Honoring 70 Years
By Loni Nannini
It’s history is 70-plus years in the making: Since 1950, the Silver & Turquoise Board of Hostesses has honored and supported the unique heritage of Tucson.
The group of prominent women, many whose families are interwoven through the historic fabric of the Old Pueblo for generations, holds a signature event each spring—the Silver & Turquoise Ball at the Arizona Inn. Since 1993, the board has gifted $800,000 to one of the most iconic symbols of the region’s history–the Mission San Xavier del Bac.
“The Board of Hostesses was actually created as an arm of the Tucson Festival Society to promote, support and encourage the preservation of Tucson’s historical traditions and diverse cultural heritage,” said Barbara Peck, an active hostess and the 2015 ball chair. “It is truly an honor to carry on the tradition established by these amazing women.”
Peck, a public relations consultant and one of the founders of LP & G Marketing in 1991, is in good company. Early hostesses included Isabella Greenway, founder of the Arizona Inn and the state’s first U.S. congresswoman; Aurora Patania, jewelry designer and wife of the legendary silver and turquoise jeweler Frank Patania; Abbey Grunewald of Grunewald and Adams Jewelers; and Viola and Peggy Steinfeld, whose family owned downtown landmarks such as Steinfeld’s department store and the Pioneer Hotel.
Today’s roster of active and honorary hostesses includes many other names synonymous with the progress of Tucson itself, including Almquist, Amos, Clements, Click, Drachman, Lovitt, Lyons, Ronstadt, Stilb, Sundt and Touché.
The Silver & Turquoise Ball has become the black-tie gala that caps off the spring season with distinctive old-world Southwestern elegance. This May, the group held its 70th anniversary ball, co-chaired by Amy Bhola and Tara Kirkpatrick, which was delayed two years because of the pandemic.
The roots of the ball are signature Tucson: It originated as a potluck thank-you for volunteers of the now-defunct Tucson Festival Society, which staged events such as Pioneer Days, La Parada de los Niños and the Children’s Writing and Art Festival. When the potluck was disrupted by an untimely rainstorm, the event was moved to the Arizona Inn at the urging of Greenway. It has remained there ever since.
Before 1993, the Board of Hostesses’ proceeds went back to the Tucson Festival Society, but that year the board voted to distinguish itself from the society and gift its proceeds to the restoration efforts of the mission. That gift has since averaged about $30,000 each year.
“Tucson has such an important and rich history and culture. It makes our community such a wonderful place to live. For the hostesses, the ball is a highlight of the year. It is a special time to celebrate our unique heritage,” said Peck.
That appreciation is at the heart of the group’s gifts to the mission, located at 1950 W. San Xavier Rd. in the Tohono O’odham Reservation’s San Xavier District. Founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692, the mission is renowned as the finest example of Mexican Baroque architecture and art in the nation.
“The mission is the oldest European-inspired building in the state and one of the first to be designated as a National Historic Landmark,” said Miles Green, executive director of Patronato San Xavier, a nonprofit dedicated to the ethical conservation and preservation of the mission. “It is a very special place that continues to be an active parish serving the native people for whom it was built. It has a very special aura. For many people, there is something very moving about the church that is more than just its history.”
Green said the Board of Hostesses has been among the largest supporters of the Patronato over the last three decades. The gifts have been instrumental in all major projects ranging from the initial cleaning of interior artwork by Italian conservators and work on the ceiling of the Chapel and the Baptistry to conservation and preservation of the West Tower, the Sacristy Arcade and the recently completed East Tower.
“Donations from the Board of Hostesses have played a significant part in being able to move forward with all of those projects,” he said. “The mission has no sustaining support from religious or government entities, so we rely on organizations like the Board of Hostesses to partner with us in recognition that this building is probably the most deserving within our state for the kind of conservation work we are doing.”
The Patronato is preparing to launch two major projects in the next two years, including cleaning and conserving the interior artwork of the dome and work on the iconic facade, which will mark the first major conservation work in that area since the 1950s.
Peck, who also sits on the board of directors for the Patronato, said that the Board of Hostesses takes great pride in contributing to the mission’s conservation.
“This is a global treasure that has been placed on the World Monument Fund Watchlist. It is visited annually by over 200,000 visitors and pilgrims and is really a light to the world,” said Peck.
Because of the Board of Hostesses’ long history here, carrying its legacy forward is a priority, said Lori Carroll, who will chair the 71st anniversary ball on May 6, 2023.
“Tucson is really a special community and this is a unique group with so much insight into the area’s history,” said Carroll, founder of Lori Carroll & Associates, one of the region’s pre-eminent interior design firms. “They are accomplished, talented women with amazing backgrounds who work very hard, just like the members of so many other committees and groups in town. It is an honor to work with them and I hope I can meet their standards.”
Added Peck, “We are all so grateful to be part of this tradition and we feel a sense of responsibility to carry it forward for future generations.”
Pictured above from left: Amy Bhola, co-chair of the 2022 Silver & Turquoise Ball; Tara Kirkpatrick, co-chair of the 2022 Silver & Turquoise Ball; and Lori Carroll, chair of the 2023 Silver & Turquoise Ball