Family, Friends And Officials Celebrate The Harold C. Simmons Memorial Highway Designation With Memories And Champagne Toasts

There was a chill in the air and the forecast of light snow in the days ahead. But neither that nor Annette Simmons‘ in-recovery cough was going to prevent a special announcement from being made regarding Annette’s late husband, Harold C. Simmons, on Friday, January 12.

Jerry Fronterhouse, Amy Simmons Crafton, Annette Simmons and Don Huffines

Even state politicos like Sen. Don Huffines and State Rep. Morgan Meyer with their staffs had arranged to be on hand for the occasion at Annette’s and Jerry Fronterhouse‘s home. Morgan, who’d just returned from a legal proceeding in New England, hadn’t let the big northeastern blizzard keep him from pulling up in his SUV in Simmons’ driveway.

The day had been a long time coming. While entrepreneur/philanthropist Harold had died in 2013, his legacy was continuing, thanks to his widow Annette and their blended family.

Morgan Meyer, Lisa Simmons Crafton and Joe Crafton

Before the “official” part of the event began, guests gathered in the home’s formal living room to chat. Morgan and Simmons’ daughter Amy Simmons Crafton were comparing notes about the new four-legged additions in their families. Amy and husband Joe Crafton had Grace, a four-month-old Golden Retriever, and Morgan had a four-month Retriever named Scout that had already had a run-in with the Meyers’ son, Asher.

Signed Act designating Harold C. Simmons Memorial Highway

The last to  arrive was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who was immediately welcomed by Annette.

Over on a table was the official paperwork signed in October that designated the section of Preston Road (aka State Highway 289) from Northwest Highway to Royal Lane as the Harold C. Simmons Memorial Highway, thanks to the Simmons family, Greg, Don and Morgan. 

Annette Simmons and Greg Abbott

As the group assembled in the living room, the Simmons’ longtime friend Texas Tech University Chancellor Emeritus Kent Hance kicked things off, recalling Harold’s sense of humor. According to Kent, when Harold “called to congratulate me on becoming chancellor, I said, ‘I dreamed last night that you gave Texas Tech $100 million.’ Harold said, ‘You must have had a nightmare.’”

Next up was Don, who stood next to Greg and applauded Harold’s brilliance at entrepreneurship and patriotism. “He believed in America, in American exceptionalism, and in the great state of Texas,” Don said. “He loved the Republican Party … I don’t think we can find a better patriot—a [more] virtuous patriot—and Harold was that. The least we can do is honor him with a couple of signs on Preston Road.”

Don was followed by Morgan, who noted the late billionaire’s longstanding support of nonprofits. At the time of his death, Harold and Annette Simmons’ charitable contributions had provided many hundreds of millions of dollars to countless nonprofits, ranging from the Mineola Volunteer Fire Department to the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Just the year before his death, Harold personally gave away millions, including $50,000 to the Rayfield Wright Foundation, $60,000 to Hunger Busters, and more than $1 million to Buckner Children and Family Services.

Jerry Fronterhouse, Lisa Simmons and Don Glendenning

After Don and Morgan spoke, Annette assembled the people who had supported the Simmonses through the years—including their drivers, security people, and house staff—to be formally recognized. Besides Joe and Amy—she had donated a kidney to Harold—also on hand were Harold’s daughter Lisa Simmons, Annette’s son Andy Fleck with Andy’s son Austin Fleck, and Harold’s longtime lawyer Don Glendenning.

Andy Fleck, Kent Hance and Austin Fleck

With Annette seated next to him, Greg said that Harold would be remembered for “doing everything [he could] to protect the freedoms that have made America the greatest country in the world.”

Annette Simmons and Greg Abbott

With a twinkle in her eye and a mischievous smile, Annette looked at Greg and recalled a Dallas Cowboys football game where “you were visiting with [Harold]. I said to him, ‘What were you two talking about?’ And he said, ‘I just asked him how much he needed.’”

There were also small, personal memories of Harold. It seems, for example, that Harold’s sense of humor was not diminished after he had his kidney transplant, courtesy of Amy. Following the surgery, he gave Amy earrings and a necklace to commemorate their “relationship.” Every now and then Harold would tease her to wear his “kidney stones.”

Amy Simmons Crafton, Annette Simmons and Greg Abbott

The group then moved into the study for the unveiling of a prototype of the two signs that were being installed on Preston at that very moment. The room was dominated by a portrait of Harold at age 68 or so, and another of the Simmonses’ Springer Spaniel, Duke, which had been painted by their friend, former President George W. Bush.

