Once they are buried, most people stay put. Such was not the case for Harry Helmsley, who was born in Bronx, New York. His formal schooling ended in high school, but he got into the real estate business at age 16 and eventually became a broker. With shrewd investing he built a real estate empire that included lofts, large residential developments, offices and hotels. When he died his empire, including interests in the Empire State Building, One Penn Plaza, and numerous hotels, he was worth approximately $1.7 billion. In 1938 he married Eve Ella Sherpick Green but divorced her in 1971. In 1972 he married Leona Mindy Roberts.

Leona Helmsley was born Lena Mindy Rosenthal in Marbletown, Manhattan, to Polish-Jewish emigrants. She attended high school in Manhattan but dropped out to seek her fortune in real estate. She married Leo Panzirer in 1938, divorcing him in 1952. She then married Jospeh Lubin, divorced him, married him again and divorced him again. Her real estate career kicked into high gear in 1964 when she started selling condominiums and co-ops. She met Harry Helmsley in 1968 and joined one of Harry’s firms in 1970. After they were married, she devoted most of her time to managing the hotels. She was known as a demanding boss, which earned her the notorious title of the “Queen of Mean”. She was famously quoted as saying “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes”. Her tax-evading ways caught up with her. She was convicted of federal income tax evasion in 1989 and served 19 months of a 16 year sentence.

When Harry died in 1997, his body was placed in the Helmsley Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Harry reposed quietly for a few years, but Woodlawn began building a community mausoleum just across the way from the Helmsley mausoleum. The community mausoleum was designed to give the not-so-well-to-do the opportunity to opt for above ground burial. In 2004 Leona Helmsley sued the cemetery for $1.50 million, claiming that the community mausoleum spoiled the “open view, serenity and tranquility” that she it had previously enjoyed. After some legal machinations, all was forgiven and Leona actually gave money to the cemetery’s preservation fund.

She soon found a large plot at Sleepy Hollow high on a hill overlooking the Pocantico River and the Rockefeller estate. That suited her just fine. The 3/4 acre plot assured that nothing could be built nearby. She spent $1.4 million dollars to build a 1,300 square foot Greek Revival style mausoleum and set aside $3 million for perpetual care and maintenance. Helmsley’s will specified that $12 million be set aside for the care of her dog, a puffy Maltese called Trouble, and that Trouble, who died in December 2010 be buried beside her in the mausoleum when she dies. Her request may encounter a small hiccup. New York State law prohibits the burial of pets in human cemeteries. But there are always the iconoclasts who see laws not as edicts carved in stone, but as mere suggestions…And the executors of the estate do have a key to the mausoleum.

The interior of the Helmsley Mausoleum contains three stained glass windows depicting the the New York skyline. Harry’s sarcophagus is inscribed “I wait for the time we can soar together again”. Leona’s is inscribed “I never knew a day I did not love you”. (Stories in Stone New York. A field guide to New York City area Cemeteries and their residents by Douglas Keister).

Taken with a Sony A6000 and Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM lens (I think).

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