Tamara Rogers Cartwright
Tamara Rogers Cartwright, a beloved and exuberant supporter of the arts in Austin for more than 40 years, died Tuesday, February 12. She was 69. The cause was breast cancer
, first diagnosed in 1995. As development director at various times for the historic Paramount Theatre, Ballet Austin and KLRU public television, Tam's efforts set a new standard for fundraising among the city's leading cultural organizations. She organized hundreds of social events and raised millions of dollars in donations from business leaders and individuals. Her warmth and intelligence, her beauty and boundless energy were irresistible to all. The oldest of seven children, Tam was raised by her mother and stepfather, Carol and Philip Babin of Beaumont, and her maternal grandmother, Grace Avant of Port Arthur. A Theatre major (French Language minor) at the University of Texas at Austin, Tam married while she was an undergraduate. She raised two children, Melissa and Matthew, whom she adored. An imaginative working mother, Tam delighted in introducing her children to the creative, lively world she embraced: music and dance performances, art and natural science exhibits, gardening, literature, design and cuisine. At their house on Vista Lane classical music or jazz often played in the background while Tam, a marvelous and accomplished cook who ran a successful Austin party planning business for many years, bustled in the kitchen or darted outside to collect fresh herbs from her garden. She brought her remarkable joie de vivre to every task, every day. Nothing pleased Tam more than sharing: delicious food, a hilarious story (especially her version of it), a book she enjoyed, a social invitation to a newcomer, the Halloween fortunes she told visitors on her front porch (while in Madame Tamara Palm Reader costume), a bouquet of the antique roses she cultivated; all these became gifts, but of course the best gift was Tam herself. She was funny, affectionate and forgiving. Tam cared for generations of lucky dogs, rabbits and wild birds, and she charmed neighborhood kids, pals and suitors and anybody else who spent a few moments in her presence. Through the years, her children and their families; her devoted husband, John Rogers, who died in 2002; her dear friends, sisters and brothers; her nieces and nephews, and her faithful companion dogs, especially Cyrus, together formed a mainstay for Tam. She returned their love and support many times over. Tam's survivors include her daughter Melissa Whitaker; grandsons, Augustus Whitaker and Benjamin Whitaker, and their father Jeffrey Whitaker; her son Matthew Hooks and his wife Geraldine Hooks; granddaughter Chloe Hooks and grandson William Hooks; sisters, Molly Morse, Blythe Fiedler and Trilby Dickson, and brothers, Brian Babin, Philip Babin III, and Douglas Babin. Her family requests that in lieu of sending flowers, friends consider making a contribution in Tam's memory to Partnerships for Children or The Nature Conservancy, Austin Chapter. A memorial for Tam will be Friday, February 15, at 3 o'clock, at Mayfield Park and Preserve, in Austin.