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Adele chose good works over Easy Street

Features column

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

In the course of one’s life there is exposure to the good and bad. The overachievers and the ne’er-do-wells. The ordinary and the elite. The haves and the have-nots. The slovenly and the accomplished. The provincial and the enlightened.

There are those whose journey is focused on themselves, regardless of their station in life, and there are those who are bent on lending a helping hand. In spite of all the castigation many shower on the Kennedy’s — their innumerable shenanigans notwithstanding — it has always been curiously gripping that there was an undercurrent in their makeup to reach out to the underdog. We admired Mother Theresa, like we admire Nelson Mandela. Often there are limitless champions of charitable support in our own communities. Service above self types.

Several years ago, I became acquainted with a lovely lady in Kansas City named Adele Hall. She was the wife of Don Hall, the Chairman of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Our paths crossed when she and Tom Watson, the golfer who won the U. S. Open, the Masters twice and the British Open five times, teamed up to put on a benefit for her favorite Kansas City charity, the Children’s Mercy Hospital. Watson wanted to do something for his hometown — genuinely moved to give back — and Adele was eager to assist. Eventually, the one day golf outing — which attracted golfing friends of Watson’s, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, and other well known touring professionals — ran its course as they say. However, when the dust settled, the event had raised over $10 million dollars for the hospital.

There were many such charities with which Adele was associated which brought similar dividends for her community. Yet, she always remained in the background. She was always the silent partner, relishing in gifts for those in need, never seeking headline or tribute. In her home, you observed classical works of art but nothing on display which celebrated her monumental and altruistic deeds.

Adele died a week ago while vacationing in Hawaii with Don. Immediately, I thought of the many selfless accomplishments she authored for her community. There was hardly a charity in Kansas City which she did not support. In addition to the Children’s Mercy Hospital, she worked tirelessly for charities like the United Negro College Fund, the Library of Congress Trust Fund, The American Academy of Pediatrics, Partnership for Children and the Menninger Foundation.

Her special passion was reserved for children. Her energy, her vision and her indefatigable work ethic served the people of Kansas City well. In a front page story, calling her the “First Lady of Kansas City,” the Kansas City Star said: “She learned the value of community service through the example set by her parents who were deeply involved in the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations in Lincoln Nebraska. (At the University of Nebraska) she served as President of Kappa Kappa Gamma, foreshadowing a gift of leadership that would serve dozens of civic initiatives throughout her life.”

Last fall, when Georgia played Missouri in Columbia, I called Adele to let her know that we would be spending Sunday after the game in Kansas City visiting the Harry Truman Library. She invited us by her home where we reminisced about the fun we had in putting together the one day golf outing, benefiting the hospital.

It is obvious that Adele could have spent her life on easy street, but she chose to live a life of service and altruism. She gave of herself to all of the charitable organizations with which she became affiliated. She was well read, well informed and had a curiosity about life, history and people. Forever cloaked in happiness and goodwill, she brought sunshine into the lives of so many. Dinner conversations with her at the Kansas City Country Club were highlights of trips to “The City of Fountains.” She and Don supported countless causes and were the first to volunteer for any campaign for the betterment of Kansas City.

Adele’s life is a reminder that giving is often a matter of priorities, commitment and simply caring. Just making the effort. She was a different person, and I not only feel for her family, I feel for Kansas City. That axiom, “To whom much is given, much is expected,” wasn’t written by Adele Hall, but could have been. That certainly characterized her life.

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.