Duke

Upon checking out the new sign proclaiming the Harold C. Simmons Memorial Highway, Don and Greg jokingly debated whether the color tended to be Aggie maroon.

Joe, looking at Greg, asked with a laugh whether the Simmons highway designation meant it’s “true that Amy cannot get a speeding ticket on the Harold Simmons Memorial Highway?” Retorted the governor in the same spirit: “Just wait until we add another three lanes on either side!”

Greg Abbott and Annette Simmons

With that, Annette and Jerry asked everyone to join them in a champagne toast to the naming of the highway.

Don Huffines

Don Huffines

Don then did a double presentation. First, he presented a framed photo of the signing of the legislative act designating the miles in Harold’s name. Then, a copy of Harold’s biography, titled “Golden Boy,” was presented to Greg. When Annette and Jerry realized that Greg had not read the book yet, a pen was produced and Annette personalized it for the governor.

Jerry Fronterhouse and Annette Simmons and Greg Abbott

After all the accolades and toasts had been completed, Jerry raised his glass one more time, this time to honor Annette, saying how her efforts to salute her late husband’s accomplishments were to be applauded. “She shaped his thinking, I’m sure,” Jerry said. “You all were a great team—probably one of the most powerful husband-and-wife teams in Texas.”

For more photos from the reception, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

Texas Trailblazer Awardee Harold C. Simmons Is Honored With Joe Torre Going To Bat For The Family Place

The Texas Trailblazer Award Luncheon VIP reception in the Anatole’s Carpenter Ballroom was filled with those who love baseball and hate abuse. While featured speaker Joe Torre stood his ground with a big smile posing for photos with guests, others had a cup of coffee and a chat to catch up before the luncheon benefiting The Family Place. One of the big topics was Saturday September 27.

Annette Simmons, Amy Simmons and Joe Crafton

Annette Simmons, Amy Simmons and Joe Crafton

Pegasus Ball Honorary Chair Yvonne Crum was talking about the Autism Treatment Centers of Texas fundraiser taking place at the Fairmont, while Mission Ole Co-Chair LeeAnne Locken was promoting the Trinity River Mission funder that will be underway at the same time at One Arts Plaza…Carolyn Tillery, who departed Beverly Drive before it departed newsstands, has been busy writing a book. She was a happy camper about some recent news and has already started working on her second one…WFAA’s Dale Hansen briefly appeared and quickly disappeared…On the other hand, Annette Simmons and Amy Simmons stayed for the entire reception with Joe Crafton…Foodies Bo Pilgrim and Connie Yates were catching up.

Bo Pilgrim and Connie Yates

Bo Pilgrim and Connie Yates

At 11:25 the reception broke up and the herd of guests headed to the Imperial Ballroom on the third level. For many it was their first time to venture into the former Khmer Ballroom that had spent the summer getting a new look. Like a socialite with a recent “well-done refreshening,” the difference was pleasantly noticeable. First thing was the smell of new in the air. It was as if the carpenters, painters and other craftsmen had just left the place. The hallway leading to the ballroom was a bit on the dramatic side with new carpeting and lighting that spotlighted the art along the way. The reception area and ballroom were basically the same space, but the new paint, carpeting and lighting had turned the old girl into a more polished lady.

In the back of the room near the production platform, emcee Gloria Campos was being fitted with her mic. Her hair is a bit longer and she’s loving “retirement.” Her version of retiring is another person’s idea of a second career.

Lana and Barry Andrews

Lana and Barry Andrews

As she headed to her place up front, the nearly 1,000 guests kept arriving. Michal Powell on crutches arrived with Aileen PrattMary Brinegar was keeping her fingers crossed that the weather would hold out for the Rory Meyer’s First Anniversary dinner scheduled the following Sunday…At front row tables were Kelli Ford, Sydney Huffines, Lana and Barry Andrews and Sharon McCutchin…Co-Chairs Stephanie and Travis Hollman, Carol Seay and Stephanie Seay were receiving congratulations for the record-busting luncheon.

Travis and Stephanie Hollman

Travis and Stephanie Hollman

Stephanie Seay

Stephanie Seay

At 11:42, the Booker T. Washington Jazz Combo 1 played “Proud To Be An American” with the female singer not quite sounding like Lee Greenwood. Hey, it’s not an easy song to sing, but the meaning is easy to understand. You just try singing it in front of 900 strangers.

Almost immediately the program was underway with Gloria welcoming the group. She also accidentally described Dale as “a domestic violence advocate.” Hey, it’s easy to do. No, he doesn’t advocate domestic violence, but “an advocate against domestic violence” sounds pretty convoluted. Anyhow, everybody in the room understood what she meant and many got a chuckle out of it.

