In the game of life big shots come and big shots go…
They’re really a dime a dozen if you know what I mean. As often as not it’s somebody who played their cards or the office politics right, cut a few corners and was in the right place at the right time. Oh yeah, and never got caught.
Kansas City civic leader Adele Hall was none of those.
I got to know Hall – first as a friend of my parents as a child growing up – and later and more importantly as an adult, making my way through the minefield of print journalism.
You can learn a lot about people when you put them on the record about subjects that at times are less than pleasant. Some news sources or subjects will kiss up or try and manipulate you. And then every once in a great while you stumble onto someone genuine and sincere, honest and straight forward.
That’s pretty rare, but it does happen.
Adele Hall – the wife of Hallmark Cards honcho Donald Hall – was just such a person.
I interviewed Hall late last year, shortly before the holidays, for a profile that will run next month in The Hills, a magazine that goes to homes in affluent, in-town neighborhoods like Mission Hills and Sunset Hill.
There were any number of reasons Hall might have declined my request for an audience, but she graciously accepted. She’d read my profile story of Jack Steadman who was Lamar Hunt‘s right hand man and liked it.
She’d be happy to grant an interview, but said she’d completely understand if I found her too boring and afterwards decided to go in different direction.
That totally was not the case.
Adele might also have passed on my profiling her because of reservations about the at times controversial nature of my column in the Kansas City Star.
One of my first run-ins there went down with her in the fall of 1992 shortly after I’d started writing for the newspaper. After I’d written a short item about one of her sons having purchased an expensive mansion on the Kansas City, Missouri side of State Line.
Adele called to set me straight in the kindest, most gentle way imaginable.
She never actually criticized me, but convey quite clearly that she didn’t appreciate the fact that I’d included the $895,000 list price of the home.
“Hearne, Don and I didn’t even know how much he paid,” she told me.
I didn’t know either, I countered weakly. I’d only reported the home’s listing price not its selling price.
At other times I bagged on Hallmark for one thing or another. Like when the greeting card giant blew it after Martha Stewart – not yet a household word – approached them about a licensing deal in 1992. Hallmark passed, K-Mart later made a deal instead and Stewart went on to become a household word.
One time I wrote something about Rainy Day Books owner Vivien Jennings and she told me Adele had asked her about it. When Jennings remarked that it was in my column, Hall responded, “Oh, I don’t read that column.”
Sure she didn’t.
Let me just tell you that in the two hours Hall spent chatting with me for The Hills profile there was no holding back. No pre agreed on subjects that were off-the-table.
And absolutely no outward displays of ego or power tripping. Adele was just a charming, gracious, well-meaning woman intent on doing anything and everything in her power to help make Kansas City a better place.
Would that there were more Adele Halls in this town.
And as I wrote back then in my story for The Hills, to my way of thinking Adele Hall was the First Lady of Kansas City.
She will be missed.
Photos by Mark McDonald