Involved at every level
The list of local organizations to which Abe and Marian Silver have offered their support as volunteers, board members, trustees, donors, and officers is a long one. Abe Silver Jr., a sports writer and golf editor for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans when he met his future wife, moved to Santa Fe after the Korean War. Marian Silver grew up in Santa Fe. Her grandparents opened the department store The Guarantee Shop on the Plaza in 1912, the year New Mexico became a state. After spending time in New Orleans, where Marian went to school, and in Virginia, where Abe trained pilots at Langley Air Force Base, the couple came to live in Santa Fe and took over the operation of the store.
Abe joined the board of directors at Santa Fe Opera in 1960. “I’ve known Charles MacKay [the opera’s general director] since he was a small child,” he said in an interview at the couple’s home. MacKay is a Santa Fe native. “I’ve worked with three directors, but it was Gaddes [Richard Gaddes, MacKay’s predecessor] who had a love-hate relationship with me and my wardrobe.”
“He wore loud, ruffled shirts with his tux,” Marian said. On a recent trip to Russia, Silver proudly purchased a dozen white shirts. “On sale, with ham- mer and sickles embroidered on them,” Abe said. He called Gaddes to give him the news.
Marian has worked with the Museum of New Mexico Foundation board for more than 25 years. “When I started, there was a staff of two,” she said.
Although much has changed in Santa Fe over the years, including the closing of the family’s store in 1988 — “We were ready to retire,” Abe said — the couple said that it gives them great pleasure to see the way the arts have blossomed here.
Marian has been involved with the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation for years. Abe was chairman of the board of the Bank of Santa Fe and has served for several years as a regent for the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro — “a wonderful, magnificent school,” he said. “A best-kept secret.”
The Silvers were involved with the founding of Temple Beth Shalom, and they work with the Boys and Girls Club and the New Mexico Governor’s Mansion Foundation. Marian was appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson to chair the New Mexico Coin Commission, which selected the image to represent the state on the redesigned U.S. quarter. The Silvers were chosen as Santa Fe Living Treasures in 2008. They continue to support many other arts groups.
“It’s getting involved and staying involved,” Abe said, explaining the pair’s modus operandi. “I never went to school for leadership,” Marian said, “but if you’re passionate about something, it’s easy.”
The Silvers have three children, all of whom live in Santa Fe. When the couple are traveling, they love to tell people in airports that they are going home to Santa Fe. Abe said that they often hear “oh, you lucky stiffs” from people who are “on their way back to Detroit or Cleveland.”
The Silvers said they plan to be scalping tickets outside the St. Francis Auditorium before the presentation ceremony for the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts, because everybody in Santa Fe will want to come see Robert Redford.
“I’ve heard he looks a little older, though,” Marian said.