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The Quintessential Palm Beach Women: Philanthropic And Social Butterflies

Well known, well bred, and well to do, these eight quintessential Palm Beach women are at the tops of their philanthropic and social games.

  • Margaret Luce

A model and actress, Margaret Luce was discovered at the age of 14, eventually becoming one of Valentino’s muses and booking print and runway work for designers like D&G and Versace as a Ford Agency model.

Today, she resides in Jupiter with her husband David and their two children. Luce has a heart for philanthropy, working as an advocate for drug rehabilitation and serving on the boards of Fern House and Comprehensive Alcoholism Rehabilitation Programs (CARP).

For how long have you lived in the Palm Beaches? I’ve been coming here for over 20 years. We decided to raise our children around manatees instead of rats. But we still consider New York and The Hamptons our second home.

What do you love most about the area? I love to drive—I have a bit of a car fetish—and I love that I can be in farm country or Miami in a little over an hour. Palm Beach is so much more than palm trees with hidden gems like The Four Arts and CANVAS. Not to mention the fact I can be playing a round of golf at The Bear’s Club and then by 7 p.m. be at The Surf Club in Miami.

What local charity or organization is most dear to your heart? The Fern House is a non-profit faith-based residential rehabilitation center for men. It provides a recovery program that gives these men the tools they need, which will enable them to live sober, productive lives.

Where can we find you once season has come to a close? Charities never stop, but I can tell you I love when the snowbirds head north. That’s when I pull my cars out and take them for a spin. Catch me if you can.

  • Frances Fisher

Frances Fisher came to Palm Beach 18 years ago with her husband Jeffrey. Before serving on the boards of local charitable organizations, including the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, the Palm Beach Civic Association and Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper, Fisher founded the National Environmental Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., and worked as special assistant to the counsel for President George H.W. Bush and as a member of the advance team for First Lady Barbara Bush. Today, she serves as the chairman of the board of trustees and founding chairman of the Gardens Conservancy of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.

What do you love most about the Palm Beaches? I love that Palm Beach is grounded in such history. This is an island with such an important past and a future that I hope always stays true to its roots. It’s a wonderful and philanthropic place to live and have a family, and people truly care for one another.

What local charity or organization is dearest to you? I feel a personal connection to my role at Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. A native Alabamian, just like Ann Norton, her love of gardening and entertaining in her garden is something I share. Perhaps the most striking feature of the garden to me is an intangible one, realized through the legacy of Ann Norton—a place where visitors from all over the world can experience and enjoy the beauty of these gardens and the impressions they carry with them.

Tell us about your philosophy on philanthropy. When you care about a cause, it’s important to give of yourself. If you have the means to donate financially, those dollars will go a long way when carefully stewarded. If you have the time to have a hands-on role, that time is golden and incredibly valued by any organization. And if you have a special talent or expertise, offering that to an organization can save them time and funds. I have always tried to put service above all and give to those causes important to my family and me.

  • Hermé de Wyman Miro

Hermé de Wyman Miro didn’t set out to be a socialite. As a young girl in Vienna, de Wyman Miro was educated to be a concert pianist and performed in the ballet at the Vienna Opera. But when she wed her first husband René and moved to Palm Beach more than 50 years ago, the couple founded The International Society of Palm Beach to enrich the arts; foster education and medical research; protect animals; and help the hungry, homeless, elderly, abused women and children, and veterans.

This year, de Wyman Miro is celebrating her 40th year of giving back to the Palm Beaches, having distributed more than 100 scholarships and grants worth many millions of dollars to date to 80-plus local charities.

How would you describe the Palm Beach vibe? The Palm Beach atmosphere is still an oasis of beauty and serenity. The beauty of Palm Beach is the ease of life.

What does it mean to you to be a quintessential Palm Beach woman? To be engaged with charities and elegant without being flamboyant.

Tell us about your philosophy on philanthropy. I feel it is my duty being blessed with a comfortable life to help those less fortunate.

What are your favorite local spots to see and be seen? Mar-a-Lago, Jean Pierre, the Sailfish Club and Club Colette.

  • Lourdes Fanjul

As a member of the so-called “first family of sugar,” Lourdes Fanjul’s last name precedes her. Her husband Pepe’s family founded Fanjul Corporation, a vast sugar and real estate conglomerate.

As a former teacher, Fanjul has a passion for supporting children’s programs. She currently serves as chairman of the board of Palm Beach Day Academy, where her two children attend school. This season she will co-chair the ninth annual Palm Beach Dinner to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at Club Colette on April 11, along with Talbot Maxey and Tom Quick.

What do you love most about the area? I love the beach and the ocean. I swim in the ocean when I can and walk the beach with my dogs (a lab, Norwich terrier, English spaniel and a mutt). We also have a cat that picked us for his family—right before the holidays about five years ago we were decorating the house for Christmas and had all the sliding doors open. I heard a meowing and found a tiny orange kitten behind our couch. He thinks he is a dog, but doesn’t walk the beach with the rest of us.

What are your favorite local spots to see and be seen? I love what’s happening at the new Royal Poinciana Plaza. Sant Ambroeus and all the shopping is really special. I love shopping at Palm Beach Boys Club. We love HMF at The Breakers as a meeting place before dinner, or a nightcap once we have been out.

What’s your personal motto? Hear with your ears and listen with your heart. I find it serves me well in my leadership roles as well as my everyday interactions.

