a tribute to lives well lived
These last several months─at once anxious, devastating, tumultuous, inspiring and hopeful times─have also brought sadness to our community with what seems an inordinate number of deaths of Houston luminaries. We respectfully acknowledge here a few who contributed to Houston’s greatness and express gratitude that their legacies will continue to be shining examples of lives well lived.
William C. "Bill" Crassas
Photo with wife Joann by Kim Coffman
Born and raised in Washington, D.C. during the Great Depression, Bill Crassas was Houston’s former Honorary Consul to Cyprus. Bill was the youngest of three children, whose parents emigrated from Greece to the U.S. following the Turkish invasion of their homeland. Bill had an accomplished career with the U.S. State Department, assigned to Greece and then Italy. His engaging wit and distinguished manner earned the handsome, multi-lingual soldier/diplomat a job offer with the CIA. But Bill inherited his father’s entrepreneurial spirit, and after serving in the military and foreign service, Bill instead took an executive position in his family’s shipping supply business, opened a Houston office, and stayed for more than forty years. Bill was married to Joann Crassas (a Houston Treasure) for more than sixty years and they jointly served a variety of charitable and philanthropic organizations. In the course of the life Bill built with Joann, they raised daughter Sia and son Dean, conquered individual battles with cancer, and became popular guests at galas and fundraisers in their adopted hometown of Houston. Heaven welcomes a gentle soul whose heart was filled with laughter.
Harry Cullen, Sr.
Photo by Gittings
Houston-born Harry Cullen, Sr. was all about Houston. He attended school and University of Houston here and married his Houston sweetheart, Rosanette Saragusa Cullen. They were married for 62 years and raised two children, Harry Cullen, Jr. and Katherine Cullen McCord, who blessed them with several grandchildren and great grandchildren. A pilot, hunter and fisherman, Harry learned the oil business from his grandfather and jointly discovered and developed oil fields operated by Quintana Petroleum Company. In 1977, he formed HHC Exploration, Inc., which is still in operation today. Harry served on boards for Quintana, Cullen/Frost Bankers and Pennzoil. He was also active in the community as a huge supporter of University of Houston, Cullen Trust for Health Care, Greater Houston Partnership, and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. Harry was a member of the River Oaks Country Club, The Petroleum Club, Coronado Club, Knights of Momus, and Allegro. A member of The Cooley Circle of Texas Heart Institute, Harry’s philanthropy extended to MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Methodist Hospital, St. Luke’s Foundation, The Salvation Army and the George & Barbara Bush Foundation. Houston’s culture is richer for his support of our Museum of Fine Arts and Houston Ballet. Houston was lucky to have Harry and even luckier his legacy continues through every member of the Cullen family.
Photo with wife Debra by Gittings
Mark was a native Texan and a graduate and star footballer for Westchester Senior High School. After graduating, Mark attended and played football for LSU. He was a partner for a leading insurance brokerage firm for over 35 years. In 1996, Mark married the love of his life Debra and their love became immediate and forever. With Debra, Mark’s love also extended to animals and many community causes close to their hearts. They chaired galas for the Children’s Museum of Houston, the Houston Ballet, the Zoo Ball, Trees of Hope, Legacy Community Health, The Council on Recovery and I Am Waters. Together they were honored by the HSPCA, Houston PetSet, as well as recipients of the Legacy Community Health’s Jerry D. Bartee Humanitarian Award and The Social Book’s Houston Treasures Award. Mark was an active board member for Legacy Community Health and The Council on Recovery. He was instrumental in bringing Kids Camp to The Council on Recovery and improved the lives of countless children and families in Houston. Mark also originated and chaired an AA meeting for over a decade on Saturday mornings at the Post Oak Club, which was instrumental in positively impacting many lives. Mark leaves behind a legacy of faith, humility, grace, hard work and boundless generosity. All those who knew Mark, knew him as a loving husband, doting father and grandfather, beloved dog parent, loyal friend and endless supporter.
