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Brooke Astor Gets an Awkward Goodbye

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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FAREWELL Astor Mourners remembered Brooke Astor, old-school socialite and grand dame of New York, today at the St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue—just as Astor herself planned it. She died August 13 at the age of 105.

Mourners included former mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, Whoopi Goldberg, opera singer Jessye Norman, police chief Raymond Kelly, Oscar de la Renta and Henry Kissinger. A security officer estimated the attendance to be 1,000, but it looked like fewer than 500.

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised her from the podium, commenting, "There's a Yiddish saying, that our mitzvahs—our good deeds—are the clothing of our soul. So in more ways than one, Brooke Astor was always the best-dressed woman in New York."

Anthony D. Marshall, her son, ended his speech with, "Yes, New York and her many friends have lost a wonderful person, but I have lost my mother." Marshall's son, Phillip, who has accused his father of mistreating Ms. Astor, was also present at the service.

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Ms. Astor's pastor, the Reverend Canon John Andrew, the rector emeritus of the church, told the crowd, "Brooke had what the Psalms call, a 'ready heart.' She was ready to meet, ready to explore ... ready to listen and give of herself."

Then he wandered into an area on the outskirts of political correctness. "The ready capacity for friendship which graced her for its diversity always thrilled me. I have seen her captivate on the one hand a member of the British Royal family whom I introduced to her, with the stunning remark, 'I am ninety-five, sir, and never had a face lift,' and on the other, be taken by a great, big Afro-American janitor at the Metropolitan Museum into his arms in a loving embrace as she got out of her car. And, my God, did she return that embrace."

Good times.



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