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Philanthropic stalwarts to be honored

SANTA FE, N.M. — Storied Santa Fe couple is honored by the Journal, hospital foundation

It is almost impossible to list all of the Santa Fe community organizations to which Abe and Marian Silver have given time and money over the nearly 60 years they have been active as a couple in philanthropic activities.

The list of their plaudits is equally impressive: They were honored as Santa Fe Living Treasures in 2008 and received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2010.

Together and separately, the two have been active volunteers and philanthropists in the broadest sense – they have given freely of their own time and assets to improve the lives of their neighbors and the life of their community.

While raising three children and operating their venerable store, The Guarantee Shop, on the Plaza for 35 years, they found time to become involved in a large number of community endeavors.

The nonprofit organizations they’ve served include the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, the Santa Fe Opera, United Way of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Boys and Girls Club, the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women, the New Mexico Arts Commission, Temple Beth Shalom, New Mexico Tech University, the College of Santa Fe and the Rodeo de Santa Fe.

Small wonder they’ve been named Philanthropists of the Year for 2013 by the Journal and the Christus St. Vincent Hospital Foundation. They’re being honored at a gala at Buffalo Thunder tonight.

Asked this week to define philanthropy, Abe Silver said, “It’s the enjoyment of giving and participating, the pleasure of it – and if (the cause) has a meaning to you, that’s important.”

“It’s giving because you care about something,” Marian added.

Born in Greenwood, Miss., 87 years ago, Abe Silver grew up in New Orleans. That’s where he met Marian, now 80, a native of Santa Fe and the daughter of Robert Petchesky, whose parents founded The Guarantee Shop, a clothing store on the Plaza.

Marian was attending college in New Orleans in 1950 when she met the dashing young Air Force veteran, then a sports writer and the golf editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. They married in 1951, just before Abe was recalled to the military during the Korean War. Their first home was in Langley, Va. where Abe trained pilots.

After the war, they came home to Santa Fe, took over management of the Guarantee and began a lifetime of community activism and child-rearing. Their daughters Margaret and Carolyn and son John are all active volunteers – a fact that Abe and Marian consider their greatest legacy, both to their family and to their beloved Santa Fe.

A look back

The Silvers on Wednesday sat down to answer a few questions about their Philanthropists of the Year honors in the ranch-style house on East Coronado Road that they’ve called home for 58 years.

JOURNAL: Given how active you’ve been in so many community organizations, you must love Santa Fe.

Marian: Well, I’m a native. My family has been here forever. And Santa Fe’s been so good to us. It’s our pleasure to give something back.

Abe: Yeah. Return the favor; that’s right.

JOURNAL: How do you decide where to put your time and money?

Abe: You just have to use a priority system.

Marian: There are different times when different things are most important.

Abe: It’s not cut and dried. Sometimes there’s an emergency need.

Marian: So many people give so much more than we do. I’ve been an auxilian (at the hospital) for 35-plus years. We donate our time as well as money.

Abe: Life would be pretty boring without this work, really. And it’s fun. It really is.

JOURNAL: You were among the founders of Temple Beth Shalom. Do you think your faith has played a part in your community work?

Abe: Absolutely. It certainly has.

Marian: That and family upbringing. I was brought up to participate and give; we both were.

JOURNAL: You’ve had a long and successful marriage. Do you think working together in these community programs has contributed to the success of your marriage?

Marian: Probably.

Abe: It’s a “we” situation, not an “I” situation, and that helps.

Marian: It’s meant that we’ve had a very interesting life. We’ve met a lot of people who have made our life together more complete.

JOURNAL: Some of the most interesting have been people you’ve met in connection with the Opera, I’d suspect.

Abe: We’ve had some crazy experiences. I remember once (world-famous mezzo-soprano) Marilyn Horne was here, and I said, “Marilyn, I want you to do me a favor. I want us to drive in this nice quiet car and I want you to sing one of my favorite melodies. She said, ‘Well, what is it?’ And I said, ‘It goes, Tee-tum-di-tum.’ It was the University of Southern California fight song; she laughed and laughed. She knew it, of course. So we drove around while she sang the USC fight song to me in that glorious voice!”

Marian: Tell about Charles Anthony.

Abe: Well, Charles Anthony, the famous singer, was here several times. He was a big strapping fellow and I told him he reminded me of the Caruso boys who played high school football in New Orleans — I knew he was from New Orleans like me — and he said they were his cousins and brothers. And I asked him why he dropped his last name, and he said, ‘Abe, I couldn’t go into opera with the name Caruso. There’s no way I could have lived up to it!’ I had to admit he was probably right.”

JOURNAL: You’ve both been very active at the hospital. How did you develop that interest?

Marian: What would we do without it? It’s the only game in town. I think everybody needs to support it. I was born in Marian Hall, the brick building next to the old hospital, and so was our son John.

Abe: Sister Mary Jo (Mary Joaquin, the administrator) helped me sneak in after hours to see my wife and new son. She was all right.

Marian: And our two daughters were born in the old hospital.

Abe: I was chairman of the board when the hospital corporation bought St. Vincent’s from the Sisters of Mercy and then Sister Mary Jo handed me a bunch of papers – it was the debts of the hospital! (laughs)

Abe: I was the M.C. at the tree-topping ceremony on the construction of the new hospital and cut the ribbon when we opened in 1977. When we moved the hospital, patients, equipment and all, from the old downtown location to the new hospital – Mike Kelly was the director – that was the most tremendously successful logistical operation I’ve ever seen. It was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. We’re really fortunate with that hospital.

JOURNAL: Do you feel like being given this title by the hospital foundation is bringing you full circle?

Abe: A little bit. Maybe. But we’re not through yet, you know.

Marian: It’s honoring, but I’m more humbled than I am honored. There are so many deserving people who could be called Philanthropists of the Year.

Abe: Me, I’m deeply honored.