The Beauty of Philanthropy
The Alzheimer's Association insisted the show must go on after the passing of Larry Hagman, who was supposed to be the keynote speaker at the 2013 luncheon benefiting the Alzheimer’s Women’s Association for Resources and Education (A.W.A.R.E.). And who better to ask than his dear friend and TV wife, the lovely Linda Gray? She accepted without hesitation.
More than 500 supporters — including Debra Nelson, Janet and Jack Broyles, Sandra Cude, Sally Hoglund, Cassie Crosby, Sandy Watson, April Bosworth, and Anne DeFilippo — descended on the Hilton Anatole to see the incomparable Ms. Gray. Also showing his support that day was Lee Majors, who plays Gray's love interest, Ken Richards, on TNT's Dallas.
In the turquoise-splashed ballroom, affable emcee Ron Corning greeted guests and joked about being so busy with pre-parties that "literally you can have Alzheimer's and never forget [about events]." On a more serious note, he spoke of the importance of raising awareness about the devastating disease before A.W.A.R.E. president Kay Hammond and luncheon chair Laurie Kidder took the stage.
Hammond shared her frustration about the government's low spending on Alzheimer's research, while Kidder talked about the Alzheimer's Association providing hope to her family. "The color turquoise represents clarity of thought, calmness and clear communication," she said.
Then association president and CEO Becky Prince reiterated the importance of awareness and said that A.W.A.R.E., and the contributions of those in attendance, make an impact in the fight against Alzheimer's.
Before attendees dove into lunch, award-winning artist Rudy Gatlin and Sam Harris sang a joyful invocation. Then Corning introduced Gray, who, instead of speaking on Hagman's behalf, honored him with heartfelt words.
She clicked through a slideshow of photos revealing her friendship with Hagman, both on and off-set. "It was as if we were married in another lifetime," she said, explaining that Hagman was serious about having two women in his life — his wife, Maj, and Gray.
Audience members watched clips from the original Dallas and listened to Gray share stories about her children growing up alongside Hagman's. Then she spoke about Maj, Hagman's wife of 52 years, who suffers from Alzheimer's.
Gray said that no one every thought that Maj would get Alzheimer's, because she was the rock. "Maj was the one who chose Dallas," Gray said. "[Hagman] was given two scripts [to choose from] — she said, 'This is it.'" Eyes welled up as Gray showed pictures of Hagman and his wife, with their kids and from their travels.
Gray also spoke about her own mother, who was diagnosed with the disease. She shared a couple of stories that made the crowd laugh, including the time her mother asked the doctor, "Do I want to get laid?" after misunderstanding what he said.
"I dwell on her positive stories," Gray said.
She finished with one of her own quotes, from Hagman's funeral. "Like Steve Jobs said, we're put here to put a dent in the universe. He made a giant dent in everybody's heart."
She challenged attendees to make a impact on this world and said she hoped to one day celebrate at this luncheon "realizing that the dent started with us."