May 05, 2016

Ann Richardson Suggs...

Been meaning to tell you about Ann Suggs for a while, but things kept happening. Guess this might be a good time.

Ann Suggs was a "one of a kind" personality. Folks said that "God broke the mould" when He made Ann; and most of us were grateful for that.  Because  Ann, all "five foot nothing" of her, was always a force to be reckoned with, a verifiable force of nature - full force, full strength!  Ann only moved in one direction and at one speed - forward and fast.

Ann lost her husband Ray early in her marriage. She was left with two very young sons and an assortment of challenges - all daunting.  She made two choices - forward and fast; balancing rearing Ty and Chris with an exceptional 37 year career " running the money" for one of North Carolina's
largest and fastest growing counties.  Ann Suggs also served with distinction for nearly a quarter century on the Board of Directors of the Local Government FCU in Raleigh, where she fought hard "to give a voice to the people."  

Had a couple of opportunities to watch Ann negotiate the terms of an investment with some of those Wall Street types. Convinced me that, over all those years, the County well-maximized its investment income and that the brokers thoroughly earned their keep.  Ann was not a woman to whom you could say "no" easily.  She explained her world view succinctly: "My way or the highway!" It's kinda embarrassing to admit and hard to explain just how much fear a "five foot nothing" force of nature can strike in one's heart!  But Ann could - and Ann did!!  

Ann was smart, diligent, dedicated, honest and usually right in her decisions.  It was usually wisest "to take Ann's advice" and not try to fight "the force."  I only crossed her once..... 

After Ann retired, she decided, as a second career, to acquire and remodel "historic" houses - no
experience necessary.  She invited me over for lunch one day to see her first project; it was in an "interesting" neighborhood in Raleigh - "transitional" you might say.  The house was a real "work in progress" with everything ripped apart with no convincing prospect of ever returning to a habitable state;  the "labor pick-up point" construction crew was camping out "among the ruins"; Ann was living out of her station wagon in the backyard.

When I drove up, Ann was standing on the front porch.  She yelled at me to give the "nervous sort of looking" fellow - eyes slightly glazed, cigarette dangling - on the sidewalk two dollars and to come on up.  I asked why I had to fork over two dollars for a free parking place?  She smirked and replied: "You want your car to still be there when you're ready to leave, don't you?" I asked the man if he was sure that two dollars was enough, and went in.

Ann gave me the quick (to her exciting, to me appalling) tour and then pulled out a bucket of KFC, four beers and said: "Come on in here and sit on the bed (the floor in the kitchen and living room no longer existed!) and let's eat some lunch; I need to talk to you about some financing."

"Ann, I'm not going to do it! Not going to talk about financing a former crack house for a homeless slumlord, while sitting on her bed, drinking a beer on my lunch hour!" Ann said if the credit union wouldn't do it, she guessed she'd have to get "the bank" to do it. She knew those were "fighting words" and exactly what button she was pushing with that remark!  We exchanged pleasantries; I retrieved my car from valet parking, flipped her "a little wave" and left!

So nine months later, it was a bit of a surprise to receive an engraved invitation to a "House Warming" and la-de-da reception from Ann . Knowing Ann, I knew "the fix was on", but curiosity got the  best of me and I accepted.  Have to admit the house looked great, there were lots of local folks and State workers in attendance and Ann had arranged for free parking for the afternoon.  There came a moment however, after a couple of glasses of wine, when Ann was coaxed into a celebratory message on the completion of the project and the opportunity to thank all those who had made it possible......

As she got going, I tried to slip out.... but Ann was too quick, caught me, and dragged me front and center as she, at length, advised her guests of the refusal of her credit union (and yours truly in particular) to help in her hour of greatest need, and how wonderful and helpful her bank had been!  She took no pity, showed no mercy, gave no quarter..... I was bleeding from a thousand cuts!  But then, something very unusual happened....

One of the "significantly tippled" guests arose and proposed "a toast to the Credit Union" for not investing his money as a member in this "wildass project". The toast was followed by a rousing chorus of "Bravos" and a standing ovation.... all the guests appeared to be credit union members! Ah, the cooperative spirit (and several rounds of Chardonnay!) to the rescue...!  

Looked at Ann and had never before seen her quite so non-plussed!! Told her I had changed my mind, and thought I might just hang around for a while after all; she said that was fine, but good luck finding my car when I got ready to leave!

Ann Suggs always had the best of advice in times of adversity: "Get over it!"  Eccentric, mercurial - you bet! Ann told her sons, her friends, all who would listen to: "Do things with great love." Always a refuge for others in times of trouble, Ann practiced what she preached.  A great spirit, a generous heart.

So, what song would you guess they would play at the funeral of such a dynamo? Such a free-spirited, wildly exuberant, irrepressible, "fast and forward" lover of life? There could be only one proper, suitable choice, it was.....

"Unforgettable" sung by Nat King Cole.

Ann Suggs was ... still is ... and always will be ...  unforgettable to all of us who loved her.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice commentary Jim for a woman of vision and dedication.