Billionaire philanthropist John W. Kluge was laid to rest in a modest pine box Tuesday afternoon at a ceremony that was alternately spirited and meditative.
Kluge, who would have turned 96 on Tuesday, died Sept. 7 at his home in Albemarle County.
He was buried in a shady glen at Monticello Memorial Gardens, across the street from Michie Tavern. More than 400 friends and family members attended the service, many of whom praised Kluge’s generosity, kindness and wisdom.
Kluge ” a German immigrant who at one point owned an empire of seven TV stations, 14 radio stations, outdoor advertising, the Harlem Globetrotters and the Ice Capades ” was ranked as America’s wealthiest person in the late 1980s and early 1990s until Microsoft’s Bill Gates knocked him from that perch in 1992. Forbes Magazine listed Kluge as the nation’s 35th richest American last year with an estimated net worth of $6.5 billion.
He was not only one of the nation’s richest people, he was also one of the most generous.
He gave more than $63 million to the University of Virginia, including funds to create professorships in end-of-life care and to establish the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection that features 1,600 pieces of art from his personal collection. He donated his 7,400-acre Albemarle County estate, including historic Morven Farm and 10 additional working farms, to UVa in 2001.
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