The legendary Brooke Astor has died in New York, her playground. She was one of the most influential philanthopists of the last century, giving millions to cultural institutions and charities alike. I can't possibly do justice to all her activities, so I will let the New York Daily News describe them:
"Although a legendary figure in New York City and feted with a famous gala on her 100th birthday in March 2002, Astor was mostly interested in putting the fortune that husband, Vincent Astor, left to use where it would do the most to alleviate human misery.
'Money is like manure, it should be spread around,' was her oft-quoted motto. There was a lot to spread: Vincent Astor's great-great-grandfather John Jacob Astor made a fortune in fur trading and New York real estate.
Brooke Astor gave millions of dollars to what she called the city's 'crown jewels' _ among them the New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the flags were lowered to half-staff after her death.
But she also funded scores of smaller projects: Harlem's Apollo Theater; a new boiler for a youth center; beachside bungalow preservation; a church pipe organ; furniture for homeless families moving in to apartments.
It was a very personal sort of philanthropy.
'People just can't come up here and say, `We're doing something marvelous, send a check,' she said. "We say, 'Oh, yes, we'll come and see it.'"
As the Brahms requiem reminds us, Brooke Astor now rests from her labors, and her deeds do follow her.