Mysterious Queens College donor kept to herself

TimesLedger Newspapers

Much remains a mystery about the Forest Hills woman who left $1.6 million to the Queens College music department in her will, but interviews with those who had cursory encounters with Beatrice Schacher-Myers have provided a peek into the life she led.

Schacher-Myers died in 2007 and left 80 percent of her estate to the Aaron Copland School of Music, which was a shock to Edward Smaldone, director of the department.

“I was going through mail on my desk, there was an envelope from a lawyer and I opened it up,” he said, recalling how he found out about the donation in 2007, one of the largest the school had ever received. “It said, ‘You have been given 80 percent of the estate of Beatrice Schacher-Myers.’”

But the school did not receive the money right away.

The lawyer handling her estate, Kevin Ribakove, had to track down any living relatives to ensure Schacher-Myers had not had other plans for the money.

It was not an easy task, but it did lead him to piece together parts of her life.

Schacher-Myers, who had her name spelled differently on different documents, was born in 1917 to parents from Russian and Austria who had immigrated to Canada, according to Ribakove, who commissioned a genealogist to draw up her family tree.

She spent her early years in Montreal, but then moved to upstate New York sometime before she graduated from high school, he said.

At least, that can be inferred after Ribakove found a 1933 yearbook for Oswego High School that contained a picture of her older sister Diane Schacher.

Sometime later, Schacher-Myers moved to Queens with her parents and sister and married a man named Robert Myers in 1951. The marriage ended in 1960, but it is not clear whether they were divorced or Myers died.

Other details, smaller but possibly more telling about her character, Ribakove gleaned from pieces of memorabilia left in her Forest Hills condo.

Several pictures from the 1950s shows what is likely Schacher-Myers and her sister sunbathing on a Southampton beach and at an anonymous country house with a red barn in the background. In each picture, they are wearing swimsuits and sunglasses. Either Schacher-Myers or her sister wears a floppy hat with small black balls dangling around the perimeter of the brim in each photo.

She never had any children and outlived all of her 21 first cousins, according to Ribakove, which made it difficult to track down her closest relatives.

“She was a very private person,” he said.

Richard Rolandi is the board president of Capri Gardens, the cooperative at 68-37 108th St., where she lived. He said Schacher-Myers was one of the first tenants of the co-op when it was first incorporated in 1988.

She largely kept to herself, Rolandi said, but was well-dressed, often leaving her house in a dress with a black pill box hat pinned to her head and wearing heels and skirts well into her 80s.

Schacher-Myers was a member of the musician’s union and, according to the superintendant of the building where she lived, played the violin.

Mark Novin, also a board member of the co-op, said Schacher-Myers received her money upon her sister Diane’s death in 2003.

Her sister, who lived in Manhattan, had the appearance of wealth. Even in her passport and New York driver’s license photos she is in meticulous makeup and wearing a dress that likely put her out of place at any of the area’s state Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Reader Feedback

Reader from Queens says:
Great article until the last paragraph. Not written very well.
Jan. 6, 2012, 2:56 am

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