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Commentary: Ray Nasher

By Lee Cullum, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX –

I thought Ray Nasher would go on forever. He had the kind of stamina and vitality that could make a man immortal. Ray had a joi de vivre that kept in check the discipline with which he cared for his healh. Fanatical fitness held no appeal for him.

Ray may not have been a fan of Kipling - I doubt that he was - but he certainly was able to "walk with crowds and keep his virtue and talk with kings nor lose the common touch." Always he was a democrat with a big and little D.

That's one reason he succeeded so mightily at Northpark. He understood what his customers wanted: One, ,make Northpark entertaining. Two, keep it clean.

Ray was not one of those very wealthy, highly accomplished people who got up one morning and deciided that he knew everything. On the contrary, as his friend Kate Lehrer said, "He was there to learn. Especially, he respected the views of his wife, Patsy, who he said "was a genius" And so she was.

Ray too had genius of his own. For one thing he had a sound business mind. His bank, Northpark National, now part of Coamerica, escaped the catastrophes that plagued other financiial institutions in the late 1980s. Subprime loans never were a problem for Ray Nasher. It was obvious to him that if you loan money to people who demonstrably cannot pay it back, you need not be surprised when they don't.

Cultural life was structured into his soul from childhood. He never missed the opera or symphony. As for painting and sculpture, an art dealer once said that all art is either classical or baroque. Ray was everlastingly classical. He believed that Renzo Piano, designer of the Nasher Sculpture Center, was the most gifted architect working today.

When it came to his own house, after Patsy died about 20 years ago, and Ray wanted to renew the place, another architect urged him to tear it down and build something grander. Ray said no. "There are a lot of memories in this house." He kept it, enhanced it and opened it to visitors from all over the world.

Ray was a meticulous planner. He took a long time to make decisions, talked them over endlessly, but rarely were his choices off the mark. He accepted with grace and without useless anguish the losses of the years. Tennis was the breath of life to him, but when that had to go after hip surgery, he took up golf instead.

He was faithful to his faith and never failed to observe the High Holy Days. He once thought that at the graves of himself and his family he would put a sculpture by Maillol called "La Nuit." It is a female nude seated on the ground and leaning forward, arms around her knees, in deep meditation, or prayer. Whatever happens to "La Nuit" - "The Night"-- one thing is clear: Ray Nasher brought to Dallas a new day. He, along with Staney Marcus, is the most important cultural figure in the history of this city. He is, after all, immortal.