SocialMiami Remembers: Myrna Palley

July 1934 to June 2020

“We are investing for a better tomorrow,” are the words of Myrna Palley, the Miami-based philanthropist who passed away peacefully at home last week. Both Palley and her husband of almost 65 years, Sheldon Palley unabashedly give support wherever it is needed, especially to the arts and to artists, be it to dancers, visual artists, actors or musicians. “Money should be spread around, you can’t take it with you,” she would say.

Palley was an active member of the community, involved for the past 50 plus years with several organizations, as a founding member and benefactor, working tirelessly  to raise money for them. Such organizations include New World School for the Arts, The Education Fund, and at the University of Miami- the Lowe Art Museum and the Ring Theatre. Early in her career, she taught art in the Miami Dade County Public School system.

She had been honored by New World School of the Arts, University of Miami, The Education Fund, and the Leave a Legacy Foundation. She was a recipient of several awards, including the Bank of America “Cultural Award”, the 2007 Red Cross “Sara Hopkins Woodruff Spectrum Award for Women”, the “2008 Shining Star Award” by the Arts & Business Council, the “Champion of Public Education Award” by the Education Fund,  the “Lalique Award Builder of Arts” presented by the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, and in 2012, with her daughter Lisa a “Women of Distinction” by Plaza Health Network.

Palley has served as a judge for the Coconut Grove Arts Show, the Palm Beach Fine Craft Show, childrens’ art exhibits sponsored by the Beaux Arts at the Lowe Art Museum and The Education Fund. Myrna was also a steering committee for “Chihuly at Fairchild” and served as a board member of The Education Fund, the New World School of the Arts and the Friends of Art at the Lowe Art Museum. She and her husband Sheldon underwrite the Palley Glass Award for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.

Studio art glass collectors since the 70s, Myrna and Sheldon Palley donated their collection of over 300 pieces in 2007 to the Lowe Art Museum on the University of Miami campus, now housed in The Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts. In addition, they founded “Miami Hot” and they serve on the advisory committee of the school’s Art Glass program. At the Ring Theatre, they support the work of the musical theatre students by sharing the productions with friends, raising money on their behalf, providing scholarships and serving on the Board of Directors.

Lisa Palley and her mother Myrna Palley at the 2012 Women of Distinction and Caring Luncheon at the Intercontinental hotel

The Palleys are also founding members of National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts (now known as Young Arts) and the New World School of the Arts, of which Myrna is a Foundation Board Member. In addition, they helped found the Miami International Film Festival (now known as Miami Film Festival.)

Palley was born in Jersey City, NJ, growing up in Union City, before moving to Coral Gables as a rising junior, and enrolling at Miami High. She attended University of Miami, where she graduated with a degree in Art. It was at the University of Miami, where she met Sheldon, the roommate of her best friend  boyfriend.

She greeted every day with passion, utilizing the hours to make changes in the lives of people, whether she knew them or not. Be it purchasing a pair of glasses for a young talented high school dancer at New World School of the Arts or donating a set of furniture to students studying at the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet School, or making hone calls connecting people who should know and work together to the simple and beautiful act of writing a check.

She also took immense pleasure in reading the New York Times Book Review, doing the daily puzzles in The Miami Herald, and visiting the library several times a week picking up reserved books, as well as gardening- spending hours upon hours tending to her orchids, Amarylys, herbs, snake plants, creepers, African violets.

During the summer she would don a headband and an apron to spend hours putting up the mangoes her seven trees beared; standing over the sink she peeled and pitted before she dried, pureed, and sliced mangoes for her family and friends to enjoy year round- in the form of leather, chunks for making chutney, Mango Sheldoncocktail, and her famous and the very popular-with-the-family Mango Dump Cake. Palley also loved trying new places for dinner with friends, taking her children and grandchildren shopping, traveling around the world by car, ship, or plane to shop, antique, attend glass conferences, and meet people. Her creativity was boundless, seeing the plainest of things as expressions of beauty. Myrna’s lust for life was unparalleled, attracting people to her like the sun.

Palley has three children: Lisa Palley; Donna Kass and Kevin Palley; and she was the grandmother of Jordan, Alyssa and Brenna Kass; and Nathan and Amanda Palley.

— written by Lisa Palley

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