Letter to the Editor: Brooke Astor

To the Editor:

In response to the narrative in Viewpoint submitted last week by Philip Marshall about elder abuse and financial exploitation of Brooke Astor by his father, the truth needs to be told.

A petition taking away Anthony Marshall’s long-held power of attorney and executorship of his mother’s Will was filed in NY Supreme Court by Philip Marshall and released to the press on July 24, 2006 without Tony’s or his mother’s knowledge.

In August of 2006, at the direction of the New York Supreme Court, attorney Samuel Liebowitz was appointed as an independent Court Evaluator to conduct an investigation into the charges of “elder abuse” in the petition. After months of careful interrogation of 77 friends, family, employees and former employees, his conclusion was that there had been “no elder abuse.”

Meanwhile, Philip and Alec Marshall were allowed to receive $1.2 million by the court from their grandmother’s estate.

Brooke Astor lived in a luxurious duplex apartment on Park Avenue with a staff of nine people, including two nurses, 24 hours a day. But she died in August of 2007 at Holly Hill, her house in the country, lonely and alone with no family, no friends, only the nurses and servants around.

In his role as VP of the Astor Foundation and Brooke’s investment advisor, Tony increased her wealth from $19 million to $82 million. He ran her office and her three homes. He visited with her every day that either of them was in town until 2006, when he was forbidden by the court because of the petition. She depended on his devotion and kindness and thrived on knowing she had the love and concern of her only child. He was her closest confidant.

Tony’s distinguished career began with his enlistment in the Marine Corps at age 17 leading his platoon onto Blue Beach at Iwo Jima at age 19. He was active for years in the State Department, served as Consul General to Turkey for two years, and had a celebrated career of more than 45 years at the CIA. He was a three-time U.S. Ambassador and served under four U.S. Presidents. He also authored seven books, photographed for National Geographic and was a two-time Tony Award winner for Best Play.

To be clear, there was no financial exploitation and Tony didn’t “steal” anything. He saw to it that his mother had all that she ever wanted or needed, paying for her personal expenses in the range of $3.5 – $5 million a year.

So why didn’t Tony Marshall win his case? God only knows. Those with influence and money engaged the best public relations firms in New York for 3 years before and during the six-month trial, determined to see that Tony would not receive his inheritance from his mother’s will, which dated as far back as 1960. And he didn’t. Why our own defense team didn’t call witnesses and put on a defense remains a mystery, though Tony begged repeatedly to be put on the stand to testify in his own defense to prove his innocence.

I know that this extraordinary travesty of justice can never be undone – an 89-year-old, wheelchair-bound man was sent to jail with heart [problems] and Parkinson’s disease where he remained until he collapsed from being in “administrative isolation,” a euphemism for solitary confinement at Riker’s Island. [He was] repeatedly beaten, suffered verbal and other physical abuses, starved, and had necessary medications withheld while isolated again in a cell at Fishkill Correctional Facility. So who’s really guilty of elder abuse?

I do know that Philip hurt his grandmother, he hurt his father and he hurt me, but I also know that [there] are two things we possess as human beings that can never be destroyed or taken away by even the worst evil – our souls and our love.

Charlene Marshall, Northeast Harbor

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