Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Memory of Victor Joris

There are some people who come into your life and are so alive, so ageless, so wonderful that they seem immortal. One of those people was Victor Joris.

Dog people will know Victor as a breeder of beautiful Shih Tzu and the author of the ultimate breed books on Shih Tzu. Others will remember him as a respected AKC Judge. He was, in fact, the first person to judge Havanese at Progressive Dog Club's Specialty Show in New York the year the breed was accepted into the AKC's Toy Group. The Toy Dog Club's show takes place every year the Friday before Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. For years Victor and I would meet in New York and we made sure to spend time together, usually at ringside during judging. I was dashing around getting stories, in and out of the press room and some of the sky boxes at Madison Square Garden.  Seeing Victor was always a breath of fresh air. He was the epitome of the expression: Southern Gentleman.

He was incredibly knowledgable when it came to dogs and he earned my respect long before we met. I distinctly remember watching him judge at Springfield (MA) before we met. I wished I had the nerve to walk up and introduce myself to him but, alas, that took a courage that I lacked at the time. I'm just so glad that we did meet. But I think of the time lost...

Then there was Victor Joris, the two-time Coty Award Winning Fashion Designer. He had worked in Hollywood before he had his own line of clothes and a celebrity clientele list as long as your arm. The name Victor Joris was synonymous with classic, stunning clothes with great attention to detail. He also designed for other fashion houses so you might have purchased something he created without ever knowing it.

I remember during one conversation I was lamenting the fact that I had finally given away the first pantsuit I'd ever owned. It was timeless, with classic lines and in the most stunning shade of grape/wine. Victor listened to me wax poetic about it, telling him the name of the manufacturer, and then quietly told me, "I designed it."  I should have known.

Victor was a remarkable artist who, every year, sketched the ladies at Westminster in their finery for a magazine and then the sketches were auctioned off to benefit a charity.  Imagine my surprise and delight when he sent me the sketch that, unbeknownst to me, he had done of me the first time I emceed The Show Dogs of The Year Awards. He said he hoped I didn't mind but he'd taken artistic license and sketched strappy sandals instead of the more practical shoes I'd been wearing to stand all night. The sketch, with Victor's permission, is on the home page of my website (http://www.darlenearden.com).  It was one of many things he sent me over the years, things that I will always treasure. But more, I treasure his friendship.

He told me stories of his fashion shows, of his dogs, of his adventures in Hollywood and Europe. He had long since retired and returned to his boyhood home in Louisiana but was still active in the dog fancy, although no longer breeding. He was judging and working with his local all-breed dog club.

He had been in and out of the hospital lately. Sometimes e-mails would stop for a bit and then they'd start again. I worried about him but the thought never crossed my mind that my dear friend wouldn't be here. And then, two evenings ago, I received an e-mail from a man who signed after his name, Executor, informing me that Victor Joris had died on Tuesday. I was beyond stunned. How could this be? He was quiet for several days but surely I would hear from him soon. How can the world keep turning without that sweet, wonderful man?  Sadly, we're about to find out.

Victor Joris will always live in a very special corner of my heart.  Goodbye, my friend. May you rest in peace.

8 comments:

Rhonda said...

Beautiful words.

Darlene Arden said...

Thank you. I miss him. And there is so much more I could have said...

Steve Larson said...

Beautifully put. I was one of the lucky ones who knew Victor too. Peggy Easton introduced me to him. He was a kind, intelligent, caring individual.

Darlene said...

Thank you, Steve, for taking time to comment. I'm so glad to hear from someone else who knew Victor. Yes, he was everything you said he was and so much more. We were, indeed, lucky to have known him.

steve larson said...

It was a bit of a shock to me too. Like you, I knew he had been in the hospital, and wondered why he hadn't responded to my last couple of emails, and then someone on facebook had posted his obituary. I was so sad to see it. I loved his emails and have saved many of them. I could always go to him with questions or for his advice. He was so knowledgeable. I had talked with him about developing a website with shih tzu history as I have many of the pedigrees and photos from the Eastons. He had agreed to work with me on it.

Darlene said...

Victor was, indeed, very knowledgable. He was so helpful to so many people. I'm so sorry that he won't be here to help you with you website. I'm just so sorry that he's not here. I miss him so much....

Susan Collins Norman Stark said...

Thank you for such lovely words. Victor was one of a kind and one of the dearest, funniest, most wonderful people it has been my pleasure to know. Together with Victor, Janie Roppolo and Jimmie Brookings, I was honored to be invited to judge many AKC matches in Texas and Louisiana and Arkansas when we were all "young" in our dog judging pursuits. We traveled many miles together, laughed, and listened to amazing stories of his exciting career and life in Hollywood and NYC. What wonderful mentors they all were- and how I miss them all.
The world is a better place for having had Victor Joris in it. He was jewel and his presence will be greatly missed.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much for writing, Susan. and for sharing your very precious memories of our dear friend. i still want to call him, e-mail him. But he's not there. Fortunately for me, I've gotten to know one of his sisters and she and I have staying in touch. You will probably be interested to know that he was inducted into the Louisiana (or Louisville) Hall of Fame. Mary had asked me to write a letter to the committee but while I did it I felt he needed no introduction to anyone. He was Victor Joris. I miss him. Obviously, you do, too. Thank you for sharing your special memories. I appreciate it beyond words.