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Hemingway's 4th Wife, Mary, Dies in N.Y.

November 28, 1986|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Mary Hemingway, a foreign correspondent who became the often embattled wife but "always good friend" of the fabled author, has died, it was learned today.

Jack Hemingway, the Nobel laureate's eldest son by an earlier marriage, said the writer's widow was 78 when she died Wednesday at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City.

Death was attributed only to "a long illness." She wrote as Mary Welsh, a World War II war correspondent for Time and Life magazines, before becoming Ernest Hemingway's fourth and last wife. The two met in Paris in 1944--a period covered in Mrs. Hemingway's autobiography, "How It Was."

"You're beautiful, like a May fly," were the words he said when the two were introduced, she wrote in the 1976 book.

That sentiment drifted in and out of what would become an often troubled marriage that produced no children.

In an apparent fit of jealousy a few years after their marriage in 1946, Hemingway called his wife a "scavenger." Another time he reportedly smashed her typewriter.

She wrote that she often thought of leaving him, particularly when she discovered he was involved with a 19-year-old girl, but she told the Los Angeles Times in 1976 that "if I left him to her, he would only come to resent her. So I told him off and I stayed."

"You see," she added, "first of all we were very good friends."

The two lived for a while at Finca Vigia, Hemingway's house in Cuba. During their marriage he wrote "The Old Man and the Sea," "Islands in the Stream" and "Across the River and Into the Trees."

Returning to Cuba just a month after Hemingway committed suicide on July 2, 1961, she donated his house and land to the country to comply with the author's wishes. Fidel Castro turned the home into a museum.

Mary Hemingway spent part of their married life together typing his letters, reading his manuscripts and managing the household.

In recent years, she contributed money to young writers through the Hemingway Foundation.

But recently her health failed. She became an invalid and remained in her Manhattan apartment most of the time.

She will be buried next to her husband in Ketcham, Ida., where Hemingway killed himself.

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