Photo by Alexander’s Fine Portrait Design
Jackson Hicks was Houston’s “Prince of Parties,” a moniker well earned for his decades as the city’s preeminent special events caterer. A Baylor University graduate born in Oklahoma, Jackson’s career in the culinary and entertaining arts began as a buyer in Neiman Marcus’ gourmet food and wine department and continued in management at Richard’s Spirits and Fine Wines. In 1981, Jackson founded his own catering firm, Jackson & Company, which would go on to serve The White House, Buckingham Palace, Presidents, Governors, and Fortune 500 companies and is nationally recognized as one of the best in the industry. Jackson always took great delight in making his friends and guests feel pampered and he was equally proud of his role in redeveloping the historic former First National Bank building in downtown Houston into The Corinthian, a beautiful event venue. He supported many of the worthiest causes and institutions in Houston and around the nation, including as a trustee of Houston Grand Opera, Chairman of the Board of The Names Project Foundation (known for the AIDS quilt), and its Chairman Emeritus subsequently. He has been honored by dozens of performing arts and health-related organizations for his contributions to their missions. Americans for the Arts recognized Jackson and his firm as one of the Top Ten companies in America for their support of the arts. Jackson’s creative genius, elegant style, exacting standards and meticulous attention to detail were unparalleled, and he lived his life with extraordinary energy and commitment but with an unflappable demeanor. He believed gracious living was an art form worthy of study and practice, and was proud of his legacy of mentoring hundreds of young people in the art of gracious service. He is survived by his life partner of 30 years, Milton Townsend, who oversees Jackson & Company’s operations. Jackson believed timing was everything. “One secret of living is not staying too long. I have learned when to leave the party.”
Gerald D. Hines
Photo by Gittings
Gerald D. Hines, as founder and chairman of Hines, brought architectural excellence, superior engineering and peerless integrity to international real estate development. Born in Gary, Indiana in 1925, he recently celebrated his 95th birthday and during those years, he was widely regarded as a leading visionary in his industry. In 1957, he founded his namesake firm in Houston and grew the business from a one-man operation into today’s international real estate investment powerhouse, renowned for developing, owning and managing some of the world’s most recognizable architectural landmarks across five continents. With more than 4,800 employees, Hines today is active in 225 cities in 25 countries. An avid outdoorsman and adventurer, Gerry was known among family members, friends and colleagues for leading spirited climbing expeditions, backcountry ski trips and cycling trips around the world. He was a passionate skier and developed the Aspen Highlands ski area as a co-owner of the Aspen Ski Company, skiing into his 90s. With his wife Barbara, he sailed around the world on the Lady B, a sailboat he designed. Following a diagnosis of advanced heart disease in his fifties, he became a pioneering champion of a plant-based diet and exercise. As dedicated to his family as to his career, he was devoted to his children and grandchildren, three of whom work for his firm, which is led by his son Jeffrey. Gerald was a modest man with a big heart, and touched many lives with his signature humility, generosity, humor and grace. Although he achieved great acclaim and success, Hines never forgot his humble beginnings or lost sight of his core values. He fulfilled his childhood dream of real estate development many times over, developing more than 885 projects in the world’s greatest cities, including more than 100 buildings over 25 stories, and the tallest office towers in Texas, San Francisco and Italy, among others. Working with some of the world’s most renowned architects, some of Hines’ most notable developments include: One Shell Plaza, Galleria, Chase Tower and Pennzoil Place in Houston; the ‘Lipstick Building’ in Manhattan; Salesforce Tower in San Francisco; Tour EDF in Paris; and Diagonal Mar in Barcelona. Hines’ legacy lives on through his numerous and legendary civic and charitable contributions. He is survived by wife Barbara, his four children, 15 beloved grandchildren, 13 nieces and nephews and 1 great-grandson.
E.J. "Jodie" Hoffer with wife Maryann
Photo by Gittings
In 2009, The Social Book was proud to honor E. J. “Jodie” Hoffer and his wife Maryann (who passed in 2017) as Houston Treasures. Jodie served as a tireless leader in a broad spectrum of charitable, cultural, political, educational and medical organizations far too numerous to list. Many may remember him from his ownership of Hoffer Furniture, which for years was located off Hillcroft near Richmond. Jodie served on the board of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and was listed on the Excellence Programs at U of H and UT Austin. He served as a trustee of Houston Grand Opera, Greater Houston Partnership and the HCOA Development Board at Baylor. Jodie was most active locally and nationally in The Furniture Bank, which aids the poor and homeless by providing furniture for their homes. He also founded “The Bargain Bazaar,” a successful thrift store that benefited this same organization. On a personal note, I will miss his hysterical sense of humor and kind nature. He never met a stranger. Maybe that’s why his business was so successful. Rest well my friend and hug Maryann for me!
