Saturday, January 30, 2016


I attended a funeral Mass today for George S. Graff.  I was there in support his daughter Maureen Jennings (and because attendance at church is overdue for this former alter boy).
This celebration of a man’s life at the Church of the Annunziata in Ladue was remarkable. I will not do it justice, but I do want to share some thoughts.    

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they will be filled.

The homily, by Monsignor John Leykam, wove together the Beatitudes (Matthew 1-12) gospel with a favorite poem and the lifetime of George S. Graff. The Rudyard Kipling poem IF was juxtaposed artfully with the gospel and the man’s life.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you….

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch….

Yours is the Earth and everything in it,
And – which is more - you’ll be a man, my son!

I consider myself something of a spiritual person, albeit something short of a devout practicing Catholic. This event touched me – not only for the brief moment in which I was able to whisper to Maureen “Daddy’s little girl” which I knew had to be the truth --- And it was verified in her smile in the aisle as she greeted me before the Mass. The love of the family filled that place of worship. George S. Graff was truly blessed and leaves a legacy for generations to come. The live cello rendition by Great Grandchild Lorenzo DeMichelle was a bonus. The sweet somber sounds of the string instrument filled the sacristy, the alter, and the pews.

The priest more than hinted that many of the details of this funeral service were prescribed by the deceased himself. Clearly, he was a man who could lead a company and yet keep a humbleness about him. In my view, funerals are for the living and an inspiration to carry out our own lives as best we can with the time we have. Thanks George.


Graff, George S. fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church on Sunday, January 24, 2016. Beloved husband of the late Mary Rita Graff and Marjory Kassabaum Graff; dear father of Mary Ann (Robert) Gorlin, George S. (Rosalie) Graff, Jr., James R. (Laurie) Graff, Maureen (Rick) Jennings and the late Thomas G. (Mary Jo) Graff, Sr.; dear grandfather of 12, and great grandfather of 13; our dear step-father, uncle, cousin and friend to many. George was born on March 16, 1917 in New York City. While in college studying Aeronautical Engineering at The University of Detroit he met his wife Mary Rita Shaughnessy. They married and moved to St. Louis where he worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft. For the next 40 years he developed military aircraft such as the XFD-1 Phantom, the F15 Eagle, and the F18-A Hornet and eventually served as president of McDonnell Aircraft Company from 1971 until his retirement in 1982. When he wasn't shooting for the stars, he could be found on the golf course shooting for par. Services: The Funeral Mass was held at the Church of the Annunziata on Saturday, January 30, 2016. En tombment was in Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, Memorials to a charity of one's choice appreciated. Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Jan. 27 to Jan. 31, 2016 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Roger Prince Reflects

Roger talks about the Studio and My Dad

Morgan Studio was very much a product of my father’s view of how things ought to be. Of course, I have carried many lessons with me all my life. What a pleasure it was to chat with a Roger Prince on December 22, 2015. We were on the phone for 90 joyful minutes. It is the anecdotal stuff of legends that I feel compelled to record here. Roger is 80 and my father passed just over two years ago and yet the memories of the familiar nuances remain.  The following notes are presented to share. As always, I take some poetic license but welcome further discussion of detail and larger implications.

On being hired
Roger reported that he interviewed with a production manager when a client meeting made it not possible to meet with my father. He left his portfolio. A telegram from my father summoned him back downtown “Can you meet me today?” The result was being offered a job. It’s telling that this young man in his early 20’s was so thrilled that salary was not even a part of the discussion.
Basic Training
My father liked military precision and likened his indoctrination as a sort of basic training. Roger, was not alone in finding this distasteful. Jim Morgan had ideas about how things should be done and he was the boss. Roger clearly remembers, in hindsight however, the value of swallowing his pride. So much of what Jim Morgan was asking for made sense.
Competitive Leverage
Wyse Advertising was a sort of cross town rival but with a big agency orientation. (Morgan Studio and Wyse were both founded in 1951 and this was 1955). Roger managed to get an offer that included the title of Art Director. Jim Morgan was able to match that offer and keep Roger. Roger settled in at the Studio for the balance of the decade leading up to 1960.
Roger was able to mimic my father so well that I could recognize the cadence of his voice calling for Mary Evers when the Art Director was a few minutes late to work one day. “Mary, Mary, Mary…Roger here apparently wants to change our hours. Roger --- What time do you think we ought to start around here? 9:05? 9:11? Or perhaps it would be more to your liking if we started at 9:15?” Great stuff (and a wonderful illustration of how important being on time was to the Morgan Studio model.
Mary Mary
Mary Evers was chief administrator at Morgan Studio and Mary Morgan was my mom. Both Marys figured in the success formula and support network of Mr. Morgan. Not surprisingly, Roger and the employees liked to speculate and imagine a more salacious bond between the Mary and Jim at work. Roger was more than a bit amused to learn that mom would sometimes refer to the studio’s Mary as “twinkletoes.” The dynamics of women in my father’s life is the subject of a much longer discussion. Suffice it to say both Marys were incredible and indispensible.
A Big Car and a Boatride
Roger reported an incidence that began one day at work with Jim Morgan waving to Roger with his thumb gesturing to follow him and waving others in the shop to follow him. The employees did not know where they were going as they followed the leader. They found themselves in front of the Caxton Building where my mom’s White Lincoln Continental was waiting for them. At dad’s urging they piled into the car and he drove them to the 9th street pier where dad’s boat, The Leprechaun, was waiting. Roger described a quick round trip to the five mile crib on Lake Erie and a return to work. According to Roger, “Jim said --- I just wanted you to see the boat you helped me buy.” 
Layouts and Humility
Roger described a Jim Morgan that could be both cruel and supportive. He offered an example of reviewing some layouts that he critiqued with a devastating rejection. “These are Nnnnothing,” Jim Morgan said.  This was near the end of his run at Morgan Studio --- Roger was at the end of his rope. He admitted to being angry and needing an hour or so to cool down. He threw and broke a small radio. Roger gathered the layouts and peeked in on my father at his drawing table to discover him smiling and offering . “You finally got mad about something.” It was as if the object of the game was not about design but passion. 

