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Friends for Life

When your friends are family

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Sheila Neylon, Patricia Rorschach, Leanne Schneider, Leslee Murphy and Melinda Jackson

DINNER FOR YEARS Sheila Neylon, Patricia Rorschach, Leanne Schneider, Leslee Murphy and Melinda Jackson started their Supper In the City supper club years ago and are still going strong. Not pictured: Sharon Sousa. (Photo: Kara Trail)

The importance of friendship is real. And it’s more than having someone to pal around with and share a laugh. Friendship is actually essential to our health. 

Studies show that social isolation is worse for elderly people than diabetes or hypertension. Loneliness might trump the harmful effects of obesity or smoking almost a pack a day of cigarettes. 

Those are good reasons why we’re kicking off a series on friendship this month, profiling some very special friend groups who have connected in unique ways. Another reason? These stories of friendship are just plain fun. Here’s to our health!

Fifteen or so Christmases ago, Patricia Rorschach got together for lunch with her Stephen F. Austin sorority sister Sharon Sousa and Sharon’s high school friend Leslee Murphy. It was then that the threesome made a New Year’s resolution that would last longer than anyone anticipated. They were going to get together more often. 

“We decided to start a small supper club,” Patricia says. “It was when Sex in the City was popular, so we named it ‘Supper in the City.’”

They recruited three more friends: Melinda Jackson, who went to UT with Leslee and was also Patricia’s neighbor; Sheila Neylon, who worked with Patricia in sales at Oracle, and with Patricia and Leslee volunteering at the Junior League; and Leanne Schneider, who lived with Sheila – and whose husband’s ex-girlfriend was Leslee’s best friend.

“We just had all these criss-crossing mutual friends, and we were all in Houston,” Patricia says. “We married around the same time and had children the same ages. It was natural for us to get together.” The friends’ children now range from high school seniors to eighth graders.

Supper in the City started as a monthly get-together at the friends’ homes. “We’d have it at a house and rotate,” Patricia says. “When you’d come, the host did everything – cook, clean up. You just got to be a guest. The ones who like to cook got to try out new recipes, and the ones who didn’t would get takeout from a fun restaurant.” 

Once school and sports schedules entered the friends’ lives, they decided to keep meeting, but to do it at restaurants. Now, the host chooses the meeting place. “Sharon is in the Heights with all those fun, new places and will always pick something hip and trendy,” Patricia says.

The key to keeping the group together is calendaring. “With different schedules it’s so hard. But if we put it on our calendars, we’ll see each other.

“In the time we’ve been doing this, we’ve all been there when we’ve given birth; some of us have lost parents. We talk about everything from raising kids, to getting in college, to what it was like when we were in college, to aging parents. Some of the boys have ADHD, so we’ll commiserate about that, and we’ll talk about the drama of girls. All these commonalities. It’s kind of like therapy. We even have a group chat where we can say, ‘Okay, I need a plumber!’”

With kids beginning to graduate, the next evolution of Supper in the City is on the horizon. “We want to do bingo, and we want to go to a cooking class,” Patricia says, planning for the future.

Lana Rigsby and John Powell

LIFETIME OF FRIENDSHIPS Lana Rigsby and John Powell have been gathering on Labor Day weekend with the same group of friends for the past 30 or so years.

In 1982, a year after they’d graduated from college, Lana Rigsby and John Powell were among four couples who gathered at a fishing camp in Rockport for Labor Day weekend. The weekend had been a wedding gift to one of the couples, and Lana says it turned into a party. “It was so much fun,” she says, “we decided to do it every year.”

That was the start of a longstanding Labor Day tradition that’s seen its way through life’s stages. “It was a party right after college, then it was all about kids, now it’s just this wonderful communion of old, old friends,” Lana says. 

Over the years, the group determined that, counting children, significant others, family and friends, there have been more than 150 people who’ve converged either in Rockport or Camp Davis for Labor Day (the venue shifts between the two). “Some years we’d rent boats and go out sailing, or we’d have Rockport Beach Olympics and give out prizes. Some years we’d go up to the Pecos wilderness and hike and ride horses,” Lana says. 

The group started a notebook, where they recorded who had come each year along with questions and answers like, “What would you have for dinner on the last night of the earth?”

Looking back, they can see that dinner right out of college would have been a six-pack of Shiner and chili cheeseburgers in New Mexico, and somewhere in those 30-plus years it shifted to caviar and iced vodka in New York.

They also have a 20th anniversary group photo book. “There are drawings that the kids did when they were little, photos of us all in bikinis right after college. We can trace the story of our lives,” Lana says. 

Lana, a designer, drew a chart detailing the “original four” and the 150 or so who came after, and with whom. It’s quite big, and complicated when you consider that it traces the appearances of girlfriends and boyfriends, spouses, cooks and even horses.

“We’ve missed the last four years because of [daughter Annie’s] club soccer,” Lana says. “There’s always a tournament on Labor Day. Everybody’s mad at us for letting something come between us and Labor Day.”

That’s okay, because even without Labor Day, the friendships will endure. “When I’m 95, I’m sure I’ll still be friends with this group,” Lana says. And by then, she won’t have to worry about the club soccer schedule.

Editor’s note: Do you live in The Buzz Magazines’ circulation area and have a tale of friendship that we all need to hear about? Email [email protected].

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