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Houston Galveston Institute to Honor Cullen Family, Nov. 4

In this 2011 portrait, Meredith Cullen (left) and Roy Cullen stand behind Mary Cullen.

In this 2011 portrait, Meredith Cullen (left) and Roy Cullen stand behind Mary Cullen.

Family To Speak Openly About Losing Roy Cullen To Suicide

Roy Cullen was one of Houston’s most remarkable and influential businessmen, a community act­ivist, philanthropist, visionary, oil tycoon, sport enthusiast and strong supporter of education.

On the morning of April 4, 2014, Roy Cullen shot himself in an upstairs bedroom at his family home in River Oaks. He had been ill and in pain for the previous 13 months. None of the medical experts he visited around the country were able to help him.

On Friday, Nov. 4, the Houston Gal­veston Institute’s annual event, “Choco­late, Champagne & Charity,” will host Roy’s widow Mary and their youngest son Meredith, now vice president and assistant secretary of the Cullen Foundation, as they speak candidly about their “Journey of Hope” through losing Roy, one of the most trying times of their lives. The event is being held at The Wynden on Post Oak.

Mary and Meredith will be joined by his business partner, former U.S. Marine Jay Shaw, who faced his own “Journey of Hope” after returning from serving in Iraq, where he was seriously injured.

Facing the suicide and the stigma of suicide of this respected and well-known Houstonian has not been easy for the Cullen family. However, through their journey, they continue to be proud of Roy and all that he was to them.

Roy was one of the most influential and impressive men who helped shaped the Houston community. The Cullen Foun­dation continues to change many lives through grants funding many healthcare programs and other social services. The list of all that Roy and the family foundation has done would fill volumes.

To Roy, family came first. “Roy was ‘Pop’ to our six children, and for the grandkids and great-grandkids he was ‘Popo.’ He loved his family very deeply, and he showed that love every day of his life,” Mary said. She and Roy were married 43 years.

Of that terrible day when she heard the gunshot upstairs, Mary recalled, “I kept calling Roy’s name, knocking on the door, but I did not hear anything and he did not answer. It was a horrendous moment. I think I knew.” She could not open the locked bedroom door. When the police came and opened it, Roy was dead.

Meredith was getting ready to leave his gym after his morning routine when he notcied he had “like 15 calls from my mother” and knew something was wrong. He reached her, then raced to the house. “The day my father died was the worst day of my life,” Meredith said. “That morning I recognized something that helped ease the grief: I saw my new bride and my best friend Kitch Taub walk through the door, and I realized I had a support system. It meant the world.”

Suicide does not discriminate. Males and females of all ages, socioeconomic status and ethnicities can be at risk. In Texas, on average, one person dies every three hours by suicide.

The stigma of suicide continues, along with confusion about why the person’s family did not know or what caused it. Due to this stigma, unnecessary guilt and shame can silence families from speaking about suicide, leaving the survivors isolated without the support and help they need to heal.

“My father never mentioned death or suicide,” Meredith said. “We didn’t know it was on his mind. Yet, a week or so before he died, I had a personal talk with him. He was in bed and in a lot of pain. One thing he said was if anything happened to him, he wanted to know I would take care of my mother. I assured  him I would. I did not take this as him saying goodbye. He was in his 80s and he was in pain, and that’s what I attributed it to.”

Many times there are no signs. The family does not know – it is a personal decision someone makes, alone.

For more information, tickets and sponsorships for this inspirational evening, visit talkhgi.org, email admin@talkhgi.com or call 713-526-8390.

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