Roger, Thanks for sharing these stories. The best thing about our conversation (for me) is your comment at the end of the ninety minutes. You said, “I learned a lot from your father and the reason I am telling you these things is that I built my business based on the Morgan Studio model and I wanted to thank your father. Talking to his son is the next best thing.”


Sunday, November 22, 2015


I used to be a big deal;
Never had to pay for a meal;
Business prevailed almost on a whim;
Around the clock, fit and trim;
Looking good --- like it will last;
The future is bright with no regard for the past.

History repeats, but what do we learn?
Times change --- you continue to earn.
Myopia hits a blind spot and ka-boom.
Now who’s the smartest in the room?
Family, friends, and friends of friends everywhere;
You know who you are and you know that I care.

No frills, cheap thrills and all in retrospect;
The sun sets on a day and your own self respect;
The best of times were those with nothing at stake;
Philosophers dream but dreams do not make.
A wise man looks and is one who sees;
Blue skies and splashes of color in the trees.

Clarity of vision, simple, clean and crisp;
Proceed with caution but never without risk.
When there is a will of a way with some time to chill;
On this day I thank you, love you and admire you still.
The best is yet to come --- The best and then some; 
For now, cherish the moment for your day will come.
Fast forward if you must.
In G-d we trust.
Remember quality is in the journey --- In how we proceed.
Be calm and confident and you will always lead.
Generation gaps quickly merge as time slips away.
But please smell the flowers along the way.

It's not how you arrive;
It is great to be alive.
It is not what you have, but what you do;
Make a difference --- it doesn’t matter who.
Let it be --- Roll the dice.
Together now --- isn’t that so nice?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Exploring Art in Iowa

A weekend road trip of 800+ miles on October 10-11, 2015 from St. Louis to Des Moines and Davenport (IA) and back with six passionate art fans looking to put their association with the Laumeier Sculpture Park into a kind of perspective is sure to be an eclectic collection of people. So we were: Shown above (l. to r).at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park flanking Paul Kasal – our expert and awesome docent wearing a t-shirt with the apt advertising claim“Entirely Unexpected” are Maureen Jennings, Melissa Loraine Stone, Ann Baur and Wes Morgan, Liz Murphy and Hank Baur .

The weekend included three wonderful art experiences hosted by expert docents in Des Moines and a first rate academic from the University of Iowa at the Figge in Davenport. We filled gaps in our itinerary with meal occasions,lost car keys,smart phone misdirections and periodic absent-mindedness but overall we feel like we enjoyed a huge dose of unexpected excellence, representative art and a few smiles.     
JOHN & MARY PAPPAJOHN SCULPTURE PARK - Located within a major crossroads of the urban grid in downtown Des Moines the park is in an accessible setting with a skilled landscape design. It is unlike any other sculpture park in the United States. Paul, our docent introduced us to more than two dozen stunning examples of world class public art.
DES MOINES ART CENTER - Recognized by international art critics as a world-class museum has a noteworthy art collection and boasts an outstanding collection of architecture too. Three architects collaborated in the design of the museum, Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei and Richard Meier. We were treated to a wonderful stroll from gallery space to gallery space and delighted by the unexpected excellence of significant works that felt as leisurely as leafing through a folio that might accompany a brilliantly planned overview of the history of modern and contemporary art.  

FIGGE ART MUSEUM University of Iowa Museum of Art curator Kimberly Datchuck assured us of a tight presentation of a special exhibition entitled Exploring the Demimonde: Sin and Temptation at the fin-de-si├Ęcle. She smoothly walked us through the special exhibition leaving time for our crew to also take in the permanent collection. A bonus: The Figge landmark glass building in Davenport, IA on the banks of the Mississippi was designed by British architect David Chipperfield.


