Photo courtesy of
“Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness….In this masterpiece, Gaudí [the architect] shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudí, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with him who is truth and beauty itself.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speaking at The Basilica of The Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain
Construction began on this church in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. Antoni Gaudi, the major architect, combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms to create his masterpiece. Since his death in 1926, construction has continued with other designers except during the Spanish Civil War. The words from Benedict XVI were taken from his homily in 2010 when he consecrated the completed portion as a minor basilica.
Kaye’s personally selected “father,” Mr. Wilson, sits in the middle; next to him is Sunny. I do not know the occasion or the other people in the photograph, but this is the club where they ate lunch that first day.
Searching for A Father
Sunny’s daughter, Kaye, had a secret plan to find herself a father. Somewhere around the fifth grade, she began working on it, but kept everything entirely to herself for for fear that she’d be laughed at and no one would really understand.
After she began to realize that, generally speaking, the quality of bachelors the same age as her mother was not particularly good, she contented herself with analyzing her friends’ dads and mentally choosing which qualities they exhibited that especially appealed to her.
One friend’s dad was a great hunter who regularly provided the family with fresh venison and quail. Another father worked long, hard hours in the nearby oil fields, yet came home everyday in such good spirits that he seemed to honestly enjoy working and providing for his family. Then there was the dad who always managed to “need” an ice cream cone for himself and the girls on the way to take Kaye home. Another father she especially liked frequently brought the painfully shy girl into supper-table conversations by asking questions as if her opinion were really important. The only problem was finding all those qualities in one man who not only was the right age, but, who would also want Sunny for a wife.
Quite unexpectedly, she met him when she was a junior in college. Up until that time, she had managed to pay her education expenses through scholarships, working on campus or during school breaks, and with a little help from Sunny. However, toward the end of 1958, the Vice President of Mary Hardin-Baylor College in Belton – where she was an English Literature major – persuaded a businessman in nearby Temple, Texas to sponsor three girls enrolled there who needed financial help because of the loss of a parent.
Kaye was astounded when she received the letter explaining that she was one of them. The man would pay all three girls’ tuition, books, fees, room, and board. Plus, he would send each one a monthly check of $25 for incidental expenses. The only requirement was that they keep up their grades and work at one of the campus jobs available, usually about 15 to 20 hours a week. The scholarship would then be renewed each semester until graduation.
She immediately called the plant that he owned and made an appointment to thank the man in person. This was just much too wonderful for a mere thank-you letter. The money for incidentals would more than pay for the cab ride to Temple and back.
When she walked into his office, she met a charming man with white hair who appeared to be surprised at her gratitude since the other two girls had merely responded with formal thank-you letters. As they chatted in his office and later, at lunch together, she was surprised at how well he fit the criteria she had spent the last decade compiling.
He liked to hunt. He even leased land in South Texas so he could take friends for long hunting and fishing weekends.
He really enjoyed working – and often went back to his plant to check on the second and third shift workers. He knew them all by name and often knew their children’s names.
He was generous: took her out to lunch unexpectedly and spent time just getting to know her; offered her not only a scholarship, but spending money as well; and asked one of his assistants to drive her back to Belton, to save her paying the cab fare.
He was so interested in her that she felt safe enough to freely express her own ideas and was completely at ease with a comparative stranger.
And finally – he was not married. His wife had died. His second marriage, to a woman he had hoped would love and care for his three children, was a failure and had ended in divorce.
Back at school, Kaye immediately began plotting to get her mother to meet Mr. Wilson. If she could just get her to drive down from Dallas during the week, Kaye believed she could arrange for her mother to take him out to lunch to thank him for his kindness and repay the social obligation. The rest would be up to her mother and Mr. Wilson.
The trouble is, Mr. Wilson often traveled on business, and she had no idea when he would be in town. Or, when her mother would be available to visit the area. But the respective guardian angels must have adjusted the respective schedules because within a few weeks, Sunny decided to come visit Kaye on a Monday before traveling on to Austin for a business meeting. Furthermore, Mr. Wilson, was in town that same week and, although surprised by Kaye’s invitation, accepted the lunch date.
The rest of the story could have been written by any Hollywood script writer or even by a school girl thrilled by the idea of love and romance. After visiting in his office a few minutes, they left for lunch. Only he insisted that they all travel together in his shiny new car since he knew the town better than they did. Then he took them to the local country club to avoid any possibility that they pay the bill.
