Philanthropist and lover of the arts remembered for a life well lived
As Nevada Ballet Theatre enters its 46th season, it mourns the passing of Wendy Plaster, who joined its board in 1991. Plaster was co-chair alongside co-founder, Nancy Houssels, and for nearly 25 years, she
offered unwavering support, countless hours and resources to the dance company she passionately loved.
Plaster’s was born on May 11, and with May 14 being Mother’s Day, it’s the perfect time for her daughter Jillian Kester and daughter-in-law Maggie Plaster, who serves on NBT’s Advisory Board, to share fond memories of this amazing woman. She not only was sophisticated and elegant, but also nurturing and compassionate.
“My mom was a caregiver, who went above and beyond for family and friends,” said Kester. “It started when she was a teenager, and she had to take care of two younger siblings and her mom who wasn’t well.
“Her family moved to California when she was 5, and she went to Beverly Hills High (School) with celebrities like Richard Dreyfuss, who had a crush on her. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Russian literature and teaching credentials from USC (University of Southern California),” said Kester.
“My father’s family left England and moved to Canada before coming to LA. They had no money and lived in a one-bedroom apartment where my dad had a tiny, partitioned space. He even lived in his car for a while when he went to UC Berkley. But my mom thought my dad was brilliant. She knew he’d make something of himself; and he was grateful she was willing to take a chance on him.
“They were a good match. My father was a hippie, who went to India as part of a school project. Without my mom, he might have ended up in a hut somewhere. My mom, who was politically active, supported Planned Parenthood. She also picketed Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills years ago, protesting their discriminatory hiring practices.”
After moving to Las Vegas in 1973, Plaster worked for a while as a waitress in the coffee shop at the MGM Grand, which is now Bally’s Las Vegas. Her husband, Richard, became an executive with Lewis Homes and worked there until the couple started Signature Homes, where she got involved in the marketing and decorating of the models.
“My parents took my two brothers and me on vacations to Europe and Africa,” said Kester, “but my mom also sponsored organizations like Smile Train that trained doctors in the poorest countries to perform surgery on kids with cleft palates.”
Maggie Plaster, who is the deputy director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Las Vegas, and is married to Wendy and Richard’s son Brian, had a great relationship with her mother-in-law.
“Brian and I met at college in Tennessee. We’d been dating for two months when Wendy paid for me to fly to Las Vegas for Christmas. My mom, being a proper Southern woman from Mississippi, said I needed to get Wendy a gift. I got her a Southern cookbook and made a tin of pralines. I didn’t know, at the time, that Wendy had everything and could buy whatever she wanted,” she said.
“When we arrived at their Tournament Hills home, I said to Brian, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’ The doors were 20 feet tall, and it had a spectacular view of the Strip. I was nervous, but, luckily, I had those gifts. When I got home, I wrote a thank you note. Those two things, along with my table manners and bed-making skills, helped me get off on the right foot.
“When Brian and I moved to Las Vegas, we lived with his parents for a year. I didn’t work for the first three months. Since Wendy did most of her own housekeeping, I tried to repay the favor by cleaning the house. We saw a lot of ballet together, and over time, she asked if I wanted to be on the board, which I joined in 2009.”
“My parents had fun together. Friends called them the ‘Dick and Wendy Show,’ said Kester. “They were very involved in the community. My mom was a room mother at The Meadows School where my brothers and I went, and she joined the board when we got older.”
Wendy, along with Richard, was on the board of the NBT, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the Las Vegas Philharmonic. She also supported Nathan Adelson Hospice, HELP of Southern Nevada, the Rape Crisis Center, Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow and Discovery Children’s Museum.
The philanthropic couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary before Wendy succumbed to lung cancer on July 30.
“My mom was a good judge of people,” said Kester, who owns The Dog House Las Vegas boutiques. “… I went to Le Cordon Bleu school here, which is where I met my husband, Ian. The first time my mom met him, she told me he was the one.”
Anne Frank once said, “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death.”
That’s exactly what Wendy Plaster accomplished.