On Monday, June 19, folks will gather at Élan South Park Meadows to toast Reuel John Perdue Cron, who turns 100.
“Reuel says he enjoys meeting new people,” says Ann Kolacki, community relations counselor at the assisted living home, “because most people never get to meet someone 100 years old.”
Cron lived in Austin from 1965-1971 and again 2001-present. Most of the rest of his life was spent in New Orleans. He served in the Army as a Master Sargeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II and is retired from the Internal Revenue Service. He also worked for the Jefferson Parish Water Board in New Orleans.
“He is very much into exercise and physical fitness,” Kolacki says, “and his favorite song is Willie Nelson‘s “ON the Road Again.”
The secret to his longevity: “Education, observation and moderation!”
The highest and best calling of journalism is investigative reporting. It’s absolutely essential to take the time, guts and resources to shine a bright light on great and systematic wrongs.
The American-Statesman does it well. For three of the past four years, it has been judged the best newspaper of it size in Texas, in large part because of our crack investigative team.
Among the other media in our state that does it well is the Texas Observer.
While the Observer and other independent media set themselves up against traditional media, such as daily newspapers, our missions are actually complementary, as Slate political correspondent Jamelle Bouie graciously acknowledged as part of a keynote chat during the Molly National Journalism Prize dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Bouie shared the stage with Molly Prize winner Shane Bauer and Observer publisher Michael Kanin. They tried to untangle the role of the independent media in the Trump era. Since the guests at the sold-out event — a benefit for the nonprofit Observer — leaned conspicuously leftward, almost every mention of the president was met with audible gasps or chuckles.
At the dinner, co-chairs Katie Cukerbaum and Abby Rappaport introduced Robert Frump as winner of the Bernard Rappaport Philanthropy Award, then Observer editor Forrest Wilder gave out the Molly Prizes, named of course for late firecracker Molly Ivins.
Honorable Mention: Sarah Ryley, ProPublica/New York Daily News, for reporting on how the New York Police Department uses a nuisance abatement laws to close homes and businesses without due process. It was answered with significant action by City Council.
The Austin parties are picking up again. We attended three fine ones recently.
Dell Seton Medical Center Big Reveal
Have I mistakenly entered a luxury hotel? That’s the first impression one receives in the ground-level guest areas of the new Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.
For the Big Reveal at the $300 million teaching, charity and research hospital, which goes fully operational in May, numerous top citizens sipped bubbly, nibbled on delectables, then set those aside to tour the seven-floor state-of-the-science facility that will take the place of University Medical Center Brackenridge.
Fortuitously, among our first contacts in the comfy cafe was Pete Winstead, the Austin power broker who led the charge to raise $50 million for the hospital, along with his charming wife Tomi Winstead. By the way, as State Sen. Kirk Watson, author of the 10-point regional health plan that includes this new medical center, pointed out: No taxpayer money was spent on facility. Jesus Garza, retiring CEO of Seton Healthcare Family, and Christann Vasquez, president and CEO of the medical center, were also on hand to salute the sleek new building, filled with natural light and brightened with fine art.
This whole series of medical structures along Waller Creek are so much more pleasing than the old Brack complex and the blocky government buildings that bank up against them. But it’s how the hospital works that keeps one transfixed with such wonders as a hybrid cath lab and OR and a design that will facilitate care of the worst-off patients that impresses the most.
Too much spent on the hotel look? Vasquez explains that they chose less expensive materials for the backside and inside of the place, but they wanted people to feel relaxed and at home during traumatic times. And after all, Dallas spent $1 billion on its charity hospital redo and San Antonio $500 million. So Austin’s $300 million looks like a bargain.
Tailwaggers for Austin Pets Alive
As promised, the Tailwaggers “non-gala” or “neo-gala” for Austin Pets Alive at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum was gloriously liberating. A perfect April evening. Unhurried strolls through the lovely gardens to find stations with drinks, animal welfare info or pledge options.
Almost every top social in town — thanks to chair Mary Herr Tally and her team — was present, along with young couples who we’d never met before. Plus some pets.
The program was short. The Big Band music was romantic. An errant buffet line put the only crimp in the evening, although once self-served, the fresh, healthy food was excellent. I’m not even going to try to list the social movers and shakers who attended, because the list would go on into next week.