And the two subjects of this subversive plot really seemed to like each other, as their conversation easily ranged from politics to baroque art to business deals. The young match-maker barely managed to keep from smiling too broadly, for fear they would ask her to explain her “joke” to them.
And now, Dear Readers, I’ve shown you the many daunting, cliff hanging type problems this beautiful woman faced and over-came. Next week, we’ll wrap it up with the years of a new lifestyle.
Copyright by Kaye Fairweather 2018
Smiling is definitely one of the best beauty remedies. If you have a
good sense of humor and a good approach to life, that’s beautiful.
Picture from an Awards Dinner for Home Interiors, Inc. in 1960. Mary Crowley is on the left, Sunny Wilson is on the right, next to Mary’s son, Don Carter. I apologize for the damaged photo and not knowing the names of the two women in the center. This is the only photograph I can find of Mary and Sunny, although many were taken during the years they worked together.
Entrepreneurship Opens The Door
Mary Crowley, the Sunday School teacher who had organized her class to bring prepared food and groceries to Sunny’s family during the winter of recovery, stepped into her life again in the late summer of 1954. This time she became the light at the end of the tunnel that finally started Sunny on the beautiful road to solid ground financially.
Mary had a special understanding of Sunny’s predicament. Years before she, too, had been left with two young children, but without a husband’s support. To put food on the table, she began working in a local Montgomery Wards and discovered she had a knack for salesmanship. She also realized that as the bread winner, she needed more than a high school education. So she put herself through business school while working at the department store, and then moved with her children to Dallas, Texas.
There, she became an accountant/salesman for one of the larger downtown furniture stores. During the Post War building and baby boom, she grew more and more aware of the huge numbers of the young families buying their first homes and wanting to make them beautiful. So she began sharing information with customers about putting pictures on the wall, selecting pretty lamps, choosing complementary colors in the upholstered furniture, as well as explaining the store’s finance terms. Very soon she became their leading salesman.
But in early 1954, (while Sunny was recuperating at home) Mary left the established business to work on a new venture with Dick Kelly selling decorative objects for the home on the “party plan.” They called it World Gift Company since most of the merchandise was imported, similar to the products now sold at Pier One. Dick made the executive decisions, while Mary became the sales executive to recruit and train the women who became their independent representatives.
They sold each new recruit at least one large suitcase full of samples to show at the party. Then she trained them with many creative ways to use the items for home decor and got them started by presenting at the first two or three parties that the newbie booked. The official training continued every Monday when Mary showed additional possibilities for using the decorations; she also shared stories about how and why each imported item had been made and used in its country of origin. And she made the sales meetings the most upbeat, inspirational programs anyone could imagine.
When Mary realized that selling insurance was providing neither the income nor the satisfaction that Sunny wanted, she recruited her to sell for the new company part-time while she also taught school as she had done the year before. Sunny couldn’t begin to pay for the cost of the suitcase full of samples and sales aids that she needed, so Mary kindly lent her the money and let her repay the debt over several months of work.
When school started in September, Sunny had to miss the Monday sales meetings, but again Mary came to her rescue by offering extra phone support as well as tape recordings of sales talks. Also, she mailed out inspiring sales letters every week to every one involved with new stories and new ideas about the products. So, Sunny happily added teaching lessons in decorating a home economically at parties to her lessons in poetry and public speaking at her school.
Each month became less of a struggle with money than the month before. By the end of the school year in 1955, just one year after facing total financial destruction, she decided to leave teaching her beloved students to selling full time because it was so much more profitable. And she had the privilege of spending all of her working hours concentrating on creating beauty. One year after that, she had earned enough rewards from World Gift Company to win a one week free vacation in Mexico City for herself and as a high school graduation present for her daughter.
When some disturbing issues arose between Dick Kelly and Mary over executive decisions in 1957, Mary left World Gift to begin her own company, Home Interiors. She asked Sunny to join her as executive assistant. The two had become close friends in the previous three years and knew they could work well together. And Sunny had social and business skills that complemented Mary’s talents.
Home Interiors grew rapidly. By 1983, at its twenty-fifth anniversary, sales topped $400,000,000. And profits were over $20,000,000. By the early 1990’s, after Mary’s death, sales were over $850,000,000. Her son, who had continued to run the company, sold it during the nineties.
But Mary and Sunny had led the company to its early successes as great friends and as co-workers. The friendship continued, but the business relationship ended when Sunny’s daughter finally found the man of her dreams – a step father. But that’s another chapter in the life of this beautiful woman.
Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather
This is a picture taken at a tea honoring the women in the back row who were graduating from college in 1953 despite having started the process at a later date than usual. Sunny is second from the right. Her daughter and her best friend, recruited to serve as kitchen help, sit on either end of the sofa. Sunny’s mother is second from left. The gracious hostess and Sunny’s favorite college professor is seated on the sofa at the far right.
The Tough Summer of 1954
Although grateful and inspired by the many kindnesses extended to her family during the bout with hepatitis, Sunny was delighted to began earning a living again. The only problem was that she could bring home just about six weeks of pay before the schools closed for the summer. Still, she and her children were eager to work at any job available because it felt so good to be independent again.
Sunny took classes so she could sell insurance door to door during the summer and planned to add weekends during the school year. However, that was not a good career move for her particular talents. She doggedly put in the time and foot work, but never did quite well enough to consider herself a success or to become comfortable in that venue.
The older son, who had graduated from the elite, preppy Capitol Page School in May, came back to Dallas and found work as a hod carrier on one of the big buildings going up down town. He earned enough at that to save some for college in the fall and to help fill in a few of the gaps for the rest of the family.
The daughter, still in high school, kept up her baby sitting career in the neighborhood. She earned a few shekles for spending money and frequently helped purchase gas at twenty-five cents a gallon for the family car.
Sunny’s mother continued to live with them for awhile and cheerfully contributed portions of her social security check to help out as she could.
Despite the joy of beginning to recover from total financial devastation, the Tough Summer of 1954 was the hardest period financially that Sunny and her family had to face. For example, many times they drove to town well after dark to put a house or utility payment in the night depository box so they could avoid the late penalties which would start at the beginning of the next business day.
Another frequent trial was buying gas. At a time when all service stations were full service, they frequently purchased two or three gallons at a time because that was all the money they had. Even so, they didn’t always make it back to the house or station before car ran out of gas again. Then they would have to ease the car to park it in front of the nearest stranger’s house, and walk to a nearby gas station to buy enough to start the car again, if anyone had any money. If everyone in the car was flat broke, they just walked home until they could afford to rescue the car.
Fortunately, the big bad city was much safer and friendlier in 1954 than it is today. No one worried about the car being stolen or tires slashed before they could return with a gas can to begin a new trip. The strangers in the house near where they parked never complained. The police never gave Sunny a ticket or had the car towed. And when they did get the car back home, they always left it in plain sight in the drive with the keys in the ignition —- for fear of ever losing the keys. They continued doing this at least until the early 1970’s without any anxiety or loss.
Also, they never locked their doors – even when going away for the weekend. Actually, Sunny never was quire sure just where the door key was and didn’t find it until she packed up to move to another town, years later. The term, home invasion, had not been invented yet and no one would have known what it meant, should someone use the term. If burglar alarm systems were available at the time, only the ultra rich knew about them.
A big sacrifice for the daughter was to reluctantly give the family dog to the neighbors three doors down because there just was not enough left over scraps to keep him alive, even with the bacon grease gravy she had learned to make for him. And buying dog food was totally out of the question. Many days, a half piece of bacon a day for each family member was all the meat they could afford.
Although it was a tough summer, everyone pitched in to help any way possible. No one gave up hope, grew depressed, or became angry with either God or society. Yes, life was more onerous than they had expected, but never impossible. They still laughed at each other’s jokes; still listened to classical music on vinyl records; still reminisced over escapades from New Mexico; and they still teased about how hard they all worked to get a college degree for Sunny. College life for a whole family had also started a new tradition that they continued – keeping the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary near the dining table. That made it easy to reseach new words that came up during dinner conversation. Any time that any of the family heard a new word, they talked about it. Often one word would lead to another and then, another. While the practice improved vocabulary without the kids catching on, it also cultivated their social skills. Times were tough, but Sunny and her family were tougher and just as much fun to be around as ever.
This is a picture proof of Sunny’s three children taken during her freshman year in college.
The next chapters will show the welcome changes in fortune that began shortly after The Tough Summer of 1954. If you missed the earlier episodes, it’s easy to catch up by using the following links:
This Is A Beautiful Woman – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-uh
This Is A Beautiful Woman, II – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-um
This Is A Beautiful Woman, III – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-ux
This Is A Beautiful Woman, IV – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-uL
“Life takes you to unexpected places; love brings you home.” Author unknown
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home. We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world.” (link)
Statement by Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk (Tony Kim), and Kim Hak Song