Patricia P. "Patty" Hubbard
Photo by Gittings
Fifth-generation Houstonian Patty Hubbard was devoted to her late husband, Ford, her family, and to Houston’s civic and cultural institutions. She will be remembered for her elegance, intellect, deep appreciation of the arts, and her delight in every opportunity to gather with the people she loved, especially for a good cause. Her knowledge of film, music, and history was encyclopedic and she was never without a good book or her beloved crossword puzzles, which she consumed with vigor. For over fifty years she was actively involved with many of Houston’s civic and cultural organizations and took great pride in the city’s development into one of the country’s premier centers for the arts. Patty was a member of the Alley Theatre’s Board of Directors for a remarkable 49 years, including as President, Chairman and Life Trustee. The Alley’s Large Stage was renamed the “Patricia Peckinpaugh Hubbard Stage” in 2003 in recognition of her importance to the Theatre’s flourishment. She served on the Boards of American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Zoo Friends of Houston, Houston Public Library, Houston Symphony, and Houston Ballet, and chaired galas for multiple organizations, including Junior League of Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Houston Ballet. She was an active member of Inprint’s Presidents’ Council, the Film Committee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Advisory Board of the Center for Performing Arts Medicine at Methodist Hospital, and the Board of Trustees of the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts. Patty is survived by her son, Ford Hubbard, III, her granddaughter, Julia Ashland Hubbard, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Photo with wife Cornelia by Gittings
Meredith Long was a legendary gallerist, devoted husband to Cornelia, beloved father of seven, and captivating story-teller. Meredith Long & Co. was one of the first art galleries in the nation to champion the rebirth of interest in nineteenth and early-twentieth-century American Art. Meredith was instrumental in the formation of many important private collections in Houston and internationally, and he and Cornelia have contributed over 100 significant works of art to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. President George W. Bush appointed him to serve as a member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee for the U.S. State Department. He served on the board of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and with Cornelia formed several important endowments for both operating expenses and art acquisitions. He not only had a life-long appreciation of art, but also discovered his second great passion: wildlife advocacy and conservation, sustaining many respected Texas wildlife artists. He believed they create important works of art while also documenting a historic record of wildlife habitats and landscapes that encourage their preservation and conservation. Missouri-born Meredith was a national debate champion, a graduate of University of Texas where he was in the ROTC Program, and a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. His philanthropy included serving board roles for Houston’s Alley Theatre, the national Archives of American Art and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He served as Chairman of Texas Heart Institute from 1993 to 2011, which included realization of the Denton A. Cooley Building. Meredith had an encyclopedic knowledge of bird dogs and was active in their training and handling. He generously passed on his knowledge and mentored countless people in the best possible ways to be a responsible hunter and fisherman.
Photo by Evin Thayer Studios
Born in Manhattan and educated in Philadelphia, this northern girl became a southern darling of the Houston set when she moved to our city in 1989 to become the bridal registry director for Foley’s department store. The Houston Post came calling when they created a Sunday column called “Down The Aisle” with Cleverley Stone in mind to write it, and become the Wedding Section Editor. In the 2000’s, her love of food segued into a subscription food and restaurant newsletter, and then into “The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show,” airing weekly for thirteen years─the longest running program on CBS 650. She became a food segment contributor for “Great Day Houston” on KHOU TV, and though well established as the local food celebrity, the “Diva of Dining,” the shining jewel in Cleverley’s social crown was definitely founding Houston Restaurant Weeks in 2003. Not only did she donate her countless hours each year to recruit the contributing restaurants, but she also tasked herself with collecting the proceeds to be distributed to the Houston Food Bank. To date, the annual fundraiser has raised over $16.6 million, enabling the distribution of more than 44 million meals to Houstonians in need. Cleverley’s gentle spirit lives on through her daughter Katie, son-in law Joe, and grandson Luca.
Photo by Evin Thayer Studios
For more than forty years, Evin Thayer has been celebrated as one of Houston’s leading photographers, and his work is uniquely recognizable for its casual, modern-day approach that reflects his subjects’ lifestyles. Evin photographed tens of thousands of people and his work is characterized by clean lines, simplicity and versatility. He has captured images of the Who’s Who of Houston, as well as nationally famous actors, sports figures, scientists, politicians, artists and astronauts, including President George H.W. Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush, former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, astronauts Gene Cernan, John Glenn and Alan Bean, Walter Cronkite, Ben Love, Robert and Janice McNair, Hakeem Olajuwon, Mary Lou Retton, Kenny Rogers, Jaclyn Smith, Tommy Tune, Warner Roberts, Carolyn Farb, Joanne King Herring and Lynn Wyatt. For thirteen years, Evin photographed the Houston Fire Fighters Calendar, helping to raise over a million dollars for the Burned Children’s Fund. He was also photographer for the Houston Astros Pet Calendar benefitting the Houston Humane Society. He spent several years creating “Millennium Makers,” a book featuring portraits of 100 notable Houstonians that culminated with performances and a gala to support an arts scholarship fund he founded. He has helped raise money for charities and non-profits including AIDS Foundation Houston, The Animal Fund, Bering Community Service Foundation, Body Positive, Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, Citizens for Animal Protection, DIFFA, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony, KUHF Public Radio, SNAP, and Music Doing Good. He is survived by his life partner Kenneth Gayle and numerous friends.
