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David Nelson / Society

Overflow Crowd Pays Tribute to Joan Kroc

September 24, 1987|DAVID NELSON

SAN DIEGO — The organizers of Thursday's "An Evening With Joan," the San Diego Hospice dinner dance at which philanthropist Joan Kroc was awarded the organization's 1987 Humanitarian Award, had to come up with a last-minute answer to this most unusual of questions: "What if you gave a party and everybody came?"

The committee had anticipated 700 guests, an incredible turnout for a testimonial dinner and one quite sufficient to fill the La Jolla Marriott Grand Ballroom. They then discovered that the figure had been revised to something closer to 800. In the end, several tables were placed in the hallway, but near the doorways so that guests could still feel part of the proceedings. The event raised more than $195,000.

The sheer volume of the crowd promoted a nightlong feeling of togetherness that began at the private reception given in the Presidential Suite for Kroc, other major Hospice benefactors and committee members. Jammed into the ordinarily spacious suite like pickled herring in a jar, the guests--a cross section of local business, government, cultural and charitable leaders--all gravitated toward Kroc, whose pledge of $10 million is paying for the construction and outfitting of the Joan Kroc Hospice Center on Vauclain Point. This 24-bed facility for the terminally ill also will provide support services to patients' families, and will accept the dying without regard to their ability to pay.

Kroc, whose preference for privacy is well-known, responded thoughtfully when asked if she had felt any apprehension about attending a party given in her honor.

'I Wanted to Give'

"Probably," she said. "Being honored is nice, but it isn't my style. But I'm here because, while anybody can give money, I wanted to give of myself, too."

Kroc also mentioned that the hospice was a five-year dream of hers, ever since her father was a resident in one.

"Tonight shows that dreams can come true, just like when the Padres took the pennant," she said. Flashing a big grin, she added, "Now if we could just get those Padres going again!"

The Presidential Suite crowd included dinner chairman Tom Stickel; treasurer Murray Galinson; hotelier Larry Lawrence (sporting the outlines of a Lincolnesque beard begun on a recent camping trip in the Sierras); Padres President Chub Feeney and KFMB radio chief Paul Palmer, who was beaming from ear to ear.

"I'm keeping good company these days," said Palmer. "In the space of three days, I've shaken hands with Joan Kroc and Pope John Paul II!"

The proceedings in the ballroom moved rather nicely, the committee having dispensed with the heavy burden of a head table in favor of extra room for the dance floor, kept crowded by the efforts of the Steven Spencer orchestra. (Kroc's table was situated inconspicuously away from the dance floor and included St. Vincent de Paul Center President Father Joe Carroll and, making a rare party circuit appearance, Mayor Maureen O'Connor.)

The guests sailed through a dinner of Cornish hen in blueberry sauce and a Bavarian cream dessert, then settled in comfortably for the formal presentation. This portion of the program included a videotape of actress Mercedes McCambridge, actor Dom DeLuise and other Kroc cronies saying very nice things about their pal.

'Keep the Candle Burning'

Author Norman Cousins, for 35 years the editor of Saturday Review and now an adjunct professor of humanities at the UCLA School of Medicine, presented the San Diego Hospice Humanitarian Award to Kroc. A longtime friend, he kept his remarks light-hearted.

"My connections with San Diego have gotten me in trouble, and I've been skating on thin ice ever since they caught me rooting for the Padres at a Dodgers game," he announced, to much laughter.

After accepting the dove-shaped award, Kroc told the audience that the evening inspired her with hope. "If we all keep the candle burning in the window, we'll be keeping alive the flame of hope," she said. "Peace is a nonpartisan issue, and love, hope and heartache are nonpartisan, so we all have much more to bring us together than to divide us."

Among the guests were Police Chief Bill Kolender and his wife, Lois; Helen Edison; Evelyn Truitt; Betsy Manchester; Arthur and Jeannie Rivkin; Bent and Lynn Petersen; Peter Stark; Ballard Smith; Joseph and Elizabeth Yamada; Councilman Bill Cleator, with Marilyn; John and Jane Murphy; Roger and Ellen Revelle; Art and Nancy Johnson; Holly Lorentson; Hospice President Richard Edwards; Blair and Georgia Sadler, and Donald Benjamin and his son Peter. The Benjamins have donated the Ellie Benjamin Memorial Garden at the hospice in memory of the late Mrs. Benjamin.

Saturday's "Catalogue Caper" party at Neiman-Marcus certainly had its ups and downs.

Which is to say that the second annual treasure hunt and general extravaganza given by the Whittier Friends for the benefit of the Whittier Institute for Diabetes and Endocrinology kept its 400 guests on their toes and hopping .

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