It was a bit like playing “Where’s Waldo?” at the reception for the 2022 Robert S. Folsom Award dinner on Friday, April 8, at the Hilton Anatole. As the Chantilly Ballroom’s lobby filled with 700+ guests, the question making the rounds was, where were the honorees — Linda and Mitch Hart?
Guests on the left side of the lobby were pointed to the opposite side, where they discovered not the Harts but Event Co-Chair Nancy Ann Hunt waiting for her date/husband/Co-Chair Ray Hunt, Joan and Alan Walne, Kim Noltemy, Pamela Stoyanoff, Yon Jorden, Pat and Pete Schenkel and former Dallas mayors Tom Leppert and Mike Rawlings with their former Dallas first ladies Laura Leppert and Micki Rawlings.
Kim reported that news would be forthcoming about the musical headliner who would appear at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Gala on Saturday, October 1. She always comes up with a surprise. For instance, last year, when unbeknownst to the guests, Academy Award-winning composer 89-year old John Williams arrived on stage for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Gala.
As Event Co-Chair Bobby Lyle clutched his folder of notes for his emcee duties, he didn’t attract the attention that his wife/Co-Chair Lottye Lyle did with her snow-white hair resulting from COVID cutting down on visits to the hairdresser.
Although the night was benefiting Methodist Health System, UT Southwestern’s Dr. Hugh McClung was making the rounds like a seasoned pro and was one of the first to spot the Harts at the farthest end of the upper lobby.
After the hour-long reception, the doors to the ballroom opened with a Frank Sinatra type singing on a satellite stage near the entrance. As guests like Event Co-Chairs Carolyn and David Miller and Karen and Mal Gudis, Angela and Brad Cheves and Robert Folsom’s kids Steve Folsom, Debbie Jarma and Diane Frank, Kathy and Larry Helm, State Sen. Royce West, Frank Mihalopoulos and Brian and Effie Dennison made their way to their places, Ol’ Blue Eyes moved to the main stage without missing a beat.
Inside the ballroom, the entire back wall was the skyline of downtown Dallas on both sides of the center stage, with a wall of photos of the Harts surrounding a graphic of a bronze sculpture that one speaker described as a perfect representation of Linda and Mitch — two separate lives coming together in a powerful union.
Strategically placed around the room were four drive-in-movie-sized screens that would be put to good use for at least four videos plus the activities on stage.
Amazingly, within 15 minutes the guests were seated and the trio emcees of Lyle, Willis Johnson and Event Co-chair R. Gerald Turner arrived at two podiums on opposite ends of the stage.
After reeling off an amazing list of accomplishments by each of the Harts, the three admitted that these were just a few of the good deeds that the Harts have been involved in.
As the program proceeded, guests learned of
- Mitch’s being a member of the New Boston Mafia that was made up of fellow New Boston High School classmates Gerald Turner, Robert Bonham, Dennis Stripling, Bob Prange, Truman Arnold and Bob Ferguson. Lyle had been made an honorary member of the Mafia.
- Linda’s love of music ranged from opera to rap, resulting in the ever-versatile Dallas Tenors performing “Nessun Dorma” in black tie and following up with “Lose Yourself” wearing hoodies.
- Grandson Jason Oliver revealed that Linda had invested in Bitcoin in 2016, long before it was legit or even known about by the mainstream.
- Granddaughter Lilia Buckingham admitted that while Mitch wasn’t as tech savvy, he was known to be a killer at playing gin rummy. So much so that he and Ken Langone had a “marathon gin rummy” subsisting on coffee. Afterward, Ken thought he was having a heart attack from all the caffeine.
- Grandson Storey Wertheimer reported that his brother, sister and cousins fight over who will get Linda’s “hand-me-down iPhones, because she gets a new one every version that comes out.”
But the Harts soon learned that a payback was in store. Lyle recalled how in 2014, when he was honored with the Folsom Award, the Harts had had a surprise. He introduced a video of the occasion when Linda and Mitch came on stage with a monkey called Little Bobby that was perched on Mitch’s shoulder and became a literal handful.
As the screen dimmed, Lyle announced, “It is my great honor to introduce all of you to ‘Milledge A. Hart the Fifth’… better known as Quint.”
From behind the curtain, Quint and his handler arrived stealing the show as they made their way to Mitch’s table. To the delight of the guests, Mitch and Quint were seen on the big screens. From the stage it appeared that out of the hundreds of people, Quint had spied his buddy from years ago. As Quint and his handler left the stage to congratulate Mitch, the expression on Mitch’s face appeared to be saying, “You don’t write; you don’t call; what’s happened to you?” And, yes, this was the same monkey that had stolen the show years ago. And what do you know? He did it again.
Methodist Health System Foundation President Jim Johnston took his place at the podium and admitted that his mother had always warned him not to follow an animal act. But it was now time to get serious about the night’s purpose.
Joining the Harts and Johnston on stage for the presentation of the award were Methodist Health System CEO Jim Scoggin and Steve Folsom. In accepting the Award, Linda thanked and saluted all the people from staff to friends who had worked for two years to make the event possible and acknowledged all the members of the Hart family who had been able to attend the event as well as the other outstanding people in the audience who had been a part of their 34 years of work. She insisted that, “This award is for them” by helping, inspiring and supporting the Harts’ list of accomplishments.
In closing, she explained how after she and Mitch visited the Women’s Imaging Center, there was no doubt where they wanted the funds to be assigned. They were so moved that they decided “to match dollar-for-dollar as a gift to the Foundation the aggregate net proceeds from this event, which are actually directed to the Women’s Imaging Center renovation project. We hope that our matching gift will help Methodist Hospital to jump-start that renovation even faster.”
Linda’s presentation received thunderous applause from the audience — and a kiss from Mitch.
Johnston announced that thanks to the Harts’ generosity and the success of the event, the 2022 Folsom Award had resulted in $2.63M fully funding the renovation project. Then he added, “In honor of this record-setting event and your extremely generous gift, we are announcing and unveiling the Linda and Mitch Hart Breast Center at Methodist Dallas.” It would be the first time in the history of the Folsom program that a center or institute had been named after a Folsom recipient.
As the evening finished, an Abba foursome sang “Dancing Queen.”
For more looks at the evening, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.