Before he led the group in the invocation, Fellowship Pastor Gary Brandenburg reminded the guests that the late Harold Simmons, who was being honored at the luncheon, always ended his prayers by saying “…and, Lord, let us never forget how very blessed we are.”

Lunch was served with the menu “inspired by Harold.” Later Dale Hansen would tell the group how he got into it with his table’s server — “I’m gonna need another plate.” But she wouldn’t give it to him. So, he confessed, “I’ll look for a McDonald’s on the way out.”

Paige Fink and Carol Seay

Paige Fink and Carol Seay

As a surprise, The Family Place’s Paige Flink announced the presentation of a video on Harold would be shown. The touching tribute with scenes from his childhood, with family and even walking with his dogs emphasized Harold’s being “loyal, faithful and loving.”

Following the video, Paige revealed another surprise. The Family Place’s child development center at its Safe Campus was being renamed the Harold C. Simmons Child Development Center.

She also acknowledged those present who had been instrumental in helping combat family violence, including the late Dr. Ron Anderson, whose memorial service would take place later in the day.

Then baseball-loving Gloria introduced Joe, reminding the group that he had just been inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Then she attempted to introduce Dale by calling him “the other big white guy in my life” in reference to the first one, her husband. But before she could finish with Dale’s intro, he walked on stage, grabbed her by the shoulders and said, “Okay, that’s all.”

Dale being Dale described Mayor Mike Rawlings and his domestic violence initiatives: “I think Mayor Rawlings is one helluva visionary and one helluva mayor of Dallas. I can’t say that, though!”

He then reeled out the ugly statistics compiled by the Dallas Police Department on the number of domestic violence calls received each year — 13K! Looking out at the audience, Dale stated: “Real men, gentlemen, don’t hit women.”

Dale Hansen and Joe Torre

Dale Hansen and Joe Torre

Then the conversation between the sports anchor and the baseball legend commenced. It surprised a couple or three folks, who had thought it would cover Joe’s career, as well as his childhood in a family in which his father abused his mother.

Instead the focus stayed pretty straight on domestic violence and on Joe’s taking up the cause against it. Dale told how Joe had been instrumental in getting the Violence Against Women Act passed in 1994, and established the Safe at Home Foundation.

It all stemmed from his childhood. Joe was the youngest of five children. “My dad was a bully. He made his wife feel inferior.” His father threw his mother down the stairs when he discovered she was pregnant with Joe.

Dale Hansen and Joe Torre

Dale Hansen and Joe Torre

“I was a nervous kid” growing up, with a lack of confidence, because of his father’s violence, Joe said. When Joe saw his father’s car parked at home, Joe went elsewhere. Dale and Joe agreed that the “impact on children has been lost in conversation about domestic violence.”

Joe said, “If you save one child, that’s worth the effort.”

Joe said one of the biggest problems in the crusade against domestic abuse is lack of “awareness.” While the problem needs to be brought to the forefront, he also felt half the stories one sees in the media aren’t true, because of pressures of the Internet. Anybody can make accusations about anything, Joe said. They need to be thoroughly checked out.

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

When the subject of the recent NFL issues with domestic violence was brought up, Joe said, “We can all do more. Mixed message: go be violent on the field on Sunday, and then go on a date.”

But it wasn’t all domestic violence. Touching on baseball, Joe admitted, “I became smarter when I had better players.” He recalled being fired by three teams. Regarding his work with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, he related advice provided by friend Joe Garagiola: “You take somebody’s money, you gotta take their crap, too.”

About the Texas Rangers, Joe said, “They can’t come any closer [to a world championship] than they did.” Just before Game 7 of the 2011 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe told Ron Washington, “I’m pulling for you, because I pull for good people.” Joe then added, “Ron seemed to care about the players.”

And, of course, humor found its way into the discussion when Joe reported that male brains don’t fully develop until they’re 25. Dale followed up with, “Or 66.”

Despite The Death Of His Brother, Joe Torre Made It To The Texas Trailblazer Award Patron Party To Support The Family Place

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

Despite the death of his big brother, Frank, the previous Saturday, and the funeral Monday, Joe Torre was on hand to meet and greet the Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon patrons on Tuesday, September 16.

Benefiting The Family Place, the cause was one that was very near and dear to both Joe and Frank  — domestic abuse.

