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There were loads of fans in the audience of 425, each paying $250 to attend “From the Heart. For the Heart,” a luncheon featuring former first lady Laura Bush to raise money for Nanticoke Memorial Hospital’s new cardiac catheterization lab. The event took place June 26 at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
Tickets were a Mother’s Day gift to Sharpy McFaul of Felton, “I try to give her something different every year,” said daughter Elayne Starkey of Millsboro. Sharpy hadn’t seen a first lady in person since she bumped into Jackie Kennedy at Hotel du Pont in the 1960s. “Jackie was beautiful,” she says. “That bouffant hair.”
The Nanticoke event included a display of scarlet frocks worn by celebrities as part of the “Heart Truth Red Dress” campaign to raise awareness of heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. Bush is the group’s founding ambassador. Among the dresses was a Carmen Marc Valvo design worn by newswoman Katie Couric, a Kenneth Cole for Emmy Lou Harris and a Christian Siriano dress inspired by our own Valerie Bertinelli. (Siriano was a winner of TV’s “Project Runway.”)
They weren’t the only outfits turning heads. Amy Norgate, the svelte general manager of Tanger Outlet Center in Rehoboth Beach, looked smashing in a rouge sheath that might have been inspired by a young Audrey Hepburn.
Bush wore a pink suit and a Texas-wide smile. She carried the Laura Bush bobble-head she picked up at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia—from the clearance shelf. She’s charming and funny, though her message was serious: Women show different signs of heart attack than men do.
It pains Gabby to tell you that our state ranks 43 out of 50 states in deaths from heart disease. Delaware women are more likely to smoke, be obese or have diabetes than the average American gal.
Our first lady, Carla Markell, gave the invocation before diners tucked into a heart-healthy green salad. Markell wore a sleeveless sheath in blue, Bush’s favorite color. Rosalie Houlihan of Salisbury, Md., brought her copy of “From the Heart,” Bush’s memoir. “Her book was much better than her husband’s,” she said. “She’s a teacher, so she relates well.” Judith Rippert, a cardiologist from Dover, agreed. “She’s a beautiful lady, very gracious and down to earth.”