Counting Blessings From The Countess
By Diane Feen
You could say that Countess Henrietta de Hoernle has thrown out more life preservers for the arts, education, health and the needy than most sea captains. She has donated money for over 40 buildings and has been on every imaginable board of directors (40 in the past 25 years).
So, it came as no surprise that The Countess was honored in the public square (Mizner Park Amphitheater) on her 99th Birthday last Saturday. The event was a huge success with over 100 people in attendance and a sweetness that pervaded the atmosphere like a tender mist. It almost seemed like Boca Raton had been returned to its subtler small town roots (circa 1985) with introductions from Mayor Susan Welchel, Poppi Mercier (executive director of the Children’s Museum of Boca Raton) and the birthday girl, The Countess herself.
“Give Where You Live and Know Where it Goes,” said the Countess, She also talked about the importance of doing good for our children and supporting charitable organizations. “If you can’t donate money for charities then volunteer your time,” she added.
It was a very humbling experience. The Countess, who was in a wheel chair, spoke from her heart about her passion – that of charitable giving. She was clearly choked up by all the admiration and tenderness coming her way. After the unveiling of the eight foot bronze statue of The Countess and her late husband, Count Adolph De Hoernle, she was asked to speak. She thanked everyone profusely and then almost wept with appreciation.
And if you know The Countess then you know she is a very determined woman with a mission and a sharp mind. But she was clearly moved by the huge bronze sculptor created by local artist, Yaacov Heller.
We also had a chance to chat with The Countess a few days before her birthday celebration. She was as sharp as ever (in her 99th year) and told us that one of the things she is most proud of are the free concerts she sponsors in Mizner Park. “It keeps families together and keeps kids off the street.” Her other favorite thing is chocolate covered ginger candies. “At noon everyday I get my candy, I can’t wait.”
When asked what women should do to keep a good marriage (she has a good track record in the matrimony department) she said, “Women should agree (and listen to) their man, but do what they want. Always be agreeable and do not interrupt him.”
What many people may not know is that The Countess is a night owl, staying up most nights until 1:30 am. “I was always in the limelight and I enjoyed every minute of it. I had so much fun, I traveled around the world 20 times and wined and dined with kings and queens.”
The Countess also attended the weddings of both Princess Diana and Fergie (so much for matrimony on that side of the sea). She said the wedding party lasted for two weeks.
But closer to home (and more recent) she was overjoyed by the Birthday Bash held last week at the Peter Blum Family YMCA. Children serenaded her and everyone expressed their love for this philanthropist who is clearly a role model for others to emulate.
“I’ve seen and done it all. Until I was 95-years-old I went to two board meetings a day. But now I’ve slowed down. From the waist up I am fine, but not from the waist down.”
It goes to show you that you don’t need to have abs of steel or the legs of an athlete to do good. You only need a giving heart.