Billionaire racehorse owner Rachel “Bunny” Mellon has died in the US at the age of 103. The widow of the late Paul Mellon died on March 17 at her home in Upperville, Virginia.
Her grandfather, chemist Jordan Lambert, was the inventor of Listerine, which was later marketed by her father, Gerald Barnes Lambert, president of the Gillette Safety Razor Company and a founder of Warner–Lambert.
Mellon maintained homes in Antigua, Nantucket, and Oyster Harbors on Cape Cod, two apartments in Paris and a townhouse in New York City. But her main residence was Oak Spring Farms, a 4,000-acre estate in Virginia, which has its own mile-long airstrip for her Falcon 2000.
She was long known for her minimal public exposure; she offered only a handful of interviews to journalists in her lifetime.
She designed and planted a number of significant gardens, including the White House Rose Garden, and assembled one of the largest collections of rare horticultural books.
Bunny married Stacy Barcroft Lloyd, Jr. in 1932, and they had two children before divorcing in 1948.
The couple had become close friends of the banking heir and art collector Paul Mellon and his first wife, Mary Conover, who died of an asthma attack in 1946. After she divorced Lloyd, Paul and Bunny were married on May 1, 1948.
Together the couple collected and donated more than 1,000 works of art, mostly eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European paintings, to the National Gallery of Art and established the Yale Center for British Art.
The couple also bred and raced thoroughbred horses, including Sea Hero, winner of the 1993 Kentucky Derby. That win meant Paul Mellon who became the only person to win the Kentucky Derby, the Epsom Derby, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, having captured the latter two with Mill Reef in 1971.
Paul Mellon died in 1999 at the age of 91. In May 2000, Bunny’s daughter Eliza was hit by a truck while crossing a Manhattan street, causing a severe brain injury and full-body paralysis. Eliza spent the remaining eight years of her life under round-the-clock care at Oak Spring Farms, and died in 2008.