Hostess extraordinaire Annie Solomon.

Image: Jennifer Soos

Not many people live to the age of 102. And very few who do can have packed those years with as much life as did Annie Solomon.

Annie, who passed away Friday, Sept. 25, in Sarasota, was many things during that long lifetime. Foremost to those in our arts community and far beyond, she was half of the Syd and Annie Solomon duo that played such a huge role in establishing and growing the city’s reputation as an artists’ and writers’ colony. Syd and Annie met in 1940, married in 1941, and moved right after World War II to the little town of Sarasota. They arrived here on New Year’s Eve, 1945, and by Jan. 1, 1946, the same day the Ringling museum reopened after years of money woes, they had come to the decision to make this their home.

Besides being a wife and unbelievably important contributor to Syd’s artistic career, Annie was a mother (to daughter Michele and son Mike), a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. She was an icon of style—unique in her clothing and accessory choices, always herself a pleasure to look at. But for countless hundreds who attended one of the Solomons’ parties, whether here or at their home in the Hamptons, Annie was the consummate hostess—someone who naturally brought together interesting people who went on to form long-lasting connections.

An invite to a Solomon party was a thrill, and the event itself eagerly anticipated. Guests who might show up included writers, like Budd Schulberg, John D. MacDonald, Joy Williams or MacKinlay Kantor; music figures like Jerry Wexler, Eric von Schmidt and Jerry Leiber; fellow visual artists like David Budd, Willem DeKooning and Philip Guston; circus stars like Corcaita “Corky” Cristiani, and countless more. You knew you could count on more than just cocktails and stimulating conversation at one of Annie’s parties, though; there would also be great food, prepared by Annie with a flair no one could match. And beyond just parties, at their home up North, there were softball games pitting artists versus writers, plays given intimate productions, annual Fourth of July picnics and other creative ways to have a good time.

Even after Syd’s death, a gathering at Annie’s place at downtown’s Bay Plaza was still the place to be. Her gift for being genuinely interested in people typically meant an evening at Annie’s mingled young and old, guests of all backgrounds and careers. At her 100th birthday, though, the party list was limited (except for son Mike) to all women friends, each of whom donned a T-shirt with the face of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and then gathered by the pool for a group photograph—which Annie then had sent to Ginsburg with a letter of admiration and support.

So sad to lose both Justice Ginsburg and Annie within a week of each other. But when it comes to lives well-lived, you couldn’t ask for better examples to follow.   

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