Dr. Angus Neary was a man of many talents and interests – a gifted surgeon, beloved uncle, talented flautist and passionate traveller. A kind and compassionate man who showed great care and interest in his patients, his love of medicine was equalled by his love of music.
As one of the founding members of the St. John’s Symphony Orchestra, the precursor to the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO), a group to which he proudly belonged for about a decade, Dr. Neary shared his talents and love of music both at home and abroad. His niece, Dr. Michele Neary, says her uncle was also part of an international chamber orchestra organization whose members used to communicate with each other regularly via post.
“If, for instance, he was going to Hawaii, he would write to the chamber group down in Hawaii to find if there were any people that he could connect with down there. And in fact, my sister and I travelled with him to Hawaii in probably 1973, and when we were down there, we visited these people’s houses so that he could play flute with them,” she recalls with a laugh.
“He was a very engaging person and he had friends in many different areas of the world. And part of his connections with people was really though the music.”
Dr. Neary passed away at age 89 on December 28, 2014. But even in death, his musical appreciation and support lives on. In his will, Dr. Neary named the NSO as one of his primary beneficiaries, bequeathing them $750,000 in his usual quiet and unassuming manner.
“He never really ever talked to anybody about it. I think it was a complete surprise actually, except to me, as his executrix…He was a very humble man. He really didn’t seek a lot of recognition in life,” Dr. Neary says.
“Even though he was only a part of the orchestra himself for about eight or 10 years, he was always a strong supporter of the orchestra and really felt that it would be important to keep it strong and keep it going.”
Neil Edwards, CEO of the NSO, says Dr. Neary’s gift is the largest single donation that the orchestra has ever received – something which is made even more special by the fact that Dr. Neary was also the very first person to make a donation to the NSO.
“So it’s very special that the orchestra’s first donor could become its largest donor. And of course what that does is it gives a huge boost to the NSO Foundation and really puts us in a position where now we can start making solid plans going forward,” Edwards says.
The money, Edwards says, is part of an endowment fund to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the NSO. And considering the current economic climate, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Some of the money will go towards helping secure guest artists for the NSO’s Masterworks Series.
“Every year, the orchestra brings in several guest artists of national and international renown – the majority are Canadian, but Canadian artists don’t necessarily all reside in Canada. So paying their fees and flying them in, the travel and accommodation costs are significant,” Edwards says.
“Our Masterworks concerts are sort of our main stage, celebrity series if you will. They tend to be our biggest classical concerts. And in that regard, it gives us the opportunity not only to commemorate (Dr. Neary) with a little piece in the program once a year, but at each concert.”
The donation, Edwards adds, “also sends a message to other potential donors to think about planned giving, to think about estate gifts and insurance gifts and things of that nature, so that supporting the orchestra, if it’s something that interests you, becomes part of your legacy.”
Thanks to Dr. Neary’s generous gift, the music will live on for many years to come.
May is Leave a Legacy Month – a national public awareness campaign that encourages individuals to consider leaving a gift through their will (or other means) to a charity or non-profit of their choice. To learn more about the Leave a Legacy movement, click here.