A brace of recent anniversary bashes amassed hundreds of people when the Whitney Victory Ball held forth at the National WWII Museum, and, the following evening, the New Orleans Chapter of the NAACP located its 2015 Centennial Freedom Fund Banquet in the Mary & William McCaffrey Ballroom of the Xavier University Student Center. In both instances, numbers were to the fore.
On Aug. 5, 2002, the National D-Day Museum welcomed its one millionth visitor. And that was almost 13 years ago.
Just months later, in February 2004, and by designation of Congress, it became “America’s National World War II Museum” and thus broadened its mission and area. Since then, there have been a slew of significant happenings concerning the now National WWII Museum that was thought up over glasses of sherry in the backyard of the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose and his colleague and friend Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller.
The museum — and the several buildings that it encompasses — is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary, and Nick Mueller, Ph.D., is the president and CEO. Mastheading the 2015-16 officers is board Chairman Richard C. Adkerson, who succeeded Herschel L. Abbott Jr.
James A. Courter, David Barksdale and Suzanne Mestayer are respectively vice chairman, secretary and treasurer. The gamut of trustees runs from A (Dwight W. Anderson) to Z (Fred S. Zeidman).
Patrons at the Friday evening festivity gathered first in the American Sector Restaurant for a ball “set to be bigger and better than ever to honor this thrilling milestone,” the 15th anniversary. The next step was paces away for the seated dinner. All the while, event Chaircouples Carolyn and Gary Lorio and Jan and Col. Larry Merington were making their rounds and greeting attendees. Jane and Maj. Gen. David Mize were the honorary chaircouple, and Erin and Scott Beech, Charlotte Bollinger, Bonnie and John Boyd, and Mike Bylen spearheaded the event committee of 22 people.
Board Chairman Richard Adkerson Richard Adkerson extended the welcome, which was followed by the Presentation of Colors and Pledge of Allegiance. Then John Folse, the celebratory chef who provided the dinner service, and the two 2015 Whitney Bank Victory Ball chaircouples delivered opening remarks. Subsequent program highlights were words from Nick Mueller (“Becoming America’s National WWII Museum”), a salute to veterans by the Mizes, and “WWII Veteran Reflections” by Harold Baumgarten and Bert Stolier. Dr. Baumgarten wrote a book about his experiences landing in the first wave on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, which Steven Spielberg used to film the first half hour of his movie “Saving Private Ryan.”
The two veterans, Stolier and Baumgarten, received a standing ovation.
All the while, the guests dined on the “Celebrate!” menu designed by chef Folse. Roasted beet and goat cheese salad started the culinary experience, which was followed by beef shank with polenta and seafood stuffed turban of trout, and a third course of Black Forest cake. The US Freedom Pavilion, the dinner site, was embellished with impressive lighting, especially in deep pink and aqua. Gold and apricot tablecloths covered the tables on which centerpieces of orange, green and lavender florals were placed. The Solomon Group was the event production sponsor.
One of the highlights of the Victory Ball — during which there were so many — was the presentation of the new Crystal Achievement Award by Dr. Mueller to five individuals and two organizations, “whose actions in support of the Museum over the past 15 years have reflected the values and spirit of those who served our country during World War II.” Take a bow, recipients Joy and Boysie Bollinger, the Joe W. & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, Mrs. Joyce Dunn, Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, and Paulette and Frank Stewart.
When he addressed the attentive crowd, Boysie Bollinger especially focused on volunteers and veterans. He added a note of levity saying that when he was asked to serve on the board he was told “it won’t take any money or any time.” Not only has he logged hours and hours as a trustee, but he recently made an extraordinary gift of $20 million to the National WWII Museum, the largest one ever received. The museum’s canteen now bears his name: BB’s Stage Door Canteen.
A celebrity toast led by board Chairman Adkerson; a live auction sponsored by New Orleans Auction Galleries with Debbie Patrick playing a principal role as auctioneer; a suite of sweets in the Otto Candies LLC Post-Party Lounge; and entertainment by the Meters capped the chockablock activity.
