On Wednesday, October 31, just before noon, the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons organizers were setting up their booth for their annual meeting from November 1-4. Ironically, The Senior Source’s Spirit of Generations Luncheon VIP reception was taking place in the Chantilly Room. The irony wasn’t lost on one guest, who laughed as he entered the reception in the Wedgwood Room that the Association should have sponsored the annual fundraiser.
This year’s event could have easily been the victim of speed bumps. The Senior Source CEO Cortney Nicolato, who had only held the position for less than two years, had resigned to become CEO of the United Way of Rhode Island in September. Her replacement, Stacey Malcolmson, had only been in place since October 22.
Another issue that could have been a problem was that the honorees —Sandra and Henry Estees — had been named in late 2017 and just months later the well-respected, retired obstetrician/gynecologist had died after years of battling Parkinson’s Disease. Such a development was a challenge to begin with, but Spirit of Generations has gained a reputation for laughs at the expense of the honorees.
But leave it to The Senior Source, Event Chair Beth Thoele and the Estess family to handle the challenges seamlessly.
During the VIP gathering hosted by Bank of Texas, former Texas Health Resources Founder Doug Hawthorne welcomed the group including Honor Sandra Estess with her kids (Catherine and Blake Estess and Drs. Elizabeth and Robert Hughes), The Senior Source Board of Directors Chair Mike Massad Jr., past chairs (Lydia Novakov, Lindalyn Adams, Becky Bright, Suzy Gekiere, Karen Shuford, Margo Goodwin), Pam Busbee, Christie Carter, Pam Perella, Martha Hawthorne, Tucker Enthoven, Cristina and Chris Durovich, Chuck Thoele, Margie and Ray Francis, Rob Adair, Dan Novakov, Robin and Norm Bagwell, Caren and Pete Kline and 2017 Spirit of Generations recipients Diane and John Scovell. Doug praised the importance that the Estesses had played during Henry’s practice at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
He then invited Bank of Texas Bob White to the mic. Bob acknowledged the work of The Senior Source and recognized Stacey, who pointed out that her mother and father, Caroline and Bob Paddock, had come to Dallas from Houston to join her and her husband Ken Malcolmson on this special day.
The group then adjourned to the ballroom for the luncheon, where the program got underway with Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berden recalling a story about the young Dr. Estess. It seems that when he entered the room of a new patient, she thought that he was a paperboy and told him that she wouldn’t need a paper. He said that was a good thing, because he wasn’t a paperboy, he was her doctor. Uncertain of her youthful healthcare provided, she said, “Do you think you know enough?” His response: “I think so and you’d better hope so.”
Thanks to the late Henry Estess, the day’s mood was set.
Following lunch, a video was shown with the highlight being The Senior Source’s “A-Team,” a group of seniors whose grandmotherly appearances masked a mischievous attitude. One of them with a twinkle in her eye said thanks to their working at The Senior Source, “It keeps us off the street and out of the school parks.”
Molly H. Bogen Service Awardee John Norris III made his acceptance speech brief and acknowledged the former President/CEO Molly Bogen, who was in the audience.
Beth returned to the podium and revealed that it was well known that Sandra was an avid Dallas Mavericks fan. When Henry was unable to attend the games, she considered taking a life-size cutout of him to sit in the seat next to her.
Unfortunately, the Mavs were unable to attend the day’s luncheon because they had a game than night with the Lakers. But they had made her an honorary team member.
Instead of a comedian or frivolous skit about the honorees, attorney Blake Estess paid tribute to his parents, recalling their home environment was filled with “laughter, dependability and unconditional love.”
As proof of the laughter, Blake told of his parents’ early courting days.
When they were at The University of Texas in the late 1950s, Sandra brought Henry home to Graham, Texas, to meet her folks. Her younger brother Malcolm asked Henry how he was classified at the University of Texas. Henry replied, “Stud.”
One summer Sandra went to summer school in Hawaii. As Blake told it, others froliced in the sun, while Sandra studied, missed Henry and ate ice cream sandwiches. When she returned home, Henry was at the airport to greet her with his fraternity pin. The next day he asked for it back. According to family lore, Sandra had left in June wearing a cute sundress, and “she deplaned in August wearing a muumuu.”
Luckily, the depinning didn’t end the relationship, and the couple married in 1961. Blake said that by “1969, they had added to their family two girls and the cutest, most precious baby boy anyone had ever seen… At least that’s what the birthday announcement in the Graham newspaper said.”
Blake then admitted to having been a pioneer in what is today’s millennial movement of moving back home. “As a young lawyer in my 20s, one of the partners in the law firm where I worked complimented me on how crisp and clean my dress shirts were on a daily basis and asked, ‘Where do you get your shirts cleaned, Estess?’ Without thinking much about it, I replied, ‘Downstairs.’”
He recalled how one man, who had served with Sandra on the Ronald McDonald board, told him that if his mother had “applied her talents and skills in the business world rather than community services and philanthropy, she’d be the CEO of General Motors.” Looking at Sandra, Blake said, “The world’s got plenty of cars, but I think I can say on behalf of everyone in this room we’re really glad you decided to go the community service route.”
Blake told about his father’s hobby of raising racing pigeons. Back in 1978, Henry had a loft where he kept dozens of the birds. Unfortunately, the neighbor’s cat, Whiskers, developed a liking for the fowl and occasionally took one for supper. One afternoon when Henry found Whiskers atop the loft, he took Blake’s pellet gun and shot the feline on the backside, dispatching Whiskers away. The shooting made the rounds in the neighborhood. When Whisker’s owner contacted Henry about the incident and how he had to have surgery, Henry offered to pay the vet bill. It was $800. Henry asked the neighbor, “How about I get you a brand new cat?”
In conclusion, Blake quoted a favorite poem of Henry’s:
Twas in a restaurant that they met — Romeo and Juliet.
He had no cash to pay the debt, so Rome-owed what Juli-et.
Judy Gibbs then presented the award to the Estesses, saying how their lives together and as individuals had served as an inspiration for others.
Sandra accepted the award to a standing ovation. She thanked The Senior Source, the Spirit committee, her family and those in charge, admitting that “little-known facts had been exposed to the light of day.”
There are still more photos of the luncheon guests at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.