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Evelyn Lauder: A Life of Service, Substance and Style

New York bid a touching farewell to one of its most compassionate daughters during an emotion-packed tribute on Monday morning.

A tearful Hurley quoted Henry Scott Holland: “‘Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was.…Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.” Hurley recalls traveling with Evelyn Lauder over a 17-year period on behalf of the BCRF. “We’d be up at 4 a.m. to do TV, we’d go to department stores and sign lipsticks all day, we’d light beautiful buildings pink and we’d host big fund-raising dinners,” recalled Hurley. “We’d do this for weeks at a time, and it could be exhausting — but never once did I hear her raise her voice or hear a mean or spiteful word. She saw good in every person.”

“If you google Evelyn Lauder, you’ll see her described as a socialite and philanthropist,” said Walters, a longtime friend. “Philanthropist, certainly. Socialite? She couldn’t have cared less.…The fact that she fought breast cancer and died of ovarian cancer is one of the great ironies and tragedies.”

Evelyn Lauder penned a poignant poem on the day that she learned that her ovarian cancer was most likely terminal — Oct. 20, 2009. In the verse, reproduced in its entirety in the memorial’s program, she captured the dizzying emotions she felt that day: “Shock waves asking circles of questions/How far, how long, how good, how bad/How long? How long?/Shock waves of pain, not for me, but for the loves of my life.…” Seeking to make what she undoubtedly knew would be a hard time for her family a bit easier, before her death she chose the musical selections played by the Empyreal Strings. Among them: “Fascination,” played for the first dance at her wedding, and “Raindrops,” which mother-in-law Estée played to rouse newlyweds Leonard and Evelyn out of bed on a trip to the South of France.

Dr. Larry Norton, scientific director and chairman of the executive board of scientific advisers for the BCRF for the past 20 years, called Evelyn Lauder “a visionary.”

“She was not satisfied with state of the art; she had to push forward always,” said Norton. Speaking of their many spiritual conversations near the end of Evelyn Lauder’s life, he quoted Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon: “Life is mostly froth and bubble/Two things stand like stone/Kindness in another’s trouble/Courage in your own.”

“We’re all in this together,” Norton told the audience. “Her message is that we must all be healers.”

Evelyn Lauder’s grandchildren recalled their grandmother — whom they called Evie — having a passion for feeding them. “I’m a foodie,” said Rachel Lauder. “But I wasn’t always this way. When I was a child, I was a very picky eater — I would only eat four things: grilled cheese, bacon, strawberries and Evie’s chicken. Whenever I went over, she had it waiting for me.…She made it with love, love for her granddaughter.…The most loving memories I have of her are when as a family when we would sit down and have a meal together. I will miss her always.”

“Of all the meals I’ve had in my life, nothing will ever compare to a pancake breakfast made by Evelyn Lauder,” said Joshua Lauder. “She loved to watch me eat and grow, like every Jewish grandmother.”

“Grandmothers are like fudge — mostly sweet and a little nutty,” said Danielle Lauder. “This was my grandmother: awfully delicious and full of surprises. Evie was the perfect mixture of salty and sweet, soft and crunchy, and those ingredients that no one could quite pinpoint.…She was my rock and my inspiration, but above all she was my friend.” Danielle also recalled a dinner discussion concerning politics. In the middle of it, she remembered, Evelyn leaned over and whispered into her ear, “Have you ever kissed a boy?”

“I told what any granddaughter would tell their grandmother,” Danielle Lauder said to laughter from the crowd. “I told her boys have cooties and I’ve never interacted with them.”

“It has been just over two months since the passing of my grandmother Evie, but the gaping hole in my heart has yet to heal,” Eliana Lauder said. “Evie, this was your final bout with cancer, but you will and forever be a champion for overcoming adversities, because you never stopped fighting.”

Daughter-in-law Laura Lauder said she benefited from advice given by Estée Lauder to Evelyn Lauder: “Keep your mouth shut and your pocketbook open.”

“Those were words to the wise from Estée to Evie, to ensure the best relationship between mothers-in-law and their daughters-in-law,” said Laura Lauder. “Evie listened well. She was a generous, warm, adventurous and tender-hearted mother-in-law.”

The service closed with a touching video montage of Evelyn Lauder’s life, including family home movies.

“May her light be a gift which will abide for us forever; her memory will always be a blessing,” said Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein.

 

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