Chromatic gaiety ruled in the dessert pavilion set up on the Colonel Battle Barksdale Parade Ground, thanks to the colors of yellow, hot pink, and tangerine. Individual tables were placed around and about; oversize “balloons” added buoyancy; and an array of desserts thrilled every sweet tooth.
Within the ball brigade were Bobby Patrick with Debbie (who auctioned off some major items, such as a Chef John Folse Custom Dinner and The National WWII Museum’s Normandy Tour), Tommy and Dathel Coleman, Louis and Judy Freeman, Bill and Mary Hines, Mike and Hope Read, Bill and Maureen Detweiler, Phyllis Taylor, Lee and Karen Sher (son-in-law and daughter of the above Harold Baumgarten), Roberta Maestri (daughter of the late mayor Robert Maestri), Ann and Dr. Tony Fuselier, Mary and Greg O’Brien and countless others who, by their anniversary support, were helping to “bring the story of the Greatest Generation to people of all generations.”
A Centennial Salute
“Celebrating 100 years of serving the New Orleans Community and Working Tirelessly for the Civil Rights and Equality of All People” themed the banquet of the New Orleans Chapter of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Formally chartered on July 15, 1915, it is the oldest continuously active branch of the NAACP south of Washington, D.C. The president is Judge Morris W. Reed Sr. and Dr. Brenda Jackson and Bobby Pierce co-chaired the event committee. Stepping forward as master of ceremonies in the Mary & William McCaffrey Ballroom of the Xavier University Student Center was the Rev. Jonathan C. Augustine. U.S. District Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr. had rapt listeners as guest speaker, especially spouse Dr. Florencia Polite.
Additional program principals were the Rev. Maurice Nutt of Xavier University for the invocation and blessing, Judge Reed for the welcome and occasion, and for greetings, Louisiana State President NAACP Dr. Ernest Johnson, Louisiana Vice President NAACP District A Levon Leban, Dillard University President Dr. Walter Kimbrough, and Southern University at New Orleans Chancellor Dr. Victor Ukpolo, who was joined by wife Fawn.
A dinner by Birdhouse Catering was the next feature and it included green salad, baked chicken, grilled fish and cheesecake. The ballroom was decorated with blue and gold, colorful flowers and elegant table arrangements, while thanks targeted Mona’s Accents for the corsages and boutonnieres for dais guests and honorees and, for the photography and video, W.C. Johnson. Purveying the musical arrangements were Terrell Griffin and soloist Samuel Hendricks.
And before the main event got underway, there was a one-hour VIP reception sponsored by Herzing University, which has Jason Morgan as president, and catered by Sodexo.
Awards tapped the Rev. Dr. Warren Ray Jr., in absentia Carl Galmon (cousin Mary Lodge Evans picked up the award), Andy Washington, Carmen Rogers Morial, Chadrick Hudson, and April N. Moran. Winston Burns Sr., Sybil Morial and Dr. Norman C. Francis were hailed as special Centennial Trailblazer honorees. Another major accolade, the Shirley B. Porter Presidential Award, recognized Dyan French Cole, who, because of a death in the family, was not present. The above Dr. Brenda Jackson accepted her award.
Among the many guests were Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Cynthia Butler McIntyre, Donatus King, Councilwoman Susan Guidry with husband Hervin, pastor Marie Galatas, Dr. and Mrs. George Amedee, Sylvia S. Richards, Dr. and Mrs. Raphael Cassimere Jr., Shirley B. Simon, Kevin Guidry, Sharon Mumford, Dr. Donna Grant, Judge Clare Jupiter, Dianne Crutchfield, Diane Green, Roxy Wright, and Blanche Reed Pratt, President Reed’s mom.
To cap the centennial celebration, there was a cake decorated with the signature blue and gold, as well as the organization’s logo. “Happy Birthday NAACP New Orleans” was the inscription. The banquet ended with the singing of “Happy Birthday to NAACP New Orleans” and slices of the delicious confection prepared by SUE B. distributed to eager takers.