Empty Mansions

Empty MansionsHugette Clark was a legend in her own right. She was overly generous to people she liked as well as to organizations and extremely wealthy. Yet she lived out the last two decade of her life in a hospital despite her good health.

The youngest daughter of politician and businessman W. A Clark and his second wife Anna was a hermit. But why? As she grew older and became an adult her reclusiveness became more acute. So much in fact that she was renowned for it. The last the public ever seen of her was a photograph taken in the 1920s soon after her wedding. After that very few people ever saw her face to face. In correspondence she chose to communicate through paper or by phone or on the other side of her lavish apartment’s door. When she entered a hospital in the 1990s parts of her face had been eaten away by cancer. Her old doctor had died and she had never employed a replacement, a stranger. She was finally convinced to enter a hospital where she chose to stay for the rest of her life, never returning to live in an of her luxurious homes around the United States.

I found this to be a most fascinating story. When I first picked the book up I thought it was just going to another bleah, hyped-up New York Times Bestseller. I was wrong. It starts out a bit slow as the authors tell the story of W.A. Clark and the making of his wealth, but it is of course necessary to the story.

I found the degree of Hugette’s generosity most intriguing. She gave away millions of dollars at a time to one – ONE – person. Little gifts bestowed upon friends could amount to hundred of thousands of dollars. But there was also greed involved. Not in Hugette’s case as she strikes me as anything but greedy. Rather some of the people she chose to favor with money and gifts were unabashed free-loaders. The hospital where Hugette stayed, for instance, bled her for so very much money. Even though Hugette was over 100 years old she was in full possession of her faculties and so I was curious why she allowed the hospital to do what they did and why she agreed to it. And then there’s Hugette’s nurse and “friend” who she supported for many years while staying at the hospital. Hugette gave the nurse and her family millions of dollars and bought them many homes. And by the sound of it they squandered that money. When college tuition got too much for the kids you think they would have been able to afford it rather than have Hugette pay out further money. And while Hugette lay dying she was being pestered about a $5 million IOU she had given to the nurse (the IOU had been given to her earlier along with another $10 million). Hugette literally sold off valuable pieces belonging to her so she could give away more money. That’s some extremely astonishing generosity! But anyhow I’ve gone on a tangent. There’s more to the story than a bunch of crooks and this is indeed well worth a read. And did I mention there’s a Titanic connection?!

DISCLAIMER: In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” we would like to note that we received no material compensation for this book review of “Empty Mansions”.

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