Photo by Gittings
Houston’s “Culinary Master” and “Godfather of the Restaurant Scene” Tony Vallone passed away quietly in the early morning of September 10th. 75-year old Tony, with his renowned restaurant, tony’s, has led Houston’s dining scene for more than 55 years and was host to local, national and international clientele coming to partake in his legendary meals (continuously changing menus), wines (over $1 million in inventory), ambience and stellar service. Among Tony’s most impressive distinctions is that he has served seven U.S. Presidents, numerous foreign heads of state and notable dignitaries from around the world. At one time, Tony had six restaurants, all with standing-room only crowds of guests (tony’s, Anthony’s, Vallone’s, La Griglia, and Grotto in two locations). Awards include: “Top 20 Restaurants in America,” “Rolls Royce of Texas Restaurants,” first Texan inducted into the National Restaurant Association Hall of Fame, first American-born board member of the famed Gruppo Ristoratori Italiliani of Italy, a member of the Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Hall of Fame,” elected to the Culinary “Who’s Who of Texas,” numerous accolades from national and international restaurant critics, and superlatives from Zagat’s. Tony and Donna─his lovely wife of more than 35 years─supported countless non-profits with their generosity. Together, their charitable and civic contributions are staggering. While these are major accomplishments, and certainly added to the success of this internationally acclaimed restaurateur, it is the belief of most that what has kept the well-heeled set coming back for more were the warm smiles of Tony and Donna that greeted you when you enter the restaurant, making you feel as if you were entering their home. Tony’s legacy lives on through Donna, his family and his long line of loyal patrons.
Sue Trammell Whitfield
Photo by Gittings
A 5th generation Texan and Houston-born, Sue Trammell Whitfield was Houston royalty. She graduated from Kinkaid School and attended Southern Methodist University. After transferring to The University of Texas at Austin, she met her future husband “Whit,” graduated, and later endowed the Department of Human Ecology (formerly Fashion Design and Textiles─her major). Sue perpetuated the philanthropic activities of her grandmother, Ella Fondren, and that of her parents in supporting education and medicine by serving on Southern Methodist University’s Board of Regents, the University of Texas’ Library Board, the Methodist Hospital Board, the Advisory Board of the Fondren Library at SMU, the Fondren Foundation, and the Trammell Foundation. Sue was passionate about the mission of The Women’s Fund, served as its Board’s President, and remained an enthusiastic supporter for decades. Health education and medical science were also areas of special interest. Serving on the board of various committees within the John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science (The Health Museum), and three years as President of the Board of Governors, she was at the helm with purposeful leadership during its time of transition. Sue’s love of family and respect of her parents, grandparents and great grandmother ignited her interest in genealogy, which culminated with Sue authoring a historical book focused on her aunt, Mary Jane Trammell, affectionately titled “Aunt Mary’s Scrapbook.”
Dr. James Willerson
Photo by Gittings
World-renowned cardiologist Dr. James T. Willerson, served as the President Emeritus and Director of Cardiology Research, and Co-Director of the Cullen Cardiovascular Research Laboratories at the Texas Heart Institute (THI) and CHI St. Luke’s Health-Baylor St. Luke’s. He served as President of The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston from 2001-2008 and was directly involved in seminal research in the use of stem cells for the repair of hearts and cardiovascular vessels injured by heart attacks. These landmark discoveries led THI to being awarded the first FDA-approved human clinical trial using adult, human stem cells to treat cardiomyopathies and congestive heart failure. Over his career, Dr. Willerson held executive and professorial positions at Memorial Hermann Hospital, the Texas Heart Institute, Baylor College of Medicine and U.T. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of University of Texas, Dr. Willerson was a Texas Cowboy and varsity swimmer. He trained at Baylor College of Medicine and Massachusetts General and over the years, has led departments of the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. He served as visiting professor or invited lecturer at more than 260 institutions worldwide. The awards Dr. Willerson received were extensive. He held 15 patents, served on editorial boards of the world’s most prestigious medical publications, was co-editor of twenty-four textbooks and published more than 1,000 scientific articles during his storied profession. Dr. Willerson was a tireless, gentle soul who left us far too soon.