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SUNDAY, JANUARY 16, 2005
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CHATTERBOX
Cathy D. Wahl

Largest crowd ever turns out for Gala XX

It's been more than a month since Gala XX dazzled Decatur by being the biggest black-tie event ever in our area.

People are still talking about the flowers (all white), the food (all gourmet) and the setting (all tent). Seven hundred and sixty people comfortably settled at round tables under the huge white tent outside Decatur Country Club. Chef Ron Casey called in 52 wait staff to serve the crowd. When that wasn't enough, volunteers Scott Curry, Susan Neville and Jackie Grimsley and her husband pitched in.

It took almost four days to erect the tent, put in a false floor, install tables and chairs and sound and lighting, and decorate. And when the final bill is paid, the Decatur General Hospital Foundation will have about $70,000 to spend on rebuilding its Oncology Center and to send employees to school.

"It's the most people we've ever had at Gala, and it's the most money we've ever raised," said Foundation president Trudy Grisham.

Gala XX chairwomen Penny Haddock and Dede Suggs oversaw more than 200 volunteers who planned and put together the event.

"We started planning this Jan. 7, 2004," said Penny. "It was a labor of love."

Just as in a big city, the big tent with small tables sheltered dozens of stories.

Dr. and Mrs. McCoy Pitt were among several couples who have attended all 20 Galas, while Steve and Patti Condo and Joan and Kevin Malcolm were two couples at their first Gala.

Mr. and Mrs. Peter Booty waited months and traveled many miles to get to the party. The Bootys had planned to come to Gala XIX last year, but had to postpone. They came all the way from England to be guests of Joe and Katie Worthey for Gala XX.

Jackie Goode had the misfortune to attend Gala XX in a wheelchair, thanks to a broken foot, but she had several escorts — Mr. and Mrs. Larry Griffin, Ann Haynes, Beth Roberts, Mandy Dolly, Bill and Pam Jeffries and Susan and Philip Trivitt.

But Kathy Taylor, escorted by husband Terry, had the most eventful time at Gala XX. Toward the end of the evening, she fell ill and was whisked to the hospital. She wound up having quintuple — that's five — bypass heart surgery that Monday. A week after Gala XX, she was home recovering. "I certainly wouldn't have planned it that way," she said, laughing. Kathy is recovering beautifully and is out walking almost every day.

As always, the silent auction was a highlight of Gala. Joan Neville was the successful bidder for a blissful dinner for 16 at the Tennessee River home of Jim and June Odom, with Bruce and Vivian Pylant and Joe and Katie Worthey co-hosting. Another choice prize was a progressive dinner prepared by Jackie Grimsley at homes featuring ponds created by Lee Vought. Jim and Mary Gregory and friends will enjoy dinner at the homes of Randy and Loretta Troup, Dr. George and Sharon Faison and John and Melissa O'Sullivan.

Andy Villarreal bid highest for a diamond bracelet from Jimmy Smith Jewelers. Joy Cartron will be ready for Gala 2005 in her custom-designed evening gown from Anu Krishna. Vickie and Ronnie Dukes will enjoy a peaceful stay at Dr. Steve and Jennifer Chandler's mountain cabin. Wyn Dobbs, there with Patsy McCaghren, is ready for Iron Bowl 2005 with a pair of tickets courtesy Dr. Robert and Marlynn Rhyne.

Marcie Overstreet is enjoying an Oriental rug, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph B. Carl, while Leslie Weaver can serve tea and coffee in style from the sterling silver set donated by John and Pam Howell.

Art, as always, spoke loudly during the silent auction. Patsy Roby, there with husband Norman, claimed Arabelle Wilder's popular "Party Line" painting and Judy Seymour's "Open Door Policy." Jimmy and Jan Worthey took home Wally Inscho's "Southern Roots."

Jean Ann Anderson is enjoying Carolyn Tweedy's "Just Peachy,"

Trudy's purchase of Loretta Troup's "Celebration of Gala XX" was a natural because Trudy and Dr. Ken Chandler were honored during Gala XX for their contributions to Decatur General.

Family and friends surrounded each honoree. Trudy's party included mom Ann Johnson of Columbus, Miss; sisters Pat Fulgham of Akerman, Miss. and Wanda McKnight of Denver; brother Jim Hunt and wife Colleen Bock of Melbourne, Fla.; son Gary Grisham Jr. and wife Lise; grandson Gary Grisham III; and step-grandson Van Patrick Martin and his date, Lane Price.

Ken's party included elegant wife Elizabeth; mother Dorothy Spikes of Nashville; children Brad Chandler of Madison and Krista and Stacey Chandler, both of Birmingham; and Elizabeth's brother Charles Danna and wife of Rosedale, Miss.

Expect big things from this year's coat check girls Buroyne Fite, Shelton Godwin, Maggie Gray, Constana Moore, Elizabeth Pettey, Julie Schuster, Emily Suggs and LouEllen Thompson and doormen Pete Brown, Gary Grisham III, Lawson Hahn, Richard Pettey, Christian Smith and Graham Spencer.

After all, foundation board member Dr. Vernon Hurst and oncology center director Dr. Steve Suggs were doormen at the first Gala. Both enjoyed Gala XX as grownups with their wives Kris and Dede.

Entire families occupied tables. Amy and Arthur Orr, Stratton and Lida Orr and Henry and Blythe Orr Bowman claimed one table. The Woller family filled another with siblings and spouses Ron and Melissa Woller, John and Suzanne Woller, Will and Kay Woller and Janet and David South. Another table held the Sexton clan — Susan and Britt Sexton and grandmother Mary Eck and Britt's parents Bill and Pat Sexton. Bill and Noel Shinn brought daughter Noel Shinn and Louise Brown, while a pair of PridesHarvey and son Matt — escorted their wives Bibi and Nanette. John Caddell, who introduced honoree Trudy, employed son Jack Caddell as his chauffeur.

