Phoebe Hearst Cooke, who was a granddaughter of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst and used one of the nation's biggest fortunes to support a variety of philanthropic causes, has died. She was 85.
Cooke, who had pneumonia, died Sunday in a Templeton, Calif., hospital, according to a statement from the Hearst Corp., the media company she served as a director for 36 years.
Her twin brother, George Randolph Hearst Jr., who was a former publisher of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, died in June after a stroke.
A fixture on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, Cooke had personal assets recently estimated by the magazine at $1.9 billion.
Although her flamboyant grandfather built a newspaper dynasty, Cooke was not a particularly public figure. An ardent horsewoman, she was best known as a rancher who gave extensively to equestrian organizations. She retired from the Hearst board in 1998.
Cooke was born July 13, 1927, in San Francisco to George Randolph Hearst and his wife, Blanche. Her father was a Hearst executive and the eldest of five sons of William Randolph Hearst, who was known as W.R. to a family that included 15 grandchildren.
In a 1944 note thanking his granddaughter Phoebe for her birthday gifts of pine soap and ties, Hearst told her that he kept a picture of the twins and their mother in his room. "And when I get cleaned up, and perfumed up, and dressed up in my new ties, I'm going to look at it and say, 'Gee! I'm glad I belong to such a nice family,' " he wrote, according to a 2000 Hearst biography by David Nasaw.
Spending time as a child on Hearst's vast ranch and the family's other Central Coast properties, Cooke was steeped in Western traditions and became an avid rider.
A former California horse racing commissioner, she was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum's Hall of Fame in 1996, along with her husband, Amory J. "Jack" Cooke, who managed the Hearst family's ranching operations.
She also was active in the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy, a facility she helped found in Woodside, the upscale Bay Area community where she and her husband lived for much of their 45-year marriage.
While also maintaining a home near the famed Hearst mansion that she helped restore in San Simeon, Cooke supported many local causes in San Luis Obispo County.
Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the great-grandmother for whom she was named, had donated extensively to Mission San Miguel and so did Cooke. She gave as much as $1.3 million in the years after the 2003 San Simeon earthquake that nearly shut it for good, church officials have said.
In her final years, she was involved in a highly publicized legal dispute with relatives who contended that she could no longer manage her affairs. At a 2009 hearing in a San Luis Obispo County court, she agreed to a conservatorship overseen by family members.
Her husband died in 2008. Cooke is survived by Phoebe "Misty" Tovrea Lipari, her daughter with her first husband, Phillip Tovrea Jr.; and a grandson.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times