On the same evening, three events turned a social spotlight on patrimony, Province, and Pan, as in Peter. The Historic Houses Society Gala unfolded at the Garden District home of Jim Ashbee and Jim Perrier; the Southern Dominican Gala, given by the Southern Dominican Province, U.S.A., held its annual awards dinner at the Hyatt Regency and presented three religious/hospitaller orders with the Province’s highest tribute, The St. Martin de Porres Award; and, back in the Garden District, and at the home of Suzanne and Matthew Wisdom, STAIR Affair 2014 marqueed “Peter Pan: It’s Going to be an ‘Awfully Big Adventure.’?”
Fall Evening Gala titled the lovely levity given by the Board of Managers of the Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses in honor of the Leadership Circle and Heritage Circle for their support. Turning a page in history, the palindromic year of 1881 was the time of the founding of the Woman’s Exchange, which owns and operates the above houses in the French Quarter.
Guests hied to the Ashbee-Perrier home, the Belfort Mansion, for the hobnobbing that was chaired by Maury M. Rendeiro and Melissa D. Steiner, who were accompanied by their husbands, Gino and Jerry. Quite a few party attendees congratulated Jerry on his recent hole-in-one. All thanked Maury and Melissa as chairwomen.
Among those noted making rounds — with stops at the food tables for fine fare from Ralph Brennan Catering and Events and admiring glances at the flowers by Ambrose Garden and Elizabeth Walden Designs — were the hosts (the two Jims), HGGHH executive director Mamie Sterkx Gasperecz with Kirk, board President Stephanie Carroll with Ken, Michelle Tyler (sister of the above Melissa) with Doug, former home hosts Lynne and Hunter White, former board President Joyce Pulitzer with Sidney, Beth and Bobby Hassinger, Warren Backer and David Cortez, Laura and Sonny Shields, Elsebeth and Jim Fenner, and Kay Favrot with daughter and son-in-law Kathleen and Charlie Van Horn. Turning another page in history, the Van Horns are Hermann descendants, as are members of the Reiss family, which had party representation from James and Erica Reiss.
Noted, too, as they milled about the handsomely redone Belfort Mansion, were Monica Frois with Eve Masinter, Tink Friedrichs, Simmons sisters Evelyn Kissel and Ashley Bright, Sarah and George Young, Mary and Joel Funderburk, Caroline Ferguson and Buck Taylor, Grace Kaynor, and Susan and Jimmy Gundlach with family members Susu and Andrew Stall, and Elly Lane.
A chilly night and the Jims’ warm hospitality fused, according to Lisa Samuels, chief development officer of the Historic Houses, into “a delightful party.” The Garden District Jazz Trio added further note-worthiness.
Southern Dominican Gallivanting
The invitation for the Hyatt Regency-located gala came from the Very Rev. Thomas M. Condon, O.P., prior provincial; gala Chaircouple Dr. and Mrs. Nicolas G. Bazan and the extensive committee; and the New Orleans Advisory Board. Honored at the gala, which hailed actress Loretta Young as its first honoree in 1986, were The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, represented by Dr. Raymond Garrity; The Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, represented by Dr. Kenneth P. Moritsugu, of Washington, D.C.; and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and Malta, represented by Dr. Hugh McGrath Jr. Each doctor has an important title within the order that he represents.
The Rev. Juan Torres, O.P., province development director, called the honorees to the stage for the award presentation by the Rev. Condon and Advisory Board Chairwoman Michie Bissell. In-attendance members of the three orders were invited to stand.
Among the attractive features of the event were the presentation of colors by the Tulane University Army ROTC Color Guard, the singing of the national anthem led by The Yat Pack, the three-course dinner, the centerpieces with the Southern Dominican Shield etched on glass blocks and the two auctions, silent and live. Included in the former were paintings, dinners in private French Quarter homes and a trip for two to the Sonoma, California, wine region, which had Mr. and Mrs. John Smestad beaming as the “winners.”
The Rev. Charlie Latour served as the auctioneer in the live portion, where fabulous items lured the legions and the above Dr. Moritsugu, who answers to grand prior of the Grand Priory of America, Order of St. Lazarus, emerged as the purchaser of pearl jewelry donated by Anton, Ltd. Jewelry & Antiques.
Within the assembly of 300 were former St. Martin de Porres recipients, including Mary Jane and John Becker, Marilyn Rusovich, Jeanette and Nat Garofalo, Ruth and Ray Naquin, Mary Ann Valentino (accompanied by son Michael and daughter and son-in-law Ann and Dr. Tony Fuselier), the above Bazans, Sylvia and John Laborde, and Jane Nalty.
Breaking bread, as well, were Janet Clinton, Charlotte Crusta, Keith and Dr. Stephen Derbes, Phil and Mary Dorsey, Dr. Pat and Lou Jordan, Melissa and Dr. Bill Meyers, Beth Sheridan, Susie and Pat Veters, Dr. Joaquin Wong, Dr. Maureen and Gregory Wright, Province development manager Paula Dickey, and dozens more who were regaled musically by the cocktail-hour pianism of Bruce Giaimo and, later, by The Yat Pack, who made after-dinner dancing lots of fun.
“Adventure” rallied dozens to the home of Suzanne and Matthew “Matt” Wisdom for STAIR socializing. The acronym is for Start the Adventure in Reading, and the 2014 cocktail party touted a Peter Pan theme inspired by the J.M. Barrie classic. It was launched on the invitation and then rendered in the party’s decorations. Particularly appealing, too, was the auction and its “pirate booty” for all the in-attendance lost boys and girls. Lots of people got “Hook”-ed on the donated items, including a shopping spree from Wellington & Co. Fine Jewelry.
As folks circulated within the handsome home, they dodged (decorative) hungry crocodiles and mischievous fairies while en route to the “adventurous” cocktails and food from a slew of generous restaurants. Recognized, as well, were Nola Flora, Creations and Décor by Anna, Jim Howell Photography, and for the musical momentum, The Courtyard Kings (courtesy of the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation) and Jonathan Kyle and the Heavy Seven Band.
Susan Larson, host of WWNO’s “The Reading Life” and author of “The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans” drew limelight as the event’s honorary chairwoman. Among the top-category Publisher sponsors were Entergy, represented by Christy Williams; Wells Fargo Advisors, represented by John Galbraith; the James P. Raymond Jr. Foundation; and The Tesson Family Fund (with Jane Gagnard, Gina Gipson and Tiffany Hillegass). Joy and John Stockmeyer were the sole individuals in the next top category, Editor.
Party headliners in a crowd of 250 that supports the work of STAIR and its children’s literacy program were STAIR board President Lauren Schug Wilson and husband Lehan, event co-hosts Carol and Joe Lacey, Karl and Kyle Kehoe, the above Stockmeyers, Anderson Baker, former home hosts Sidney and Norwood Thornton, Jennifer and Cooper Jumonville, and Kay and Bart Dornier, who manned the putting green activity provided by Fore!Kids Foundation.
Also, Harrison Frampton, Bill and Ann Bell, Stella Shackelford and Ken Kinnett, Machelle and John Payne, Danielle Trezek, Victoria King with volunteers from Tulane University, and from STAIR, executive director Sara W. Woodard and development director Anne Elizabeth Fuselier and spouse Joseph. Another guest cavorted about as Peter Pan (and looked a lot like Heather Rankin).