Heart Friendly: The Palm Beach Heart Ball Turns 60

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, the longest running ball in Palm Beach will celebrate its diamond anniversary. The Palm Beach Heart Ball, the American Heart Association’s grand gala, found its footing on Valentine’s Day, 1956, brining in an astounding $30,840 in its first year (roughly $268K in 2015 dollars) for research in heart disease and stroke—the country’s number one killer of men and women across all ethnicities and the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

From past to present: the Palm Beach Heart Ball is certainly in able hands, with nine co-chairwomen taking the reins in 2015.

Back row, from left: Hermé de Wyman Miro, Lee Ann Alderton, Sharon O’Neil, Judi Richards

Front row, from left: Annie Falk, Monika Preston, Kathryn C. Vecellio, Margarita Allinson, Julie Rudolph

   Throughout the years, the ball has seen a veritable who’s who of celebrities, dignitaries, world leaders, and socialites descend upon Palm Beach to raise funds and fun in the name of heart health. From Frank Sinatra, Esteé Lauder, Bob Hope and Jack Dempsey to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Senator Jack Kennedy, Joe Dimaggio and Zsa Zsa Gabor, the evening of drinks, dining and dancing has become one of the most well-attended and successful charitable events in Palm Beach County history.

   To celebrate the Palm Beach Heart Ball’s monumental success and staying power, we’re taking a waltz back in time with a collection of photos, and a special note from the 1964 Heart Ball Chariewoman, Ina Mae Homer Marshman, as well as the 2015’s Heart Ball Co-Chairwoman, Kathryn Vecellio.   

Interested in being a part of history? Attend the historic party, which will take place on Friday, February 13 at The Breakers, and help build better lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Guests will enjoy cocktails, dinner, dancing and entertainment, as well as chance to take home some fabulous prizes at the auction. For ticket information, contact Melissa Martinez at 561-697-6621 or Melissa.martinez@heart.org.

Perry Como and Dinah Shore - Inaugural Heart Ball in 1956 - American Heart Association - Palm Beach Heart Ball

Perry Como and Dinah Shore served as king and queen of Palm Beach’s inaugural Heart Fund Ball, as seen in this promotional shot.

Joe DiMaggio and Anita Ekberg at the 1957 Palm Beach Heart Ball

In 1957, New York Yankees’ legend Joe DiMaggio (center) was among the guests at the ball, which took place in the Poinciana Room at the Palm Beach Towers Hotel.

Back, from left: Gregg Dodge, 1957 ball chairwoman; Rita Moreno

Front, from left: Ann Miller; Joe DiMaggio; Anita Ekberg

1958 Palm Beach Heart Ball - Bev Smith - 1958 Ford Thunderbird

Committee members of the 1958 Palm Beach Heart Ball pose with a brand-new Ford Thunderbird, donated by Bev Smith, president of the Heart Association of Palm Beach and Martin Counties at the time.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower - Palm Beach Heart Ball - American Heart Association

After suffering a near-fatal heart attack while in office in 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie became staunch advocates of the American Heart Association and the research the nonprofit funded. Inspired by the organization and its mission, Mamie Eisenhower was the Honorary National Chairman of the Heart Ball in 1958 and 1959.

West Palm Beach Police Department giving CPR training, circa 1960s - Palm Beach Heart Ball

West Palm Beach Police Department giving CPR training, crica 1960s.


Chairwomen through the years:

Homer and Ina Mae Marshman, 1965 Chairwoman - Palm Beach Heart Ball

1964 Chairwoman Ina Mae Marshman, pictured with he husband Homer in 1965

Palm Beach Heart Ball 1967 Chairwoman, Helen Tuchbreiter


Helene Tuchbreiter, 1967

Palm Beach Heart Ball 1984 Chairwoman Pat Hurbaugh

Pat Hurbaugh, 1984

1994 Chairwoman, Kathlyn S. Maguire

Kathlyn S. Maguire, 1994


The Palm Beach Heart Ball was not just a place to help raise awareness and funds for heart disease research, but a place for local businesses to show their support—and perhaps get noticed by some prominent Palm Beachers.

