Rose-Mary Rumbley is the best speaker in North Texas bar none.
She doesn't have a Web site. Does zero marketing. She's never been to a National Speakers Association meeting.
Yet if you ask any active woman in North Texas who they love to hear, the answer is always the same:
She speaks 600 times a year.
She's almost 80 years old.
She's been doing it for more than 40 years.
I speak about 100 times a year, too, and I can't keep up with her!
— vicburkhammer (@vicburkhammer) March 18, 2015
Dallas is home to about 75 “book review” clubs, more book clubs than any city in America. These clubs are decades old, traditional and fun. The ladies meet each month to hear a guest speaker “review” a book, which usually involves some kind of dramatic performance on behalf of the book. The sky is the limit when it comes to options.
Rumbley speaks each year before almost every one of the 75 – the only reviewer to do so – plus she pulls in another 500 speeches everywhere she can. She averages two a day.
She estimates that she has written and performed hundreds of hours of material. Each year she comes up with a new Christmas show.
She's written four books about Dallas history and Texas foods. She's was a prominent speech and drama teacher at Dallas Baptist University. Plus, she's got more firepower, brain power and passion power than just about any speaker you ever saw.
Sadly, her husband, Jack, of 56 years, passed away on Dec. 30. He played kettle drum in the Fort Worth Symphony at Ball Hall and was a renowned musician for decades.
When I called her the other day to check these facts, I caught her, of course, between engagements.
“Today I've been to Sherman and then to a retirement center. I'll teach an hour and a half of speech at the 4th grade at West Dallas Community School. Then I'll be at St. John's Episcopal Church, and I'll drive to Austin to speak to the Knife and Fork Club. Then I'll rush back.”
She continued, “I have a brand new speech tomorrow for the Episcopalians. Their theme was walking. I'm doing ‘Walking to Heaven.' It's a brand new one. I hope it goes.”
It will. I saw her recently at Rhea Crane Reading Club, a 50-year-old club that meets in Farmers Branch. Her talk was called “Etta and Ebby.” She explained that one day she was reading my newspaper, the Star-Telegram, and saw two stories side by side. One was about Etta Place, the girlfriend of the Sundance Kid. The other was about Ebby Halliday, the legendary Dallas Realtor about to celebrate her 100th birthday at the Super Bowl next year.
Rumbley thought, “What if I put them together?” Turns out, they both have a lot in common, including fake names. By the time Rumbley was done roaring through her rendition of Fort Worth history and cowboys and outlaws and newspapers and music, I learned more about my city in an hour than I have in the 17 years I've lived here.
Rose-Mary Rumbley is the best. Six hundred audiences a year know that.
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