I know I’m being repetitive, but there are just some people that you meet over the course of your life who are really special. Irénée du Pont Jr. was one of those people.
Over 20 years ago I was on the Main Line Delaware Committee for The Philadelphia Orchestra. At the time I was younger than all but a handful of the women by at least 20 or 30 years. There were three of us who were the youngest and they referred to us as the “working girls”. Yes, truly. They had no idea what they were actually saying when they said that – what they meant is that we worked. The majority of the rest of the members did not work. A few were high powered executives, but the majority of the ladies did not have to work.
So they planned this car rally fundraiser for the Orchestra that ended at Granogue, home and estate of Irénée du Pont, Jr.
When we were doing the walk through of the event, the event committee met at Granogue. Mr. du Pont was fascinating to meet and so nice to us. He showed us his home, his greenhouses, his collection of cars, and the water tower on the estate which has hands down the best view of the Brandywine Valley.
He took me up to the top of the water tower with a couple of the committee members. And he saw me looking over at the amazing greenhouses on the estate next to the mansion house that afternoon where he had banana trees. He then gave me permission back on that day to wander through his greenhouses. That’s where I first fell in love with the look of banana trees, even in a pot. (I have two banana trees of my own today overwintering in my family room.)
I never forgot meeting him or climbing to the top of the water tower. (And I said back at the time if I ever had the chance to go up to the top of the water tower again, I would bring a camera!)
Flash forward a couple of decades and I get go to another couple of events on Granogue. The last time was 2016. This time I climbed the water tower with a camera and I had the rare repeat opportunity to meet Mr. DuPont again. At this point he was well into his 90s.
In 2016, Mr. du Pont his wife Barbara had been married over 70 years when I saw him for the last time. He was an old school gentleman with a love of family, nature, people, and cars.
His beloved wife Barbara Batchelder du Pont died at 96 years of age in 2021. I remember thinking when she passed, that they had had such a love story that I wondered how he would go on without her. I saw a friend at an event this past fall who told me that Mr. du Pont was rather frail.
Irénée du Pont Jr died at 103 years old on January 16, 2023. I am legitimately sad. I think he was a really amazing man. Very humble and so bright, yet utterly down to earth. It was such a great experience to have the opportunity to meet him on different occasions. I still have the CD of the organ at Granogue he gave me so many years ago. I will freely admit organ music is not my jam but he was so proud of that Aeolian pipe organ!
A friend of mine once lived in one of the tenant properties as well. Mr. du Pont’s home, Granogue, was a truly beautiful place. It is a working farm and the beauty of his estate is naturalistic and magnificent. At one time, he also had his own train stop outside the boundaries of the estate. I am also pretty sure he had in his garage every car he had ever owned, and he had an amazing collection.
They don’t make men like him anymore. May he rest in eternal peace and happiness with his beloved wife.
I hope his estate remains intact. It is the most beautiful swath of land.
Here is the article from a Tower Hill School newsletter: