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Jenny Lea's Story

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They were raised in North Dallas by a fierce mama lion, a high-minded woman who made 'em toe the line. Thus, with apologies to the troubadour, explains the progeny of Jenny Lea Mathews Allison, who arrived in Dallas in 1938 with steely determination and stenographer skills to become the materfamilias raison d'etre of a small tribe of achievers (three with Harvard degrees) who made their marks, or are doing so, in medicine, publishing, education, entertainment, law, and business.

Her meticulously acquired Dallas elegance camouflaged character-forging memories of a three-year-old whose father rushed her and her family into a Mills County storm shelter just before the tornado flattened their farm house, of tubercular winter months living in a tent, of the half-sister in World War I nurses uniform embarking for Europe and returning with loss of hearing from frontline bombardment, of a girlhood in which the odor of the coyote carcasses her father, a government trapper, would supply to a Fort Worth furrier wafted through her Cisco home, of teenage agony as her young mother was dying of consumption, of an awakening awareness to the reason people called her "pretty Jenny Lea," even though she beat most boys at tennis.

Wisely, on a crucial evening in mid-1938 while playing at the Preston Hollow tennis courts, she was careful not to embarrass the young man who asked her and her partner to join him and a friend in mixed doubles, for in matter of months this young man, Lodowick Brodie Cobb Allison, namesake of a famous judge, son of a prominent Corsicana cotton merchant who was a founding contributor to SMU, and nephew of one of the four founders of Lone Star Gas Company, invited her to be part of his large and prominent family.

He would be her supervening lifetime passion, both during their lives together and following his untimely death in 1976. While he completed his education and launched his CPA career, she assumed the major load of raising their two sons. When he was Executive Director of the Texas Society of CPAs Executive Director, she was the model hostess. When he switched to the Republican Party, she became the key headquarters volunteer in Bruce Alger's improbable campaign to become the second Republican Congressman from the South since Reconstruction. When he served as a Steward of University Park Methodist Church, she taught Sunday School. When he established his own CPA practice, she became his administrator and promoter, working with him enthusiastically in a deliberate and successful effort to build a client base from the multi-ethnic businesspersons and entrepreneurs then beginning to arrive in Dallas. During the forty-one years she survived him, she remained his loyal helpmate, dedicated to ensuring that their two sons, six grandchildren, and six great grandchildren earned lives worthy of his legacy.

In her waning years, surrounded by various titles of the D Magazine empire and other evidences that she had done her job well, her thoughts returned to the foundations that shaped her, to her mother and the athletic Leas, whose American roots reach back to New Amsterdam, to the struggles of her father, who, still vigorous at seventy-four, died in a head-on collision driving to west Texas on government assignment to kill coyotes, to Blanche, her older sister, a Dallas business legend in her own right, and to her younger brother Buster, who died too young from the malaria he had contracted while slogging through the wartime New Guinea jungle, to the mesquite and cactus and scorching summers, to snuff-taking women and whisky-damned men, to the simplicity and faith, the utter faith in the ineffable, best represented by an old rugged cross mounted in that mythical Church in the Wildwood.
Published on June 27, 2017
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