PaperCity Magazine

March 2019- Dallas

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84 SHE'S PEGGY SEWELL THE BOMB B Y B I L LY F O N G P eggy Sewell is one of my girls whom I had admired from afar until our fi rst rendezvous for this column. It was over iced tea — so Southern of us — at the Mansion Bar one cold afternoon last month. Peggy is respected for her grace and extensive philanthropic work for causes ranging from the Baylor Health Care System Foundation Board to the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors. We immediately fell into conversation like old friends who hadn't seen each other in years. Peggy's knowledge of art, sprinkled with giddy moments recalling fashion from past decades, kept me entranced for hours. We reminisced over Tom Ford's wonder years as creative director of Gucci and Saint Laurent (she has many of those carefully preserved in her closet) and his ability to create a storyline and character. I've long wanted to do a profi le on someone who hails from New Orleans. I am a proud Southerner for many reasons, but primarily due to the kind and civilized manner of those born amongst hydrangeas and white-columned homes, with a culinary palette that favors okra, catfi sh, and mint juleps. New Orleans has an intangible mystery and romance to it, with its grand, historic architecture weathered with a patina that makes its environs all the more enchanting. Peggy's mother and father were fi fth- generation New Orleanians, and they raised Peggy on Walnut Avenue in a house with views of verdant Audubon Park. Her mother's family (the Bisso clan) had a tugboat company that serviced much of the Mississippi River. In fact, there is still one boat, the Peggy H (her maiden name is Higgins), named in her honor. During our iced-tea date, Peggy proclaimed, "Give me a parade and a marching band, and I'm happy. It feeds my soul." A parade? Until then, on this mortal coil, I had never heard that phrase before. Apparently, Peggy shared that sentiment with close friends — and they responded with the ultimate gift. "For my 40th birthday, some girlfriends showed up at my house with a crown and a bathmat cape and put me in the back of a convertible," she said. "They drove me around Highland Park and the Village, and people threw Mardi Gras beads. My own personal parade!" Peggy attended Southern Methodist University. Initially a business major, she fell in love with art due to SMU's storied Meadows Museum's collection of Spanish Baroque works. She changed her major to art history. Her passion for art continues today, through her extensive collection and many years volunteering on the boards of the Dallas Museum of Art and the Meadows. While Dallas is decidedly Peggy's home, she never forgets her Big Easy roots. Both cities have helped shape this thoughtful woman. How she met her lifelong partner, Carl Sewell, is another fun story. It was a blind date set up by their mutual friend, Jack Knox (the man who would later open Café Pacifi c). Carl called Peggy at the Kappa house; from his voice, she envisioned him as the strapping cowboy type. Instead, the man who arrived was boyishly handsome, blonde, and somewhat preppy, and was driving a big brown El Dorado. Forty years later, they are still magically in love. He's the perfect partner, she says. "Carl is absolutely curious and a lifelong learner — a big reader who wants to share a journey of discovery with me." The Sewells have two children, Carl III and Jacquelin, and are expecting their second grandchild. In 2008, the DMA had the brilliant idea of mother-daughter co-chairs, so Peggy and Jacquelin led the Art Ball. Because of this column, I have been lucky to forge meaningful friendships with our city's most incredible women. As I pen this ode to Peggy, I fantasize about sharing many more cherished moments with her. Perhaps we will sit together on a veranda in the French Quarter watching a parade. Approximate date of this photo. Summer 1969. The occasion. At the Houston Pin Oak Horse Show. I'm receiving the trophy for the amateur fi ve-gated class on my mare, Sound of Music. I had been an avid equestrian my whole life and loved and respected American Saddlebreds. I grew up in a family that for generations raised horses. What were you wearing? I'm wearing a bespoke riding habit, derby, and boots made for me in Louisville, Kentucky. Each year, I would ride in the Louisville show and while there pick out a new riding habit. What price fashion? A favorite outfi t in my 20s was a green suede evening dress with an empire waistline from Mignon Faget in New Orleans. I wanted it so much, but it was a bit pricey (probably around $500). I fi nally convinced my grandmother to buy it for me. I wore it at SMU my junior year to the Kappa formal. It defi nitely made a statement. My husband, Carl, still reminisces about that dress! Why is this a picture of you? I'm riding my National champion mare! I'm a competitive person deep down and love winning. Peggy Sewell, 1969

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