brookeastor2.jpgBrooke Astor passed away today. A gentleman should never ask a lady her age, but once Brooke Astor passed the century mark, she probably didn't care who knew how old she was. Brooke Astor was the wife of Vincent Astor, the only son of John Jacob Astor IV, who died in the sinking of the Titanic. The Astor family's roots stretch back almost as far as the history of New York City itself. The subway station at Astor Place in Manhattan is decorated with beavers, the animal whose pelt was the foundation of the family fortune before John Jacob Astor began buying large swathes of New York real estate.

Vincent Astor was Brooke Astor's third husband, following two short-lived marriages. Her grandson, descended from first husband John Kuser, but named after second husband Charles Marshall, recently alleged that his grandmother was being neglected by his father, Anthony Marshall, as she succumbed to dementia. Legal wranglings over codicils to her will set an ugly tone to the last years of a woman who devoted herself to philanthropy and New York City.

Brooke Astor donated more than $200 million to New York institutions during her lifetime, and her will directs that the bulk of her estate upon death will be shared with organizations like the Metropolitan Museum and The New York Public Library. When The New York Times got ahold of a copy of her will earlier this year, it disclosed several personal details. One was that she wished that the epitaph on her gravestone to simply read "I had a wonderful life."