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Hemingway's Widow, Mary, 78, Dies in N.Y.

November 29, 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 Ernest Hemingway, has died, it was learned Friday.

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

Death was attributed only to "a long illness." Before becoming Hemingway's fourth and final wife, she wrote as Mary Welsh, a World War II correspondent for Time and Life magazines. Hemingway was her third husband.

The two met in Paris in 1944--a period covered in Mrs. Hemingway's autobiography, "How It Was," the 1976 book which many critics decried as shallow.

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

That sanguine 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 that he was involved with a 19-year-old girl, but "if I left him to her, he would only come to resent her," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1976. "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."

She returned to Cuba just a month after Hemingway commited suicide on July 2, 1961, and donated their big whitewashed house and its lush gardens to the island country in compliance with her husband's wishes. Fidel Castro turned the home into a museum that 40,000 people visit each year.

Mary Hemingway spent part of their life together typing her husband's letters, reading his manuscripts and managing the household.

It was she who gave the unedited manuscript of "The Garden of Eden" to the publisher who just this year published the tale of bisexuality and marital difficulties.

Asked in 1977 if she had felt like a "slave" to the often ill-tempered author, the petite, feisty woman Hemingway called "Miss Mary," said:

"I slaved at the Finca as that lovely man, Arthur Rubenstein, slaves at the piano. Most blessed are they who enjoy their work, I think."

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

In failing health recently, she had become an invalid and remained in her Manhattan apartment most of the time.

She will be buried next to her husband in Ketcham, Idaho, near one of the homes she shared with Hemingway and where she found his body.

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