I met Mrs. Sammons in the fall of 1991 on my first day of work after completing a week of training. She had lunch in the then Carolina Cafe with her assistant Dagmar (sorry, not sure of the spelling of her name after all this time). I wasn't nervous waiting on her table - what made me nervous was all the managers peaking through the door from the kitchen! Over the years I got to know her a little better and was able to spend time with her on occasion.
She was a no nonsense business woman. She had a vision of what she wanted and expected everyone else to come around. Yes, she would hear other opinions and even allow them to weigh in on her decision - but when she made up her mind, it was made up.
She had a knack for getting to know employees as well. She would ask about their family and would check in on them the next time she saw them remembering the details about what she was told from previous conversations. It was impressive that she cared for so many enough to ask and remember the details.
I visited with her in her Dallas penthouse apartment once and drove her to see a movie matinee. We stopped for ice cream afterward to treat ourselves. She gave me the full tour of her place and even apologized that the jewelry closet was locked that day. Another time she wanted to sing hymns after dinner so we all joined in (even though I can't carry a tune in a bucket!) and sang along with her. It makes me smile even now.
There was another time when I was escorting her back to her apartment on the Club Floor of the Inn. She was riding in her scooter (it was difficult for her to walk the length of those long hallways at that time) and she put it into high gear! I had to jog along side just to keep up with her and was out of breath by the time we arrived at her door - partly because I was laughing the whole way.
The stories we have about Mrs. S could fill several large volumes. I truly appreciate the impact that she had on Asheville and the scores of people she influenced over the years. She has an impressive legacy and a continued place in my heart.
Following is the obituary that was posted in the Dallas Morning News -
Sammons, Elaine D.
Elaine Dewey Sammons, a quiet and generous philanthropist and Chairman of Sammons Enterprises, Inc., passed away peacefully Wednesday, January 14, 2009. She was born in Pontiac, Michigan, and moved to Dallas when she married businessman Charles A. Sammons in 1963. Elaine D. Sammons was elected to the Sammons' Board of Directors in 1982 and became Chairman in 1988. With her professional hospitality background, she took a special interest in Sammons' Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, North Carolina. Her guidance resulted in a historical restoration and expansion of the resort in the early 1980s and the addition of the world class Spa in 2001. Her sense of corporate responsibility and community involvement was acknowledged most recently when Sammons Enterprises, Inc. made a $15 million gift to name the park in the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts district in honor of Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons. An avid supporter of the arts, Elaine D. Sammons also served as Chairman Emeritus of the Sammons Center of the Arts since 1980. Her private philanthropy supported education, medicine, the arts and the underserved. Quietly, she made contributions including $2 million to establish the Elaine Dewey Sammons Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research in honor of Dr. Eugene Frenkel at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, and $1 million to support First Lady Laura Bush and the U.S. Library Foundation. The Elaine Dewey Sammons Foundation contributed to several worthy causes. In addition she provided a major contribution for a new Chair in honor of Dr. John Fitzgerald in Pulmonary Research at the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The Chair in honor of Dr. Fitzgerald will become a Distinguished Chair later this year. Elaine Sammons is survived by her son, Cuyler P. Medore and his wife, Brenda, of Gulf Stream, Florida; 3 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. Visitation will be held Friday, January 16, 2009, at 6:00 pm followed by the Rosary at 7:00 pm in Chapel E at Sparkman Hillcrest Funeral Home, 7405 Northwest Highway, Dallas. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Saturday, January 17, 2009, at 11:30 am, 3811 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas. The burial will follow the Funeral Mass at Rose Hill Cemetery in Ardmore, Okla. Memorial contributions may be made to The Salvation Army.
Published in Dallas Morning News from January 16 to January 17, 2009