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Enid Annenberg Haupt, 99; Heiress Donated More Than $140 Million

October 29, 2005|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Enid Annenberg Haupt, a publishing heiress who thought nothing of selling off her jewels and fine art if it meant she could give millions more to benefit cancer patients, museums and the public gardens she insisted the world needed as a "marvelous escape from reality," has died. She was 99.

Haupt, who was known best for rescuing the New York Botanical Garden's vast, Victorian-style conservancy from demolition, died Tuesday at her home in Greenwich, Conn., the garden announced.

She was "the greatest patron American horticulture has ever known," Gregory Long, the garden's president, said in a statement. "She took the New York Botanical Garden very, very seriously as a museum of plants."

The first $5 million she gave the garden came from the sale of fine jewelry she kept in a vault. When she wanted to donate $25 million to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, she sold 15 Impressionist paintings to her only brother, Walter H. Annenberg, the billionaire publishing magnate who died in 2002.

"I must have a project; that should be my middle name, 'Project.' I'm really and truly not happy without one," Haupt told The Times in 1993.

In the last 25 years, she donated more than $140 million to her projects. They included funding gardens at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and fountains on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument.

She also bought George Washington's former home in Alexandria, Va., and donated it to the American Horticultural Society.

The first public garden she funded, at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City in 1959, was a favorite.

When she visited the institute, she wondered where the children played, and vowed to create a world to help them forget they were in a hospital. The resulting playground within a greenhouse was quickly nicknamed the Garden of Enid.

When asked how often projects she supported ended up as she envisioned them, she once told The Times, "When they think I'll see it."

Haupt, who also maintained a home in New York City, made major gifts to museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

She was born May 13, 1906, in Chicago to Moses and Sadie Annenberg. The fourth, and last surviving, of eight children, Haupt grew up in Milwaukee. The family eventually moved to New York City and Long Island.

Her father bought the Daily Racing Form in the 1920s and went to prison for tax evasion in the 1930s. The racing bible became the cornerstone of the publishing empire her brother built, which eventually included the Philadelphia Inquirer, TV Guide and television and radio stations.

Her brother coaxed her into serving as publisher and editor of another of the family's publications, Seventeen magazine, in 1954.

"I knew nothing about running a magazine, but my brother said: 'You can bring culture to the average working person who has not had your advantages,' " she told the New York Times.

She remained at the helm of the magazine until resigning in 1970.

After her first marriage ended in divorce, she married Wall Street financier Ira Haupt in 1936. He died in 1963.

During their courtship, he sent her an unusual spray of cymbidium orchids that inspired her lifelong interest in the flower.

"Nature is my religion," Haupt often said. "There is no life in concrete and paint."

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