One of the most consequential, community-minded figures in Dallas history died Friday December 8 2017 at age 93. Altshuler grew up in a grand old home on Swiss Avenue in Dallas, the youngest child and only daughter of Ruth and Carr P. Collins.
Her father Carr P. Collins Sr founded Fidelity Union Life Insurance Co. in 1927, which eventually grew into one of the largest businesses of its kind in the nation. Prosperity sheltered the young Ruth and her two brothers — Carr P. Collins Jr. and James M. Collins — from the suffering of the Great Depression.
Altshuler’s early life was cushioned by a family nurse, a Ford convertible and a blithe sense of entitlement. Her summers were spent canoeing at Camp Waldemar, an exclusive girls’ camp in the Texas Hill Country, and many weekends she slept at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
One of her friends, Molly O’Daniel, was the daughter of Gov. Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel. In those days, Altshuler’s boyfriend was Charles Storey, who later became a prominent Dallas lawyer.
Altshuler knew little else until her junior year at SMU, when she met and married a Navy pilot. They ended up in Oregon. Less than two years later, he was shot down during a World War II bombing raid over Tokyo. One month shy of her 21st birthday, Altshuler returned to Dallas a widow.
Altshuler met her second husband, Charles Sharp, a local boy who had worked his way through law school at the University of Texas and had a year under his belt at Harvard. During their courtship, Sharp was assigned to a Navy shipyard in Rhode Island, where he taught young officers how to command PT boats. One of his students: Lt. John F. Kennedy.
They married on June 21, 1947, and started a family. Sally was born in 1949, and Stanton came along in 1952. Her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and their son was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness. Her third child, Susan, was born in 1960.
Altshuler was eventually selected for many boards, including those of the Salvation Army, United Way and SMU — and in each case, she rose to be the first female chairman.
Her philanthropy thrived, even through the death of her husband, Charles, in 1984. A few years later, she rediscovered love when she married Dr. Ken Altshuler.
Member, Library of Congress Trust Fund Board, appointed by President George W. Bush
Member, U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, appointed by Secretary of State Colin Powell
Life trustee of The Hockaday School; SMU trustee for 46 years. Her survivors include her husband, Dr. Ken Altshuler, and two daughters and a son