On the icy morning of Jan. 20, an hour before the processional, friends of the late Mary Tyler McClenahan were settling onto burgundy-hued cushions that soften the creaky pews of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The mood was celebratory, not sad, as Richmond's village elders from education, the arts, architecture, business, law, religion, politics and the media chatted softly but intently prior to the memorial service.
"Mary Tyler would love this people are chatting and getting things accomplished," said Elizabeth Cox, whose husband, architect Fred Cox, whispered to architect James Glave. Nearby, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, took a seat near Charles Bryan, Virginia Historical Society director. Dentist and historian Dr. Francis Foster was across the aisle. Philanthropists Rudy and Esther Bunzl sat a few feet away, as did art maven Frances Lewis, who nodded to Katharine Lee, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art (and former head of VMFA). University of Richmond Chancellor Richard Morrill entered. Media General chief J. Stewart Bryan was in a back pew, while former Time-Life exec Hal Wingo and Monticello director Daniel Jordan were farther up. Lawyers included Robert Burrus and Lewis Powell III. Stoner Winslett and Brett Bonda of the Richmond Ballet and sculptor Paul DiPasquale were among the artists there; Brent Halsey and James Ukrop were among the businessmen. Kitty Claiborne, Mary Ballou Ballentine and Alice McGuire, who one day will be grandes dames, were seated when one of Richmond's last dowagers, Gina Rawles, marched to a front seat. Two former governors, Gerald L. Baliles and Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, entered just before a contingent from the General Assembly Sens. Henry L. Marsh III and Benjamin J. Lambert, Delegate Viola Baskerville and Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine.
There have been bigger funerals in recent Richmond memory those of James Wheat and Justice Lewis Powell but none that represented the full sweep of Richmond's leadership.
McClenahan was involved in everything. She had a vision and she had everybody's ear.
Looking across the congregation, I was reminded of a summer day some years ago when I drove McClenahan and her good friend, the late Mary Taylor Robertson, to a function at Poplar Forest, Jefferson's retreat near Lynchburg.
"Mary, don't you want to sit up front?" McClenahan asked deferentially (to one of the few people to whom McClenahan would cheerfully be deferential).
"No," Mrs. Robertson shot back as she eased into the back seat and opened a romance novel. "I'm going to read my book and hope you don't talk me in to another one of your projects."
McClenahan let out her infectious laugh. As a bridge-builder, 20 years ago, when two local arts groups were spatting, McClenahan invited the parties to a breakfast meeting. With her as referee, surely the parties would get along. But the participants were in no mood for pleasantries, and when one person suggested that the group with which McClenahan was closely affiliated was "drifting in the wind," she was indignant. "I can assure you," she said archly, "this is one board member who is not drifting in the wind." Then, without listening to another word, she announced her departure to serve meals to the homeless.
At least that effort, she thought, would be appreciated.
Last week, as the village elders filed out of the church, all knew that a great one was removed from their midst.
"What now?" asked civic leader Pamela Reynolds, as she buffeted herself against the January chill. "Who is going to tell us what to do, and show us how to do it?" Edwin Slipek Jr.
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