GLADWYNE, PA. — Helen Tyson Madeira, of Gladwyne, Pa., known to her close friends as “Patsy,” died suddenly on Aug. 4, 2014, after living a full, eventful and happy life.
She was predeceased, in 1993, by her beloved husband of 55 years, Louis C. Madeira IV. She was survived by her two children, Alexandra M. Harrison, of Albuquerque, N.M., and C. Tyson Madeira, of Woodstock, N.Y., by three grandchildren, Andreas R. Harrison, Louis Richard Madeira and Alexandra Elizabeth Madeira Breedon, and by three great-grandchildren, Maia A. Madeira, Mirabelle Madeira and Natalie Breedon.
Mrs. Madeira was a great-grandchild of John A. Roebling, who pioneered the use of steel cables in bridge building in the mid-19th century and is renowned as the designer and builder of the Brooklyn Bridge and many other bridges still in use today. Her parents were Carroll S. Tyson Jr., a prominent Philadelphia and Maine artist, and Helen Roebling Tyson, who in 1963 bequeathed 22 works by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which was one of the most important gifts ever received by that museum. Mrs. Madeira was as devoted to the museum as her parents had been and supported it in many ways, providing funding for musical programs, exhibitions and conservation of works of art, and endowing curatorial positions and educational activities. In the year before her death, Mrs. Tyson made a major gift to the museum to endow the position of associate curator of decorative arts, which had been developed and held for many years by her late husband, Louis. Mrs. Madeira also made gifts to the museum, both in her lifetime and by her will, of important works of art, which will be publicly identified in due course.
Speaking of Helen T. Madeira, Joseph Rishel, the museum’s Gisela and Dennis Alter senior curator of European painting before 1900, as well as the senior curator of the John G. Johnson collection, and senior curator of the Rodin Museum, said, “She was one of our greatest friends. Patsy was deeply interested in all that we did, especially in our efforts to continue to develop our collection, and took great pleasure in sharing with others the things that delighted her most.”
In addition to significant gifts to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mrs. Madeira bestowed her philanthropic largesse on a large number of charitable institutions too numerous to recount and quite varied in scope, both in the Philadelphia area and in Maine, but especially granting considerable support for artistic organizations and those supporting medical research and care. She maintained a house in Southwest Harbor, where she was delighted to spend the better part of the summer for many years.
From her early days, Mrs. Madeira was deeply engaged in a remarkably broad spectrum of life’s activities, including studying music, appreciating and collecting art, horseback riding, playing bridge, travel, but mostly engaging with all kinds of people and sharing conversation with them, all the while with sensitivity and good humor. Not even at the very end did she ever lose her bountiful interest in people and all human pursuits. She again exhibited these traits in full measure at her 98th birthday party in May 2014, demonstrating the vigor and mental acuity of a much younger person. She was unique, and will be sorely missed but remembered fondly, by the people fortunate enough to be her descendants and close friends.