Earlier this month a “celebration of life” was held for Charles Wyly Jr. by his family for his friends. Last Thursday Dee Wyly was given a group hug by hundreds at the BrainHealth 2011 Legacy Award Dinner at Brook Hollow for the countless causes that she has supported through the years. Planned long ago, it turned out to be bittersweet as the extremely well-known and intimate friends of the entire family helped the Wyly family slowly adjust to life without their patriarch.
But don’t for a second think that the evening was teary-eyed. Heavens, no. That’s not Dee’s style. It was one of twinkles in the eye (an ice-carved alligator longer than a six-foot table), beauty (Junior’s floral arrangements were simply breathtaking in the ballroom), thoughtfulness (fabulous favors from Niven Morgan) and benefiting a great cause — the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. But what else could you expect with Debbie Francis as the board chair and Gloria Martindale chairing the event.
And this was a crowd that knows their events. Need names? OK, how about Lana and Barry Andrews, Lydia and Dan Novakov, Margot and Ross Perot, Barbara and John Stuart, Ramona Jones, Mickey and Bill Lively, Lee Bailey, Kay (sporting a surgical boot) and Jim Hammond, Dr. Bobby Lyle with Lottye Brodsky, Dianne
Cash, Patsy Donosky, Jill and Dr. Bob Smith, Marilyn Augar, Billie Leigh Rippey, Shelle Sills, Lynn and Allan McBee, Aileen Pratt, Betsy and Richard Eiseman, Fay Briggs with
Ralph Gorman and her daughter Pebble McKenzie, Toni Brinker, Carole and Scott Murray, Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, Anne and Larry Nixon, Carmaleta Whiteley and Kenneth Craighead and, of course, Dee’s Saturday lunch
buddies (Yvonne and Mayo Crum, Carolyn Lupton, Jill and Tracy Rowlett, Terry Van Willson and Gregory Dunbar).
And Brook Hollow Executive Chef David Sokol‘s menu was equally stellar including a green salad with spicy cornmeal fried okra topped with Creole balsamic dressing, Cajun rubbed beef tenderloin served with dirty rice and apple wood bacon-wrapped asparagus, mini-biscuits and sourdough baguettes, praline soufflé and chicory and decaffeinated coffee.
Did you sense a Louisiana feel to the menu? Perhaps it was because the evening’s theme was “Best of the Bayou” with Louisiana-born Dee being the Belle of the Bayou.
University of Texas at Dallas President Dr. David Daniel welcomed the group and told them how Dee had made the Dee Wyly Distinguished Chair possible.
Later Center for BrainHealth Founder/Chief Director/Dee Wyly Distinguished Chair Dr. Sandra Chapman listed the previous recipients of the Legacy Award —Dianne Cash, Debbie Francis, T. Boone Pickens and James Huffines.
But enough with the serious stuff. Sandi went on to say of Dee, “She’s as pretty in sweatpants as she is in a ball gown.”
Going on and lauding Dee for her courage, love, playfulness (being photographed on a motorcycle, dressed as a rock star, etc.), compassion, generosity, etc., Sandi got a chuckle from the 300 filling the ballroom when she reported that Dee says things like, “It’s a brain thing,” or, “It’s a no brainer.”
On a more serious note, Sandi told how the chair was to be the Dee and Charles Wyly Chair, but Charles said, “No, I want to honor Dee. When it comes to philanthropy, I take my cues from Dee.”
Then the dreaded moment came. Dee was to accept the award. It was dreaded because despite her being a driving force in so many aspects of charitable giving, she hates being on stage and in the limelight. But she handled it like a trouper, starting off by saying she was going to keep her remarks short and sweet like Cicero. And that she did.
With her children (Martha Miller, Jennifer Lincoln, Emily Wyly and Chip Wyly) and other family members seated just inches away, Dee admitted, “The last couple of months have been pretty hard, but thank you all for being there for me. I’m kind of out of words, and I’m not usually out of words.”
She added that Sandi Chapman and John Hart (the center’s medical science director) were the true BrainHealth awardees. Dee also thanked “my gang over here.”
In making the closing remarks, Debbie Francis told Dee, “I can’t tell you how your early support brought me to the Center. . . you and Charles gave us a great gift.”
Last Wednesday night it might have been a “brain thing,” but it was turned out to be a “love thing” for Dee Wyly.