A pride of politicians populated the tent. Led by U.S. Sen. Robert Aderholt and wife Caroline, the list included state treasurer Kay Ivey; state Rep. Mickey Hammon and wife; state tourism director Lee Sentell; Decatur Mayor Don Kyle and wife Susan; Decatur councilmembers Ronnie Russell and wife, David Bolding and wife Carol, and Gary Hammon and wife; Morgan County Commission Chairman John Glasscock and wife Alberta; Morgan County tax assessor Amanda Scott and husband David, license commissioner Sue Baker Roan and Sheriff Greg Bartlett and wife Barbara. Morgan County district attorney Bob Burrell attended with wife Mary Stuart. Gala XX co-chairwoman Penny Haddock had the arm of husband Steve Haddock, Morgan County circuit judge. Fellow Judge Sherrie Paler was escorted by husband Rick.

With dinner eaten, speeches delivered and bidding over, the crowd was ready to dance. Nashville's Familiar Faces got the crowd going with a fraternity party anthem that put Ron Woller and Barney and Amy Lovelace in the spotlight.

Steve Armistead of Nashville, Dr. Charles and Barbara Ashwander and Mr. and Mrs. Gary Austin enjoyed the evening along with Candy and John Burnette of Huntsville, Brad Breeding and Dr. Hayden Hughes, Jerry and Linda Barnette, Dr. and Mrs. Sammy Becdach, A.L. and Marilyn Beck, Chris Bell and Dana Strock, Ann Thompson, Steve and Claudia Blake, Dayna and Wiley Blankenship, Mary Beth and Kevin Borden of Florence, Beth and Mrs. Gordon Burden, Deloain Burgess, David and Jo Carter of Orange Beach, Tammy and David Cashio, Ellis and Carol Chenault, Carl Cole and Peyton Tubb, Tom and Terri Collins, Mike and Nancy Curl, Susan and Dan David,

Foundation board chairman Jack Davis brought son John Davis. Seen in the big tent were Jan and Sam Dean, Shannon and Tim Douthit, Ellen Duncan and Jonathan Moral, Evans and Kappy Dunn, Mike English and Nancy Smitherman of Birmingham, Lisa and Bryant Fisher, Jack and Lori Fite, Stephanie Frank, Tom Flowe and daughter, Cheryl and Bert Gangl, Dr. Bill and Karen Gannaway, Larry Payne and Michelle Cancilla, Ed and Virginia Garrett and Sam Glover and Penny Phillips.

Tina Hahn, wife of DGH administrator James Hahn, wrote a history of Gala for the program. Dr. Darrell and Karla Gray, Pat and Russell Graydon and Charlotte and Richard Gregory weathered the speeches along with Beverly and James Gresham of Germantown, Tenn., Mr. and Mrs. Scott Sasser, Dr. Charles and Lynn Prickett, Gary Grisham and Wondell Shellhorse, Edith and Lynn Haney, Gil Harding and Margaret Wenzler, John and April Whitley, Leslie and Keith Heidecker, Dr. Cy and Nancy Huffman, Barbara and Andy Kelly and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Kowallik of Huntsville.

Ross and Marsha Railey joined their friends George and Angel Floyd at a table. Everyone admired newly-svelte Joyce Torbert, elegant in brocade, escorted by husband Tim Torbert.

The crowd included Vernon Lane and date Crystal, the Rev. Richard and Mrs. Lawson, Stacey and Jeff Layton, Annette and Lynn Layton, Claire and Joey Lee, Cissy and Butch Long, Mr. and Mrs. Tim Lovelace, Anne and Phillip Marshall, Dr. Lee and Jennifer McCain, Jane McDonald of Cherokee Ridge, Jim and Katie Mitchell, Tricia Moss and Barney Heyward, Jody and Stacey Murphree, Joan and Frank Neville, Dr. Michael Newman and Dr. Jan Strother Newman, Debbie and H.M. Nowlin, Jimmy Page and Sara Owens, Veronica and Patrick Pettus, Charlotte and Cecil Ponder, Dr. Steven and Deles Price.

Jay and Amy Rape, Toni Roberts and Dr. Michael and Jenny Roberts savored the filet mignon dinner along with Eddie and Margie Rose, Dr. and Mrs. Lew Sample, Dr. and Mrs. Kirk Jackson, Cathy and Luke Slaten, Wendy and Ray Smith, Bob and Jean Smith, Dr. Jay and Linda SoloRio, Wilfred and Jean Spencer, Scott Willis, Larry and Mary Sturges, Dr. and Mrs. Mark Sweeny, Drs. Chris and Stephanie Teichmiller, Dr. Gordon and Angie Telepun, Bill and Debbie Thomson, Frank and Bridget Troup, Fred and Lou Underwood, Virginia Waddey of Nashville, Anita and Steve Walden, Dr. Robert and Beth Walker, Vanessa Walls and Larry Walls, Dr. Glenn and Jennifer Ward, Dr. Bill and Leslie Whitley, Ethel Wiley, Dr. James and Ann Wiley, Bill and Suzi Wiley, Deborah Willis, Mr. and Mrs. Kent Witherspoon, and Bill and Cat Wyker.

Call your "Chatterbox" news to Cathy D. Wahl at 350-6983 or mail to 1225 Regency Blvd. S.E., Decatur, AL 35601. Fax to 350-6983 or e-mail to cathy.d.wahl@decaturdaily.com.

Cathy D. Wahl Cathy D. Wahl
DAILY Staff Writer

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