   The program from the ball was not only a place for the dedicated committees that put the ball together a chance to receive some accolades, but also a prime spot for advertisements. These ads for The Breakers (1964), Lily Pulitzer (1966 and 1968) and Ta-boó (1966) are not just fun blasts from the past, but anthropological—graphic design has come a long way since the days of Mad Men.

The Breakers - 1964 Advertisement

Lilly Pulitzer advertisement from 1966 Palm Beach Heart Ball


Ta-boo restaurant ad from 1966

Lilli Lulitzer ad from 1968



Go to page two for a look at the committee letters from chairwomen Ina Mae Marshman and Kathryn C. Vecellio.


Historical photos courtesy of the Palm Beach Heart Ball archives and the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

The Palm Beach Heart Ball didn’t become the top single-day fundraising event for the American Heart Association by accident. For 60 years, a select sorority of chairwomen has dedicated time, incredible effort and funds to make it such a success. Here, we get a behind the scenes look at two Heart Ball Committee letters, the first from 1964 chairwoman Ina Mae Marshman, the second from 2015 co-chairwoman Kathryn Vecellio. As you’ll see, though times have changed, the onus behind community involvement and a dedication to a charity with heart are still two of the committee’s top priority.

Palm Beach Heart Ball - Chairman Committee Letter 1964

Palm Beach Heart Ball Chairman Committe Letter



Prepared by

Mrs. Kathryn C. Vecellio

Heart Ball Co-Chairman

Palm Beach, Florida

Dearest Co-Chairmen,


I am honored to stand beside you as we prepare for the 60th anniversary of the Palm Beach Heart Ball.  This season will serve as a momentous milestone in Palm Beach history. Not only is this the oldest Heart Ball in the Country, but it is also the longest, continuous ball in Palm Beach.


We have all learned a great deal from our predecessors and in tribute to Mrs. Homer Marshman, the 1964 Palm Beach Heart Ball Chairman, I am fashioning this letter as I interpret a chairmanship of today.



  1. Requirements for selecting a Chairman:

A Chairman must be completely invested with the charity she is choosing to raise funds for. Enthusiasm for the cause must carry over to the committees, media, donors, advertisers, family, friends and the Palm Beach community. This enthusiasm, that makes an event legendary, stems from the Chairmen.

   The Chairman must be willing to give a large portion of her time, energy and resources to the event to ensure a successful social season. This includes adequate investment in pre-events, which are highly important to the success of the grand finale Ball.


  1. Time Commitment:

The more time that a Chairman is able to dedicate to an event, the more successful it will be. For this reason, our committee of Co-Chairmen was formed during afternoon tea on April 23, 2014. Early preparation gives this distinguished group of ladies approximately ten months to plan for this momentous milestone.


  1. Publicity:

Proper publicity is crucial for a successful event. It is important that the American Heart Association has a professional dedicated to highlight the Ball. This enables us to communicate all event news in a timely manner. There are many wonderful causes that local philanthropists may choose to support, so it is critical that proper publicity keeps all who are interested in a particular charity fully informed. Word of mouth promotion is also truly a wonderful information source in a lovely town such as Palm Beach. The ball date and venue should constantly be on the forefront in the public’s mind.

   Selecting the right photographer is a must. They must be familiar with ball guests and the Palm Beach social climate. That is why we have chosen the expertise of Lucien Capehart Photography for this season.


  1. Committees:

This year we have a total of nine actively engaged Co-Chairmen, all of whom are Go Red for Women Founder’s Circle members. We also have a Silent Auction Committee, led by Mrs. Julie Rudolph and me, and A Heart’s Delight Committee, led by Mrs. Lee Ann Alderton. All members of these committees are truly passionate about the mission of the American Heart Association and the history of the Palm Beach Heart Ball. I am thrilled to stand beside Mrs. Lee Ann Alderton, Mrs. Margarita Allinson, Mrs. Hermé de Wyman Miro, Mrs. Annie Falk, Mrs. Sharon O’Neil, Mrs. Monika Preston, Mrs. Judi Richards and Mrs. Julie Rudolph for a successful season that will benefit the life-saving work of the American Heart Association.


Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your commitment to a cause that is so dear to all of us. Together we truly will continue on the mission of building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke for women, men and children.


With warmest regards,

Mrs. Kathryn C. Vecellio

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