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Ruth Lilly


Ruth Lilly Obituary
Ruth Lilly An heir to the Eli Lilly and Co. pharmaceutical fortune who became one of the nation's most generous philanthropists, died December 30 in Indianapolis. She was 94. She was the last surviving great-grandchild of Col. Eli Lilly, founder of the Eli Lilly and Company. She was born August 2, 1915 in Indianapolis, where she resided until her death. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. and the granddaughter of Mr. & Mrs. Josiah K. Lilly, Sr., both of whom were instrumental in the growth and success of Eli Lilly Co. from the 1880s until the 1960s. Ruth's brother, Josiah Lilly III, died in March of 1995. Born and raised in Indianapolis, she graduated from Tudor Hall School in 1933 and attended the Herron School of Art. She spent her summers in Quissett Harbor and Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Among her many interests has been the writing and publishing of poetry. She is survived by six nieces and nephews, fourteen grand nieces and nephews, and twelve great-grand nieces and nephews. Her family said, "Aunt Ruth loved the people in her life," citing her close relationships with relatives and with the very special people who have worked with dedication and love to provide her the beautiful, peaceful place where she lived. Her home was the center of activity for many family occasions including birthday and Christmas parties. She loved being with family and friends and invited them on travels in past years. Professional relationships also were sources of warm personal friendships. "During her later years, especially, her philanthropy widened her circle of contacts and interests. Aunt Ruth's life became much more interesting and rewarding as her interests in philanthropy involved her with a wide variety of Indianapolis institutions," said her nieces and nephews. "She enjoyed visiting with many wonderful and talented people who serve the community of Indianapolis, Indiana." Mrs. Lilly was married to the late Guernsey Van Riper for 40 years. The marriage ended in divorce. She was a member of the Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was also a member of the Highland Golf and Country Club and was on the Board of Trustees at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1991 by Wabash College and by Franklin College in 2003 and in 2004 by Marian University and Indiana University. In 1966, Ruth Lilly, along with her brother, gave their parents' estate "Oldfields" to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, along with gifts of trust income to maintain it. Among recipients of her gifts have been a number of colleges and universities. Major gifts have been given to the University of Indianapolis, Wabash College, Indiana University, Duke University, DePauw and Tufts University. She also made grants to Anderson University, Butler University, Hanover College, Franklin College, Marian University, Park-Tudor School, Orchard School, Brebeuf Preparatory School, Cathedral High School and Lutheran High School. Indianapolis area charities which have received major gifts include Methodist Hospital, Riley Hospital for Children and St. Vincent's Hospital. The Ruth Lilly Center for Health Education was funded with a gift in 1987. Other health and environmental groups who have benefited from her largess include the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, Brain Injury Association of Indiana, Project I-Star, Little Red Door, Prevent Blindness, Nature Conservancy and the Hoosier Environmental Council. A gift of one million dollars was given to Crossroads Rehabilitation Center, the National Easter Seals affiliate, for its Assistive Technology Center. She was honored by the National Easter Seal Society as the 1998 U.S. Philanthropist of the Year. Arts and cultural support organizations were also beneficiaries of her generosity over the years, including: The Indianapolis Art Center, The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, The Indianapolis Ballet Theatre, The Indianapolis Opera, The American Cabaret Theatre, the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre, Arts for the Ear, Young Audiences and WFYI Public Broadcasting. Mrs. Lilly gave generously to the Heritage Museums and Gardens of Sandwich, Massachusetts, established by her brother, J.K. Lilly III, in memory of their parents, as well as to Conner Prairie, the Eiteljorg Museum of Western Art and the Indianapolis Zoo. Poetry was among the genuine loves of her life. She was a published poetess and a major supporter of poetry. Mrs. Lilly established an endowed chair of poetry at Indiana University to an outstanding American poet. Beginning in 1990, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships were established for graduate students in poetry, with two new grants given each year. Mrs. Lilly also gave major gifts to Americans for the Arts and the Modern Poetry Association, publisher of Poetry Magazine, as part of her estate plan. She also supported causes in Indianapolis and Indiana benefiting those individuals with physical and mental disabilities and environmental deprivation. Among them were Noble of Indiana, the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and United Way of Central Indiana. She was a supporter of Prevent Child Abuse, Child Advocates, Pleasant Run Children's Home and the Family Service Association, as well as numerous other organizations of this type. Ruth Lilly's lifetime philanthropy resulted in her giving away the vast bulk of her inheritance, largely to Indiana based institutions. To carry on her lifetime charitable work, she made a major gift to the Lilly Endowment, the Lilly family's main charitable organization. In keeping with Ruth's spirit of charity, the family requests in lieu of flowers memorial contributions be made to a charity of the donor's choice. Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, January 10, 2010, at Oldfields- Lilly House, 4000 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46208. A Service in Celebration of Ruth's Life will be 10 a.m. Monday, January 11, 2010 at Christ Church Cathedral, Monument Circle. Burial will be private at Crown Hill Cemetery. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Center- Broad Ripple. Expressions of appreciation and sympathy may be shared with the family by visiting:

Published in the The Indianapolis Star on Jan. 3, 2010
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