Marylou Whitney: Saratoga Philanthropist & Socialite
Since the 1950s when she first started visiting the Cady Hill estate of Cornelius V. Whitney (her late husband), Marylou Whitney has been an influential philanthropist in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Now dubbed the "Queen of Saratoga," Whitney has contributed a lot of time and resources to help make Saratoga the charming city it is today.
From Small Beginnings
Born in December 1925 in Kansas City, MO, Marylou Whitney began her life as Marylou Schroeder, the daughter of accountant/bank officer H.R. Schroeder. After the death of her father when she was just 19 years old, Whitney moved to New York City to become an actress.
During her time there, she entered into a relationship with Frank Hosford, a member of the wealthy John Deere family. They married in 1948, and Whitney had four children with him: Marion Louise, Frank, Henry, and Heather.
Although the couple divorced years later, Marylou Whitney would soon marry another man, Cornelius V. Whitney, in 1958. C.V. Whitney was a member of one of the nation's richest families, but he was also a co-founder of Pan American Airlines.
The couple had one daughter, Cornelia, and owned two main properties. Marylou Whitney owned a farm in Lexington, KY, but her favorite place was C.V. Whitney's 135-acre Cady Hill estate in Saratoga Springs.
Life in the Spa City
Marylou Whitney spent much of her time at the estate in Saratoga Springs, quickly becoming known as one of the area's socialites. Her love for the city and the local community was on full display as she worked tirelessly to help the area thrive.
One of her most well-known efforts was co-founding the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame and raising funds for its grand opening in 1986. In addition, she and her husband were part of a group of founders of Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).
Unfortunately, in 1992, C.V. Whitney passed away, leaving Marylou Whitney with an estimated $100 million estate. His death was devastating, and it wouldn't be until October 1997 that she would marry another man, John Hendrickson, a former aide to Governor Walter Joseph Hickel of Alaska.
Philanthropic Efforts & Well-Known Socialite
Since her current marriage to Hendrickson, Whitney has continued to play an important role in the Saratoga community. Whitney and her husband created the Saratoga Backstretch Appreciation Program in 2008. This program includes various social events for the workers and their families throughout the racing season at Saratoga Race Course. Individuals and businesses help finance the events.
In 2011, a rose garden in Whitney's honor was unveiled in Congress Park. The long-stemmed pink roses were created especially for Whitney and took 10 years to perfect. Hendrickson bred and named the rose after her as a token of his love and appreciation.
Whitney is also famous for having thrown a lavish themed gala every summer the night before the running of the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Past themes have included Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Wizard of Oz, and the Wild, Wild West. Whitney started this tradition when C.V. Whitney told her to liven up the town.
Marylou Whitney Today
While the famous galas no longer take place, Whitney has focused her energy on raising money for the backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course and contributing and giving back to the community.
She and her husband John donated the cost to build Centennial Park (opened in 2015) in Saratoga Springs to celebrate the city's 100th anniversary.
Today, she can be seen at fundraising events throughout the year, and her involvement in the community has brought so much to Saratoga Springs and its people.
Above Photo Credit: Heather Bohm-Tallman Photography