The Terrace Ballroom at Le Méridien Dallas, The Stoneleigh was jammed with folks. So much so, that if you didn’t know your baseball, you would have sworn that Joe was just another guest. He melted into the crowd that included Amy Simmons, Lee Ann and Alan White, Brill Garrett, Jill Smith, Marnie and Kern Wildenthal, Maggie Kipp, Amanda Ward, Dawn Spalding and Ramona Jones.

Faye Briggs

Faye Briggs

Diminutive philanthropist Faye Briggs taking time out from preparationfs for Saturday’s celebration of her daughter Pebble McKenzie‘s marriage to Mike McGehee. The wedding was a family affair literally. Mike is Ralph Gorman‘s nephew. In turn, Ralph is Faye’s longtime “boyfriend.” You may need a chart to figure out the relationships.

Back to the patron party.

Luncheon organizers were whispering that the Wednesday luncheon was going to be a record breaker for the annual event “honoring those who create significant positive change in our North Texas community.”

Annette Simmons and Carol Seay

Annette Simmons and Carol Seay

This year’s event honoring the legacy of the late Harold C.  Simmons was a first for two reason: First, it was the first time that a man had been named a Texas Trailblazer. Second, it was the first time it was being given to someone posthumously.

Stephanie Seay and Stephanie and Travis Hollman

Stephanie Seay and Stephanie and Travis Hollman

After The Family Place’s Paige Flink welcomed the crowd and recognized key people like Harold’s widow Annette Simmons and daughter Amy, Mayor Mike Rawlings and Luncheon Co-Chairs Stephanie and Travis Hollman, Carol Seay and her daughter-in-law Stephanie Seay, the guests lined up to have their photos taken with Joe.

Laura And George W. Bush To Serve As Distinguished Chairs For 14th Annual Texas Trailblazer Luncheon

And the big, boldface names just keep coming in for The Family Place’s 14th Annual Texas Trailblazer Luncheon. Co-Chairs Stephanie and Travis Hollman, Carol Seay and Stephanie Seay just reported that former first couple Laura and George W. Bush have signed on as the “Distinguished Chairs” for the Wednesday, September 17th fundraiser at the Anatole.

George and Laura Bush (File photo)

George and Laura Bush (File photo)

But then what would you expect when the event is honoring the legacy of the late Harold Simmons?

Joe Torre*

Joe Torre*

As for Joe Torre, who will be headline “speaker”. . . okay, he’s not going to be at a podium giving a lecture. He’s gonna being interviewed by none other than WFAA’s Dale Hansen.

Well, back to Joe. In a Sunday interview with Larry King, he revealed how the domestic abuse he witnessed as a child affected his professional life:

“I probably didn’t enjoy my playing career as much as I really should have because if I didn’t get any hits I would really torture myself thinking I let everybody down. And of course if I did hit, I felt like I was worthy…It wasn’t until I went through a symposium which told me that all the abuse that was going on at my home was contributing to these feelings of insignificance and insecurity and nervousness.”

The former baseball legend’s being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this Sunday adding to the “Wow!” factor of his presence come September.

* Photo provided by The Family Place

JUST IN: The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Is Revealed

Finally managed to get the rest of the new about The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon. You already know that Co-Chairs Stephanie and Travis Hollman, Carol Seay and Stephanie Seay have arranged to have Joe Torre to be the keynote speaker for the September 17th event at the Hilton Anatole.

But there has been a change of plans in the presentation of the Texas Trailblazer. In the past it has been awarded to a number of outstanding people and organizations that “have made a significant contribution to the community.”

In addition to The Family Place Texas Trailblazer Award, The Family Place Real-Life Hero Award, The Family Place Youth Service Award and Scholarship and The Family Place Advocacy Award have been presented to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Ebby Halliday Acers, Norma Lea Beasley, Anita N. Martinez, Nancy Brinker, Caroline Rose Hunt, Colleen Barrett, Dr. Carol Wise and Linda Custard. Why just last year Gloria Campus, Darlene Blakey, Kimberly Clark, Hannah Hinton and Karim Bryant were honored.

Harold C. Simmons (File photo0

Harold C. Simmons (File photo0

Each of these people and organizations have made outstanding contributions to their community. For 2014, the decision was made to honor an individual, whose past endeavors not only supported numerous non-profits but also established programs that will continue for generations to come.

This year’s Texas Trailblazer Luncheon will honor and celebrate the “Legacy of Harold C. Simmons for his support of The Family Place as well as the many, many organizations, charities, hospitals and countless people who have benefited from his unprecedented generosity.”

Despite Harold’s death less than six months ago, his legacy will continue for decades and decades for both neighbor and stranger alike. That is a true trailblazer.