Keith Harring at Sculpture Park, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) at Des Moines Art Center, Nomade by Jaume Plensa at the Sculpture Park, Liz Murphy in front of a Mark Rothko at the Des Moines Art Center and Sol LeWitt at the Figge Art Museum

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Meditation of Presence

Carts & Cocktails 2015

Tree Dancers, Tree Bands, Music and the Fine Art Center at Laumeier Sculpture Park

Executive Director, Marilu Knode knew, in the mix of so much activity around the capital campaign, the renovation of the estate house and the building of the brand new Fine Art Center --- that to pull off another ambitious blockbuster fundraiser evening event would be a gamble. And yet September 26, 2015 was a glorious evening at the Sunset Hills living laboratory where artists and audiences explore the relationship between contemporary art and the natural environment.

Special Events Committee Co-Chairs Susan Werrenmeyer and Sam Foxman planned a progressive evening in three stations that would unfold during the course of the night. A natural place to start is just off the back porch of the place Henry and Matilda Laumeier once called home. Under paper lanterns, the guests gathered, enjoying the first round of appetizers, wine and signature beverages. Only a hint of a soft breeze of Fall was in the air when museum curator Dana Turkovic announced a dance performance by Holly and David Marchant. The cocktail conversation died down as the attention drifted skyward as the Zen-like movements in a treetop. David moved lightly through the branches and returned to earth as a natural creature helped direct the focus to his partner closer to the base of another nearby tree. It was mesmerizing.

30 captivating minutes closed with a calmness that yielded to applause as the shuttle carts arrived on cue for transport through the park and into the woods where music by the Bottoms Up Blues Gang performed inside the Beverly Pepper earthwork, Cromlech Glen, under a still black sky. Another ephemeral experience diffused as the progressive evening moved to a finale at the Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center.



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Labadie Gems

Wolf Hollow is far away but close in a way too. Their website claims they are a St. Louis hidden gem – a golf course designed by Mother Nature. Well sure, it follows that mom would want her kids to have fun but with the requisite challenges. Our foursome on this, the best weather day of the entire summer, is an all-star cast (if I’m the one doing the casting). So it begins - we find our way to Labadie, MO.

Dave Cox – Cast as my bestest friend. Why? Well all my bestest friends since I was in high school have been called Dave. So I can tell a story of nearly any important period in my life that begins with: So my friend Dave and I...  Also because Dave is an incredibly good sport when he is inexplicably the target of my convoluted jokes.

Tom Shaughnessy – The Journeyman software specialist is perhaps the most fun guy in the world to traverse a challenging golf course. Tom’s wife says he likes the game because it is like a five-hour math problem. I love riding in a cart with him because he shows me how to use that part of my brain. Not because I ever will, but because I like knowing there might be potential there.

Mike Malloy – Filling in for our regular band-mate Rowdy Jones, Mike demonstrates how the game can be played almost effortlessly. And who knew? He’d come up with cigars and salami sandwiches. Mike thinks of everything. And by the way, thanks for the lesson Mike.

Wes Morgan – Starring role? Well sure. It’s all about me. I chose the venue (by virtue of my winning ticket from a PTO fundraiser last winter). As team captain, I get to make unilateral decisions for the group, even though I am easily the worst player. God forbid the conversation drifts in favor of anyone else. I simply introduce a subject more squarely about me. It’s good to be King.

It all adds up to a few laughs and a spectacular day – this last day in July 2015. I’d give the reader a hole-by-hole account but in the interest of brevity, I think I’ll just share a few highlights. So, my friend Dave is telling himself not to decelerate when chipping some delicate shots around the green only to sky it from where he dropped (out of the woods) into the sand bunker on the other side. On the very next hole, as if never troubled by adversity, he executes a sand bunker shot like a PGA pro to within inches of jarring it. Malloy was textbook and followed the strategy I proposed at the beginning of the round. “Hit Fairways. Hit Greens. Make Putts. Beat Dave.” Shaughnessy was Shaughnessy – Parabola graphing quadratic equations and calculating triangulations of possible putts and yet missing a few. It’s way funnier to see a guy fail after intense scrutiny than to watch a guy step up and knock one in as if by pure luck.

I was excellent as usual. 

Group shot selfie by Tom Shaughnessy - "Friends of Bobby Jones" (c) 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Scouts on Tour

Another tour is scheduled. Seven Girl Scouts and their chaperones (four moms no doubt) are ready for an activity but being together as friends is really what they are up to. From the start the laid back scouts are at home. They are on the patio of the Laumeier estate house and are ready for whatever. I heard one of the girls say that she knew one of her friends was born in 2002. (It startles me to realize 6-7th graders may have no memory of where they were when 9-11 happened). They got a tour that leads them to the Tree Tent, The Way field, Recess and more.

We ended up at Ferrara's site specific piece when one of the moms asked about the pool complex. The group gets a second wind and enjoys the triangular bridge, redwood one, reading room and Beverly Pepper's earthwork. Another group recognizes the jewel we have in our region – Laumeier Sculpture Park. The adults are reacquainted and the kids are introduced to something they may remember for years to come. (I hope so.)

“Now your homework is to write a 1,000 word paper of at least 4 pages.” I concluded with the scouts. Not missing a beat one of the girls envisions the headline of her assignment beginning with “Art is Cool.” I think they get it.