We’ve got another signature Austin event on our hands.
Ribbon Cutting for Briscoe Center
“We are not a museum,” said longtime director Don Carleton about his research archives, the Briscoe Center for American History. Well, just a little bit. Along with a first-rate reading room and new gathering spaces, the renovated ground floor of the center — located across the plaza from the LBJ Presidential Library — is quite a bit of exhibition space. As Carleton says: “Now we can share some of our treasures.”
And we are grateful for it. We’ve been digging around the Briscoe since it was named the Barker Texas History Center in the 1980s. It’s a superb collection overseen by top-notch professionals. And it always bugged me that its historical shows were staged in the hallway to the restroom. (I have the same problem with the admittedly lovelier hallway at the Austin History Center.)
At the recent ribbon cutting for the refabricated center, Carleton welcomed UT bigwigs such as President Gregory Fenves and Provost Maurie McInnis, who said that archival material: “Makes the past real in a way that just reading about history does not.” He also thanked major donors, such as the family of late Gov. Dolph Briscoe and expert on early UT history, Clyde Rabb Littlefield. Also present were Dan and Jean Rather, Kathy Cronkite, Ben Sargent and former U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
We’ll deliver at fuller report on what’s inside the new Briscoe very soon.
Lonnie Limón posted on Facebook the latest information about services for his cousin John Treviño, Jr., the first Mexican-American to serve on Austin City Council and a longtime leader in the community.
From Limón: “For my friends/family who have asked about services for cousin John Treviño, the visitation is at Mission Serenity Chapel, 6204 South First Street, this Sunday at 4:00 p.m. The rosary follows at that location at 6:00 p.m. The funeral Mass will be on Monday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Louis King of France Catholic Church, 7601 Burnet Road. Internment will follow at Assumption Cemetery.”
The Nature Conservancy Lunch is one midday repast that I rarely miss.
Folks from worlds of business, government and conservation gather in a big room each year to hear about measurable results around the state from this nonpartisan, science-based advocacy group.
The Conservancy’s ace in the hole is its leader, Laura Huffman, one of the city’s best public speakers. This day at the JW Marriott, she talked about how the preservation of Hill Country land is now a model for as far away as Africa; how the future of water in the state depends on conservation, not just new supplies; how the Columbia Bottomlands on the Brazos River are faring; how the Conservancy is building a pair of oyster reefs on the coast; and how the group pieced together land through purchase and, more importantly, conservation easements in the Davis Mountains.
During lunch, I sat between Deb Hastings, natural resources advisor to Texas Lt Gov. Dan Patrick, and Kristin Vassallo, director of philanthropy and operations for the Conservancy. You can bet that our chat was noteworthy on many levels.
The marquee act, however, was National Geographic photographer and adventurer Pete McBride. My newsroom neighbor Pam LeBlanc interviewed him later that afternoon — I look forward to that article — but I can report on McBride’s spellbinding public presentation, which began with his work documenting the adventures of others — such as walking the length of the Amazon River, not a comfortable assignment for a man from the arid West.
Then he moved on to his passion project, documented in his book “The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict.” McBride had gone back to his childhood home near the source of the western Colorado and followed it by boat, atop a paddle board, on foot and in the air. The images, of course, are breathtaking, but more important are the ideas, including a long segment on the river’s dry delta. He was able to document the area in Mexico before, during and after a “pulse,” when water was briefly released from the upstream dams.
As readers of this column know, a buddy and I recently finished tracing 50 Texas rivers from their sources to their mouths. Nothing compared to the scale or stamina of McBride’s project, but as a friend texted me during lunch: “You must be in heaven.” How right he was.
Last week, author and dear friend Michael MacCambridge invited me to an early evening event at the Stark CenterPhysical Culture & Sport, located inside Royal-Memorial Stadium. He told me that news would be broken at this museum and archives, which I very much want to explore more thoroughly.
I walked in to find a couple hundred people milling around a tasty spread. A good two dozen of them turned out to be coworkers from the American-Statesman. So no scoops for me. Other than firing off a few tweets, I could relax and enjoy the company.
