By Deb Silverthorn
Sue Lambert Kollinger’s life has been a recipe for joy, for nachas and for connecting to community. Although she is 87, Kollinger’s heart and spirit haven’t aged.
“Life is good,” said Kollinger, “and I am blessed. Very blessed.”
The Dallas native, daughter of Leland and Murray Lambert and sister of Carol (Maury) Levy, grew up in South Dallas, then the center of the Jewish community. Raised at Temple Emanu-El and later a member of Congregation Shearith Israel, Kollinger also attended Hebrew school at Congregation Agudas Achim.
“I went to Hebrew school with Hanna Goldman, of blessed memory, my best friend growing up who became my cousin when she married Raymond Lambert, also of blessed memory. I learned so much about Orthodox Jewish life at her family’s Shabbat table,” she said. “It was always a happy place and a special time.”
Kollinger’s memories of growing up are of time spent at the JCC, then on Pocahontas Street, the kosher butcher and in the homes of her neighbors including the Bensons, the Blacks, the Goldmans, the Hoppensteins, the Lutermans, the Stahls and others. Today, many of her childhood friends from the good old days are again her neighbors at The Legacy Midtown Park.
“There are a number of us here,” said Kollinger, chair of LMP’s dining committee. “Life is easy here.”
A graduate of Forest Avenue High School and former member of B’nai B’rith Girls and Young Judaea, Kollinger said the weekends were reserved for taking the streetcar to the movie theater on Forest Lane, house parties, dances and, in the season, lavish Sweet 16 parties at which each young lady was paired with a young man.
Her father was a pianist who had a band and musical director at WRR radio; her mother was a secretary. They later went into business manufacturing ladies’ clothing. Their company, Sue Ann, eventually grew to become Center Stage, which went public.
“My parents always worked hard and taught us to do the same,” said Kollinger. “From them I learned that money doesn’t make people — people make money.” With a wink, Kollinger also said her love of clothing and shoes also came from her parents.
After two years at The University of Texas at Austin and a 21-year marriage to Rick Kollinger, the chapters of Kollinger’s life story continue through the generations of her children Julie (Mark) Neinast, Howard (Connie) Kollinger, Jeffrey (Melinda) Kollinger and Ross (Tammi) Kollinger; her 10 grandchildren; and her two great-grandchildren.
Kollinger worked first as a secretary; then she and her ex-husband bought a chemical company. After the sale of that company, in 1980 she and her son Jeffrey purchased Spice of Life Catering (Innovative Hospitality Group), which has for 38 years provided catering services for corporate functions, weddings, charity events, intimate chef dinners and more.
“Many of the Jewish dishes, the chopped liver, the sweet and sour stuffed cabbage, the soups were from my kitchen and the one I grew up in,” said Kollinger. “When I was a kid, my dad asked for the stuffed cabbage his mother used to make. It was one of my better days. He told me that it had cabbage and tomatoes and I figured it out. Now, it’s on the rotation at The Legacy and a favorite.
“Before I retired, I helped with the catering and the business responsibilities. It was an honor to help our community — so many of our friends and family from over the years and then their children — to celebrate and to do business.”
A legacy of Kollinger’s to the business is the program she designed for those in mourning. She created a format so people can donate to memorial or shiva meals through the business and then she provides the family with a list of who contributed.
Nancy Weiner Marcus recalled that, after the passings of her daughter and mother, Kollinger prepared provisions to follow their memorial services.
“It was last-minute, as of course these things usually are, and she just turned around the most beautiful dishes and with such kindness and caring,” said Marcus. “Even more important than that it was delicious, of course. It didn’t feel like business at all. It was a friend taking care of us at those terrible times.”
Kollinger is a former chair of Israel Bonds as well as a former member of the boards of the JCC, to which she donated rooms for youth programming, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, for which she was the first vice-president with the formation of its Women’s Division. Kollinger has also been long dedicated to the Association for Holocaust Organizations and volunteered and raised funds, general and scholarship-related, for Ben-Gurion University.
“I appreciate Jewish life,” said Kollinger. “It’s a part of so much of what my life has been.”