|The Heiress in front of her Greenwich Chalet|
Over thirty years ago, I befriended a fellow “preservationist” from Greenwich. He died almost two years ago, in 2012. He was like me, another Don Quixote who wanted to save beautiful old buildings that had outlived their economic usefulness. He and I fought the good fight together. We attended each other’s parties and from time to time went off to the Harvard Club in New York to attend a lecture on architecture. Richard, a dashing bachelor, worked sporadically for the State Department escorting German diplomats around the country; he spoke impeccable “HochDeutsch,” having studied to be a braumeister in Berlin after World War II. His family had owned the Ruppert Brewery in New York City, one of the largest breweries in America and Richard had inherited a sizeable amount of money from the family fortune. At one time – in the heyday of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the Rupperts owned the New York Yankees, plus a large chunk of Yorkville in the East ‘90s.
|Remnants of the hardware collection|
After his death, his carpenter, now in charge of fixing up the house for sale, called to tell me that he had found Richard’s will and I was listed as a beneficiary; he had left me 1% of his estate. I was stunned. It was the last thing in the world I had expected. And what was 1%? Knowing Richard and his inability to manage money, it could be anything from tens of thousands of dollars, or, more likely, a few hundred. And now, almost two years later, I still have no idea. I occasionally communicate with his executor, a cousin in the Midwest, who assures me, any month now, the estate will be settled. “Tax issues” he claims are holding things up. Richard apparently forgot to pay capital gains, and so on and so forth. “Not a good money manager” his executor tells me. (I could have told him that before he began)
But in the meantime, it makes a great “dining out” story, how I, a girl of humble origins and limited means, came to inherit a portion of the Ruppert Brewery fortune (not a very big portion, however). I was thinking of collecting old photos of the “family business,” the block-square castle on Second Avenue that once housed the brewery. I recently received a list of Richard’s heirs from Greenwich Probate Court and I’m in pretty heavy company: Count von Huynegen-Heune and Baron von Huynegen-Heune are among my fellow beneficiaries.
I’m glad my parents aren’t around. They never approved of unearned wealth and I may end up giving it all to charity.