Rich Man, Poor Man

Dallas architect Tom Stanley crafted buildings that endure on city skylines across the country, but his fortune and family wouldn't survive their own shaky foundations

"Tom asked me to do the production drawings for the high rise," Dennis Axberg recalls. "I could see that he was tired, and I knew the project was never going anywhere, but I gave him a few drawings anyway. I just wanted the opportunity to talk with him one more time."


There was always a chance that Lillian Stanley would never file suit against her daughter and son-in-law. At 78, she felt heartsick at the prospect of losing her husband, fragile from the effects of the two strokes she had suffered. But when her husband requested that Jill not bring Larry to the hospital and he came anyway; when Jill refused to bring her father's prized carriage to his deathbed; when Lillian saw her property--her life with Tom--on display at Jill's house after the funeral, she felt she had no choice.

Tom Stanley, shown here in a photo from 1962, was known less for his architectural drawings than his architectural drawing power. At one point in the late '60s, his Dallas practice was recognized as one of the largest architectural firms in the country.
Tom Stanley, shown here in a photo from 1962, was known less for his architectural drawings than his architectural drawing power. At one point in the late '60s, his Dallas practice was recognized as one of the largest architectural firms in the country.

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"It almost killed me when I found out what Mamie was doing," Lillian says. "But I blame Jill for encouraging her...She has taken everything I own."

In February, Lillian attempted to press theft charges against the Meletios, but the police concluded the criminal case was unfounded, which left Lillian the option of pursuing her claims in civil court. Jill and Larry beat her to the courthouse, however, going on the attack by requesting nine depositions in anticipation of litigation. Later they would challenge Lillian's competency; they would accuse her of being under the influence of Edward's former wife and others, who they alleged had, by the "fall of 2000, begun to inveigle into [Lillian's] and Mr. Stanley's personal affairs, which caused Lillian to initiate suit." They also would request Lillian post a security bond to cover court costs.

But Lillian has held firm. She hired Dallas attorney Randall Reed, who filed suit against the Meletios for, among other things, the alleged conversion of her property. In turn, the Meletios have countersued Lillian for malicious prosecution, bringing a groundless lawsuit in bad faith and defamation, alleging that she has maliciously made false statements to "others" claiming the Meletios "had stolen and converted one million dollars of [Lillian's] property." They have also raised 14 legal defenses, including claims that Lillian's lawsuit is barred by the statute of limitations. Much of Lillian's case rests on the testimony of Mamie Stanley, whose credibility might be called into question by her long drug history and her recent stay in the penitentiary. She was released in June after serving a two-year sentence for possession of amphetamines.

Reed isn't foolish enough to predict the outcome of the litigation, but he is impressed by his client's grace under fire. "Here is a woman who has lived a life of grandeur and is now living in an old-age ghetto with furniture that looks like it's from Goodwill. Yet there is no 'oh, poor me' about her," he says. "She just wants her things back. Her memories. It's what Tom Stanley would have wanted for her, too."

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