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Commentary: Remembering Carolyn Horchow

By Lee Cullum, Commentator

Dallas, TX –

When Marie Brenner wrote a book called Great Dames about Kay Graham, Pamela Harriman and others, she wanted to publicize it in Dallas at a party featuring great dames of this city. That never happened, but right at the top of my list, as I tried to help, was Carolyn Horchow, who earlier this week reluctantly left a world she loved and that loved her.

Much has been said about her accomplishments, and they were many: She helped her husband, Roger, start the Horchow Collection, and together they built it into everybody's favorite catalogue. Her philanthropies were thoughtful and important. But oddly, much as I respected all her contributions, and as often as I go to the Horchow Auditorium at the Dallas Museum of Art, I seldom think to associate it with her. That's because she made so little of it hereself. She didn't want her good fortune to separate her from other people.

She didn't want her unhappy fortune to separate her from them either. What Carolyn wanted was no degrees of separation. That's why, during eleven years of illness, both bad and debilitating, she suited up every day and kept a schedule that would have killed the rest of us. Her idea of a nap, which her doctors urged upon her, was to talk to friends on the telephone, even while taking infusions. She wanted to know everything that was going on. She was determined to miss nothing. Buttressed by an undiminished spirit, moral stamina and a flair for discipline that didn't show, she was geared to the making of a maximum effort, no matter what.

In her novel, Mrs. Dallaway, Virgina Woolf wrote a passage that could be extrapolated and applied to Carolyn Horchow. It might go like this: There were people in New York and people in Dallas who should know each other. She would arrange it. It was her gift - to life.

Carolyn Horchow offered many gifts to life. She had a natural sophistication that made her a highly original creator of community, a builder of bridges as elegant and intricate as any by Santiago Calatrava. She had strong views, but also close friends of every political persuasion. In no way, however, did she contradict herself. Her integrity was based on an easy integration of disparate geographies, sensibilities and interests. She contained them all.

Six weeks ago, when it became clear that her song was ending, Carolyn and Roger gave a book party for Willard Spiegelman of SMU. A friend asked, did she come down for it? Did she come down? The question was: did she ever go up? She sat on the piano bench, looking lovely, and greeted everybody, one by one, her final gift to each of them. Noone who saw her that afternoon in May, ever will forget it.

Rarely has one person, not in public office, done so much for so many in so resolutely personal a manner. With radiant intelligence, insight, tactfulness and grace, she took the undiluted extroversion that fueled her and turned it into something serious and lasting. She turned it into love.

Lee Cullum hosts the monthly program, C.E.O. on KERA 13. She talks with Jim Von Ehr of Zyvex June 26.

If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.