Vann remembered as generous, entertaining

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FRANKLIN—Funeral services were held Tuesday for 36-year-old John Keith Vann, a native of Franklin and the owner of Vann’s Barbecue and Catering, who died in a one-car accident in Suffolk on Saturday.

“Keith was one of the most giving, courageous, free spirits that anybody would ever know,” his mother, Renea Vann of Franklin, said Tuesday. “He was unselfish to a fault.”

Cooking, she said, was something her son loved doing since graduating from Franklin High School in 1991. He went on to attend the Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts in Charlotte, N.C.

“He started his barbecue business, made his own barbecue, had a recipe for his own rub and made his own sauces,” Renea Vann said. “He competed in cookoffs and had done very well. He catered events, and there were people around that loved his food so much that they would just call and he would take them a meal.”

Keith Vann’s sister, Melanie Sadler of Chesterfield, said Tuesday that her brother “very likely gave away more food than he sold. He was an amazing cook, and he just loved to cook for people.”

Sadler said her brother also cooked for kids’ birthday parties, providing fare that included hamburgers, hot dogs, fried mac-n-cheese and fried Oreos.

“He was probably one of the most entertaining people you’ll ever know,” Sadler said, adding that her brother earned the nickname “Hurricane” at Johnson and Wales “because he always made a mess in the kitchen.”

Vann is survived by his parents, Earl and Renea Vann of Franklin; his daughter, Barrett Ann McIver of Lexington, S.C.; Sadler and her son, Ayden Ezekiel (Zeke) Sadler of Chesterfield, Va.; his maternal grandmother, Norma Alphin of Carrsville; his paternal grandmother, Mildred B. Vann of Murfreesboro, N.C.; four uncles, Brent Vann (Dianne), Steele Alphin (Debby), Monty Alphin (Ginny) and Gary Alphin; six cousins, Beth, Cathy, Britt, Emily, Caroline, and Grey; and his beloved dog, Roxy.

A memorial service was held Tuesday in the chapel of Wright Funeral Home. The Rev. Ruffin Alphin officiated the ceremony. His ashes were then spread at the family farm near Walters. The family asked for memorial donations to be made to their favorite charity. Wright Funeral Home in Franklin handled the arrangements.

“People from all over the country have been calling and sending messages sharing the experiences they had with Keith and talking about how much they loved him and how much they were going to miss him,” Renea Vann said. “There were so many people that his Dad and I didn’t know. Keith made so many friends everywhere.”

Vann was killed in a single-vehicle accident at Wildwood Drive and Gates Road in Suffolk at about 1 a.m. Saturday. Authorities said Vann’s car ran off the road, hit an embankment and rolled several times. He was ejected and died at the scene. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

“Keith was as happy Friday evening when he left our house as I have ever seen him,” Renea Vann said.