  • Kathryn Vecellio

As a survivor of two open-heart surgeries, Kathryn Vecellio holds the American Heart Association and the Cleveland Clinic particularly dear. But as a philanthropist, Vecellio has served as a trustee for more than two dozen additional charities, including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Palm Beach United Way, Center for Children in Crisis, Center for Family Services, Schepens Eye Research Institute and the American Red Cross. This season, Vecellio was co-chair at the Kravis Gala with Monika Preston.

Vecellio and her husband Leo have been married 42 years. They are the owners of The Vecellio Group, one of America’s largest general contractors.

How would you describe the Palm Beach vibe? Palm Beach is a small town, and if you’ve lived here as long as Leo and I have, it’s a wonderful place to raise children, reconnect with friends each season and to enjoy all the best that life has to offer. We are fortunate that so many wonderful things are now available to those of us who live here. When we first moved here back in 1979, we took our children to the circus and rodeo in what we called the “Leaky Tepee” auditorium on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. Two days later, we’d go to the opera or “The Nutcracker” at the same location. Incredible. Today, we all go to The Kravis Center and enjoy world-class productions in an elegant setting all year long.

What’s your proudest achievement? Other than having two wonderful sons, two lovely daughters-in-law and four precious grandchildren (all under the age of 4), I am most proud of raising $2.4 million for the American Heart Association at the 2008 Palm Beach Heart Ball, which set a national fundraising record.

What’s one must-do as a host of a gala or event? As chair, one must always keep an eye on the bottom line. At the end of the event, it’s your responsibility to raise significant funds for the charity while creating a memorable and enjoyable experience for your guests. I’ve often been told that it takes the skills of a CEO, the tenacity of a chief development officer and the heart of a professional philanthropist to be a successful chair.

What’s your personal motto? We’re only on this earth for a short time and there’s always room for improvement, so do what you can today to make this world a better place.

  • Wendy Roberts

West Palm Beach resident Wendy Roberts came to Palm Beach County in 1979 to develop programs and materials for elementary school children. Throughout the years, her philanthropic endeavors have included work on numerous charity boards such as Angels of Charity, the WXEL Garnet Society Leadership Board, March of Dimes, the American Humane Association, the Palm Beach Opera Guild, Habitat for Humanity and the American Lung Association.

This year, Roberts was the auction chair for the Center for Family Services’ annual “Old Bags” Luncheon, an event that raises funds to provide Palm Beach County residents with expert and affordable mental health counseling and education.

What do you love most about the Palm Beaches? Palm Beach is the only place in the world that you can go to a charity event every day and every night during the season. It has a burgeoning food scene, world-class shopping and access to exceptional music and art venues.

Describe the quintessential Palm Beach woman. The quintessential Palm Beach woman recognizes the importance of her personal commitment to her community. She is educated, engaging, a communicator and encourages others to work with her, quietly leading by example.

What’s your proudest achievement? Raising my three sons as a single mother was my biggest challenge and proudest achievement. I am fortunate to have three boys—two lawyers and an accountant—who have created their own individual success stories.

What’s one must-do and one never-do as a host of a gala or event? Must-do: Always surround yourself with committee members who follow through and who will be with you to the end. Never-do: Never commit to more than you can and will do to make the event a total success.

  • Lois Pope

Regarded as one of America’s leading philanthropists, Lois Pope learned the importance of giving back at a young age. Growing up in the aftermath of the Great Depression, she recalls that even though her family “didn’t have much,” her mother was always saving a few cents here and there to give to charity.

Pope’s late second husband, Generoso Pope Jr., was the founder of the National Enquirer. The pair moved to the Palm Beaches in 1971. When he passed away in 1989, Pope dedicated herself to helping others, establishing the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and the Lois Pope LIFE Center, guiding the creation of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C., and supporting American Humane, the Palm Beach Symphony and the Palm Beach Opera.

How would you describe the Palm Beach vibe? Part sophisticated, part fun, with a sprinkle of naughty.

Where can we find you once season has come to a close? The season for giving for me lasts all year.  But when the season ends in Palm Beach, I’m still working with American Humane, on all the projects at LIFE and on veterans’ issues.

Tell us about your philosophy on philanthropy. The fact it has been said many times before doesn’t make it any less relevant: To those who much has been given, much is required and expected. When I give, when I’m involved, when I’m helping others, when I get behind a cause I passionately believe in, it does me a world of good—it keeps me young and alive and very happy.

What’s one must-do and one never-do as a host of a gala or event? Must-do: Make every guest feel welcome, appreciated and important. Never-do: The host should never end up passed out under the table or dancing on top of it. As long as one is upright with both feet on the floor, all is good.

  • Amanda Schumacher

Amanda Schumacher was born in Japan to a naval family, but here in Palm Beach she has put down deep roots as the founder of the Tree of Life Foundation International, advocating for underserved individuals worldwide. Locally, Tree of Life runs a West Palm Beach center that houses and treats men and women who are homeless and/or facing addictions.

Schumacher’s husband Charles is the president of Schumacher Auto Group. The couple have five children and reside at “Vita Serena,” a 1920s Italian-style villa designed by Marion Sims Wyeth on just over 2 acres of Palm Beach oceanfront.

Describe the quintessential Palm Beach woman. Being a positive example and giving of oneself. I followed my mother, Helen Ross, as an example, and hopefully my children will also follow and continue to make a difference in the community.

Tell us about your philosophy on philanthropy. Give as if you were the one in need. Do unto others as you would like done unto you.

Where can we find you once season comes to a close? Our home or Yellowstone Club, traveling around experiencing exciting new adventures in the world, and with the Tree of Life Foundation International where I travel to underdeveloped areas to help those in need and help fight injustice.