There was a presence about Rory Meyers that just seemed to make her glow. Some might claim that it was her beautiful white hair pulled back in a ponytail; some might say it was that smile that welcomed all; others might say it was an aura that came from a life of helping and giving.
Born Rose-Marie Mangeri in the Bronx 79 years ago, Rory wasn’t one to seek fame and power. From her youth she just knew she had a calling. It was to provide hands-on care for others. And while earning a nursing diploma might have been enough for most, Rory wanted to do more. After receiving her Registered Nursing License, she achieved a degree from Syracuse University, making her the first in her immediate family to graduate from college.
Rory put all the effort to work as a nurse with the City of New York followed by being a full-time staff nurse in the medical department of Mobil Oil and working in New York Hospital’s emergency room at night.
But her life wasn’t all work. It was at a party in 1966 where 25-year-old Rory met future Horatio Alger Award Winner/ 23-year-old Howard Meyers from Newark, New Jersey. It was a life-changing meeting. They had a lot in common. Both had parents who were highly intelligent but not college educated. Both had “no social life,” putting education and work as the priorities. It would be eight years before they would marry in 1974 and Rory left her home turf of New York for Dallas.
Rory now adjusted her calling of caring for others to supporting Howard and raising their two sons, Craig Meyers and Kevin Meyers. She also invested her time and talents in her newfound community. And in typical Rory fashion, it was a hands-on involvement that included serving as a board member of the Pregnancy Resource Council Board of Directors, director of education at First Steps, past president/director of the Lamplighter School PTA, docent at the Dallas Museum of Art and many more.
But there was one organization that brought her special joy. It was the Dallas Arboretum, where for 25 years she served in a variety of positions.
Howard and the boys recognized how important the Arboretum, education and children were to the Meyers matriarch. They wanted to celebrate Rory with something tailor-made for her. So it was no surprise that when the Arboretum announced the creation of a garden specifically designed for children to learn and enjoy, they knew just the perfect salute to Rory. They provided a $15M challenge to see the garden built.
When the day of the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden dedication took place, MySweetCharity reported the following:
In the Dallas Arboretum’s Camp parking lot, a vintage couple got out of their sedan and walked toward the Camp House. He was in the Dallas fall uniform of blue blazer, blue shirt, red tie and tan slacks. He gently escorted her like a charmed date with the homecoming queen. In white sweater and black skirt with her head full of white hair pulled back in a ponytail, she seemed a bit concerned about what the POA was, but she knew her champion would make the right decisions.
A young Arboretum staffer told the couple they were to take the shuttle to the Pavilion for check in. The gentleman questioned ever so gently that suggestion. “We were told to go to the Camp House.”
The young man admitted that the ribbon-cutting for the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden had created confusion, but they were to go to the Pavilion.
A senior female Arboretum staffer arrived and agreed the elderly couple should take the shuttle to the Pavilion. The couple smiled, realizing they were to comply with the two staffers. Luckily, the shuttle driver, sensing that a bit of hesitation wouldn’t damage the situation, drove the couple around the circular driveway to the front door of the Camp House. She said it wouldn’t hurt just to check. As the shuttle arrived at the Camp House, a woman came out and immediately welcomed the two, hugging the small, white-haired woman.
The gentleman said that he thought they were supposed to at the Camp House but were advised otherwise. The greeter said that much had been happening and that she would check. The white-haired passenger seemed relieved. Her champion was getting to the bottom of things in a gentlemanly fashion. After a few minutes the greeter emerged from the Camp House and said it had been a case of miscommunication. Of course, they’re “to be in here.”
The couple was Rory and Howard Meyers.
Three years later, Howard donated $30M to New York University’s College of Nursing to have it named the Rory Meyer School of Nursing.
Just as 2020 was ending, Rory passed away on Monday, December 28, surrounded by her family. But she will live on at very special places that will carry on her passion for young people, education and the environment.
And what was that glow and aura that followed Rory? It was achieved thanks to a life well lived and loved.
* Photo credit: Steve Foxall