Savannah Foundation Annual Gala at Victory North


Lesley Francis, Sue Adler, Ryan Jarles, Colleen Reynolds

In their mission to preserve and protect Savannah’s rich heritage, the Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) hosted their annual gala at Victory North on Saturday, October 22.

With perfect weather for the courtyard cocktail hour, I arrived to find Lesley Francis and her efficient PR team waiting with HSF’s Sue Adler, Ryan Jarles and Colleen Reynolds. Knowing that Sue is finishing up last minute details for tonight’s 200 guests, I quickly snap a pic of them before heading over to meet Ron Melander’s crew of tuxedo-clad men.

Asking Richard and Micheal Merrill, Dwight Horn, Jordan Gray, Micheal Massette and Joe Rogers to surround my longtime friend, I tell Ron that his group of sharp-dressed men could grace the cover of a fashion magazine before heading over to meet glamorous Pam Miller and her son Mitch Durden.

Next is Savannah Repertory’s talented Ryan McCurdy and Katie Schmitz, another sighting of Lowell and Hilary Kronowitz with Joe Marinelli photo-bombing their pic, followed by a photo of the perennially young-looking Corey Jones with his wife Emily. 

While congratulating Corey on his speech at the Savannah Chamber of Commerce Awards last week, I see Dana and Brad Whitfield arrive with Tim and Alison Walmsley. Always curious on what people do for fun, I learn that Judge Walmsley loves to shoot sporting clays, Alison loves artwork, Dana enjoys pickleball and Brad is a devout reader. 

I knew that I was going to be bombarded with photo requests but I was not prepared for my next photo session with fashionista Hannah Bryne. Agreeing with Jennifer Abshire that her “Life Is Short, Get Divorced” business podcast partner, Hannah is the full package. I watch the international technology consultant twirl around in a black, fitted sequin dress like she is the belle of the ball!

On her arm is her dashing husband Brian. I’m not sure of how to describe my favorite Irishman, but wickedly funny, charismatic and a perfect mate for Hannah are the first three things I think of when I listen to him praise Hannah’s posing session with me!

Another reason I love this event so much is because I get to see people that I have formed great relationships with, like the indomitable Kathryn Murph. The hostess of the best Kentucky Derby in town and her husband David graciously open their three-story downtown pad to me and dozens of their best friends to a “party on the square” every year.

Looking like Southern royalty, Austin Hill saunters in with his signature fitted tuxedo. Who I think is Savannah’s best-looking builder, Danny Pinyan is being upstaged by his gorgeous wife Lisa; and looking resplendent in a dark blue royal gown is Marianne Greer. Pulling the Savannah realtor over for an introduction and photo with Austin, I move on to welcome Kentucky native and Connect Savannah publisher Erica Baskin.

I’m not sure what makes me happier, knowing that Erica is going to say something outrageous, seeing her husband Larry look all “GQ,” or seeing Charles Morris Sr. with his wife Rosalie, son Charles Hill Morris, Jr. and wife (and HSF Board of Trustees member) Louisa. After insisting on a pic with the senior Mr. Morris, I skip over to hug everyone, from Berkshire Hathaway’s Will Thuman, banking mogul Nick Harty, and dapper-dressed Leon Davenport with his wicked-cool wife Jennifer.

There she is! Petite and perfect Erin Clay has arrived with an entourage! The marketing executive of W Projects, a full service experiential Savannah marketing agency, tells me how much she loves working with Erin Wessling. “I get to work with people like Danny Pinyan and Cody Tharpe while working for a powerhouse like Erin … best job ever!,” shares Clay.

It’s definitely a night for real estate! There are so many local realtors here that I can’t keep up with who all is here. I just saw Three Oaks Realty’s Stephanie Wilson-Evans arrive, “Savannah Luxury Real Estate Pro” Liza DiMarco is looking like her normal glam self, and another Berkshire Hathaway beauty, Heather Booth has a real life boat captain on her arm!

Let’s chat about Matt Parrish real quick. The first time I met the laid-back captain was a few years ago for a drone photo shoot of Heather’s 52 foot “Starry Night” yacht. Fast forward to last week, where I ended up on her luxurious private charter for the Savannah Concierge Association social, and saw the blue jean and baseball cap clad captain chilling with a group of ladies. A week later, here he is all suited up and looking like a James Bond double agent!

It’s showtime! Inside the three-story entertainment venue, Sue Adler and Austin Hill take the stage to welcome Mayor Van Johnson to HSF’s largest fundraiser of the year. Loving their mission of saving buildings, places and stories that define Savannah past, present and future with their Revolving Fund, Affordable Housing Campaign and educational programs, I wish I could recruit every Savannahian into joining this small but mighty group of historic crusaders in their quest to preserve our magnificent city!