For years, philanthropist and civic leader Ruth Altshuler was saying Monday, the motto of residential real estate doyenne Ebby Halliday Acers was “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, and don’t retire.” But now, at the age of 104, the woman best known simply as Ebby has retired. That didn’t keep the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas from honoring her, though, with one of its “Decades of Distinction” awards during a luncheon at the Hilton Anatole yesterday. The award was presented by longtime United Way supporters Altshuler and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, a pair that riffed at times like George Burns and Gracie Allen—or Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper.
Warming up the crowd with some low-key banter, as is her style, Altshuler said that her co-presenter was “always ready to help” people and good causes. Retorted Staubach, “If you have 15 grand-kids, you have to get away.” Then he proceeded to “help” Altshuler find her place in the script, ad-libbing, “Roger won the Heisman. Roger won the …” When the laughter died down Altshuler turned serious, recalling that Halliday was “always positive, confident, visionary, and kind to everyone.” She first met Ebby 50 years ago when they went to the same manicurist, Altshuler went on, and her two brothers both died of pulmonary fibrosis—the same disease that took the life of Ebby’s husband, Maurice Acers, in 1993.
When the time came to hand over the Distinction award, it was accepted not by Halliday but by Mary Frances Burleson, the president and CEO of the Ebby Halliday Cos. Because Ebby has retired she couldn’t be there, Burleson explained, but she’d always supported the United Way, with each of the company’s many offices conducting an annual campaign and “trying to outdo each other.” There must have been a lot of outdoing going on, as the Ebby Halliday family of companies has given more than $1.4 million to United Way over time. Halliday herself is a founding member of the United Way’s Tocqueville Society—a special group for big givers—and served as its chair in 2000.