In fact, my colleague from the sports department, Kirk Bohls, quickly and elegantly wrote up the event, including a good number of the laugh lines as well as this two-part news: That the University of Texas has established two awards for sportswriters in the name of the legendary Dan Jenkins, also that the TCU graduate’s archives would land at the Stark Center.
Golf greats Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw were among those who spoke tenderly about Jenkins, but no one was funnier or more timely than the man of the hour. I count myself lucky to have heard him speak just this once.
When I joked to Jim Ritts, former commissioner of the LPGA and current director of the Paramount Theatre, that would I walk out without a scoop, he gave me a hot tip that I immediately took to our managing editor, John Bridges, who stood nearby.
As luck would have it, Ritts’ well-meaning tip was premature. The next day, our paper reported that Manchester United and Manchester City would most definitely not be playing an exhibition match at Royal-Memorial this summer. Good try.
Sam Shanblum died after a short illness Sunday morning. He was 96.
The longtime Austin restaurant supplier knew all the old lions of the city’s eatery game, having opened up shop downtown in 1946. He retired in 1985. Among his regular customers were Cisco’s Bakery — his regular twice-a-day hangout — the Nighthawk, El Patio, La Tapatia, Threadgill’s, the Chicken Shack and Fonda San Miguel.
Given a chance, he told tremendous tales about Old Austin businesses and characters, such this one about the Hoffbrau, the unreconstructed steak spot on West Sixth Street.
The owners of Hoffbrau habitually took off two weeks each fall to go hunting. Once during this regular break, they brought their iron griddle — where everything was fried — into Sam’s shop to be cleaned.
“We got two or three layers of accumulation off of it,” Sam said. “Later, customers said: ‘Hey, the steaks just don’t taste the same for some reason.’ ‘Yeah, we got the grill cleaned.’”
He is survived by his wife, Bertha Shanblum, who pursued her own long career as an assistant to a University of Texas academic psychologist, Ira Iscoe, as well as by their daughters, Lynda and Laurie.
The elder Shanblums grew up in Fort Worth and their families had immigrated in previous generations from Eastern Europe.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 14 at Congregation Beth Israel , 3901 Shoal Creek Drive.
Locally, State Sen. Kirk Watson has received well-deserved acclaim for his hand in transforming the region’s medical ecology, which now includes the Dell Medical School, soon-to-open Dell Medical Center, area-wide Central Health and a host of other collaborative projects.
But on Tuesday, a high-fallutin’ national group noticed, too. Nominated by the Travis County Medical Society, Watson was one of 10 recipients ofthe Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service from the American Medical Association.
Winners that night included a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative — both medical doctors — and others chosen as “government officials who go above and beyond the call of duty to improve public health,” said AMA Board Chairman Dr. Patrice A. Harris.
Updegrove oversaw the $11 million redesign of the library’s core exhibits, which has increased visibility and visits. He planned two major symposiums at the library, the closely watched Civil Rights Summit in 2014 and the more modest Vietnam War Summit in 2016.
The former event, tied to the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Lyndon Baines Johnson championed and signed, attracted Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as well as first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush.
A consummate diplomat and spokesman, who understood the Johnson family’s unbreakable link to Central Texas history and culture, Updegrove also engaged speakers such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Sandra Day O’Connor, John Glenn, John Lewis, Hank Aaron, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
During his time in Austin, Updegrove penned “Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency.” He is working on his fifth book: “The Last Republicans: George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — a Father, a Son, and the End of an Era,” due out in 2017.
He earlier served as publisher of Newsweek in New York and manager of Time in Los Angeles and president of TimeCanada.
“Mark Updegrove is a rare leader possessed with vision, creativity, and organizational skills,” said Larry Temple, chairman, LBJ Foundation. “He is an entrepreneurial guy both with great ideas and the skills to implement them. The programming at the LBJ Library over the last eight years has brought national and even international acclaim to the library and The University of Texas. Credit that to Mark Updegrove. I won’t try to put a happy face on our disappointment on his leaving. While we will always be indebted to him for the rich legacy of accomplishment that he leaves at the Library, I just say: Darn it. We hate to see him go and we will miss him.”