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.