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New York Fixture Brooke Astor Dies at 105

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New York Fixture Brooke Astor Dies at 105

Remembrances

New York Fixture Brooke Astor Dies at 105

New York Fixture Brooke Astor Dies at 105

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Brooke Astor, a philanthropist, socialite and consummate New Yorker died at the age of 105.

Over her lifetime she gave away nearly $200 million, most of it to charities and cultural organizations in New York City, including the Metropolitan Museum, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Gardens, and most of all the New York Public Library.

The flags at the Metropolitan Museum on New York's Fifth Avenue were lowered to half-staff on Monday in her honor.

Mrs. Astor was also, among other things, a teen bride, a war nurse, a magazine writer, and a true civic-minded philanthropist.

In 1996, she was named a living landmark by the New York Landmarks conservancy which said that "a list of the city monuments is incomplete without her name alongside."

Roberta Brooke Russell was born in 1902, the only child of a Marine Corps officer frequently stationed overseas. She was married three times. But it was her third marriage to Vincent Astor that provided her with the fortune that allowed her to become New York City's preeminent philanthropist.

As she was fond of quoting: "Money is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around."

She was known for visiting all the sites that received her funds — from church shelters and soup kitchens to museum wings and public parks. Wherever she went she made a point to wear designer clothes and jewelery. She once said, "People expect to see Mrs. Astor, not some dowdy old lady; and I don't intend to disappoint them."

In 1998, she was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor — a Presidential Medal of Freedom — for her philanthropy.

The last year of her life was marred by accusations of elder abuse. In a settlement, her friend Annette de la Renta, wife of the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, was named her legal guardian.

According to her will, she asked that the words on her gravestone declare, "I had a wonderful life."

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