The man who made the mandolins has died

Bad news travels fast in a small town.

Eighteen miles away, the story in the Athens newspaper began:
A 60-year-old Jefferson woman and an unidentified man were killed in a Friday morning wreck in Banks County, according to the Georgia State Patrol’s post in Gainesville.

The “unidentified man” is Tony Ianuario and the “60-year-old Jefferson woman” is his wife Ann. His custom-made mandolins have been played by well known performers including Bill Monroe and Jesse McReynolds. The Smithsonian knows his work and Hearts and Hands: Musical Instrument Makers of America recognizes him as one of the top 250 instrument makers in the U.S.

His full white beard and costume (designed by Ann) have been transforming him into Father Christmas for local children for 17 years. Ann’s writing and her work as a Master Gardener are widely appreciated throughout the region. She was a long-time library and museum volunteer.

The local paper had more details: A well-known Jefferson couple was killed in a Banks county wreck Friday on Hwy. 63 at Hwy. 51. Killed were Tony and Ann Ianuario, Jefferson. The wreck reportedly involved a tractor trailer and a SUV, but no official details were available Saturday about the cause of the wreck.

The response of neighbors and friends was more personal, spread via phone calls and knocks on the front door, had we heard about Tony and Ann? When had we last seen them? Weren’t we planning to call with a new volunteer project? Hadn’t some of Ann’s writing just been posted? When was the next bluegrass jam session scheduled?

More often that not, I saw Tony and Ann at the local Food Lion as we raced up and down the aisles grabbing a few groceries for the week. A quick hello, small talk. and the latest news before they were off to pick up a half gallon of Mayfield Milk and I was off for another box of Cheerios.

They died together. That was for the best, people said. Even so, we wished there had been a moment for a last goodbye and an encore performance of one more song.

9 thoughts on “The man who made the mandolins has died

  1. I’ve never driven that road, but the paper referred to the location as a “problem intersection” where there have been quite a few fatal accidents. My impression is that it’s a three-way stop that looks like a four-way stop.

    These kinds of things always seem so random. About half the town is probably going to be at the funeral on Wednesday.


  2. Tony and Ann were my Father and Mother and I was deeply moved by the amount of people that came to the visitation and the furneral…My heart is still hurting from my loss…please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers…


    1. Dear Tonia,

      My wife Lesa (Crawford Long Museum) and I met you at the visitation; I wish we had had a chance to meet you under better circumstances. Tony and Ann were deeply involved in, and deeply loved by, the Jefferson Community. The bluegrass music at the funeral–while unusual–was especially apt for those of us who knew Tony and Ann as an integral part of the Jefferson and the regional music communities.

      Their loss stunned all of us and leaves a giant tear in the fabric of our community. I cannot begin to imagine it from your perspective. You and your family are close within our thoughts and prayers. Please let us know if there’s any way we can be of help: You can find Lesa and I at: malcolmrcampbell [at]

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.



  3. Andrea

    I just wanted to leave a quick note to the Ianuario Family. I found Tony and Ann’s home for auction. I have always loved thier home and admired it. I have been driving past it for 5 years now, and the first time I saw thier home I thought ” I bet those are really cool people that live there, maybe I could stop by someday just to make a new friend”. Reading what I have about Tony and Ann and looking at the photos for the auction, I wish I could have met them. From what I see, they are the type of people I aspire to be. If I had stopped by one day out of the blue, I bet they would have made great conversation.
    My appologies for your loss. I think it was a communities loss as well.

    1. I always liked their house, too, and the yard and how it was cared for. I had great conversations with them when we met in a store or at the civic center, usually by chance. You probably would have, too. Yes, the loss is the community’s loss. Thanks so much for your comment.


Comments are closed.