Portsmouth New Hampshire Philanthropist: Roberta Brooke (Russell) Kuser Marshall ASTOR (1902-2007)

(Please note that this original article was written while Brooke Astor was still alive.  See end of this brief article for updated links).

Birthday Mrs. Astor…


Roberta Brooke (Russell) Kuser Marshall Astor, should have turned 104 a couple of days ago.  She’s a darn amazing woman –self-educated, intelligent, witty, and dedicated to giving away money (at least up until 1997). Although a world traveler, she spent her time mostly in New York City, and in Maine. She has been a nurse, editor, writer, decorator, trustee, philanthropist, wife and mother. She kept a promise to her third husband, Vincent Astor, to give away his money–and for 35 years that was her passion.

She was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Her father’s military career meant he was often transferred (USMC), and I suspect that is how they ended up in Portsmouth.

One of her biographies states she was descended from a signer of the Declaration of Independence… I haven’t found that connection yet.  But what I did find is that she would have been a fairly CLOSE cousin to the poet James Russell Lowell, and also a DISTANT cousin to both President Ulysses S. Grant, and to ME (through her Miner line)!

I’m including a brief bio that I’ve pieced together from various sources, along with the family tree of just her Russell line.

I’ve researched about 10 of her lines, and probably will post them on my New Hampshire & Genealogy & History web site.

Mrs. Brooke Astor truly is a remarkable woman, and one of the finest to hail from New Hampshire.

UPDATE: August 2013: Brooke Astor’s Son Is Paroled

UPDATE: May 2008: Brooke Astor’s $4.6 Million Manhattan Apartment at 778 Park Avenue, Up for Sale.

UPDATE  August 13, 2007Brooke Astor died today.

UPDATE:  Funeral  be held on Friday August 17, 2007 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Church, an Episcopal congregation on Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street.

Update November 28, 2007: Astor’s Son Surrenders  on Charges.

Link to ALL of the articles I’ve written on this blog about Brook Astor and her family.

Brooke Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall,  died in December of 2014.  Since his obituary did not mention his mother, I won’t be linking to his notice. I am sure you can “google” it.

If you would like to read something wonderful, about how Brooke continues to give, along with her grandson, Philip Marshall, see this blog, “Beyond Brooke.”



Roberta Brooke (Russell) Kuser Marshall Astor was an only child, born 30 March 1902 in Portsmouth New Hampshire, to General John Henry & Mabel Cecile Hornby (Howard) Russell. She died  in August 2007 at her  Holly Hill, New York home. (see obituary above).

After living in China with her parents, she became fluent in the Chinese language. In 1919 she attended Miss Madeira’s School (High School) in Washington D.C., but withdrew before graduation.

-Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She grew up in Hawaii, Panama, China, and Dominican Republic.
-In 1919 living in Washington D.C.; in 1920s at “Denbrooke” estate in New Jersey;
-In the 1930 census, she was a guest at the Miramar Hotel in Montecito City, Santa Barbara County, California with her son Anthony.
– In 1953 after her marriage to Vincent Astor, resided 120 East End Ave, New York City; most recently 405 Park Ave, New York City. Summer home: “Cove End,” a white-shingled “cottage” on Mount Desert Island, off the coast of Maine.

– A “Gray Lady” (volunteer nurse) during World War I
– Feature Editor: “House And Garden” magazine
– Staff: Ruby Ross Wood Inc., a prominent New York decorating firm in the 1930s
– Writer: The bluebird is at home (1965); Footprints: an autobiography (1980);
Last Blossom on the Plum Tree (1986); Patchwork child, early memories (1993). Was also involved in the creation of additional videorecordings and books regarding the Vincent Astor Foundation.
– Honorary Chairman, New York Public Library; Honorary Trustee, Marine Corps University Foundation
– 2005 Trustee of Rockefeller University
– Philanthropist; Administrator of Vincent Astor Foundation for 38 years: Her third husband, Vincent Astor, left her with a fortune that allowed her to become a philanthropist of major proportions. She awarded 2,698 grants, (an average of 100 grants and $9 million a year) to civic projects, social projects, and cultural institutions in New York City, primarily to the city’s “crown jewels”: the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library, the Metropolitan Opera, the Brooklyn Museum, the Rockefeller University, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx Zoo, the Museum of Natural History, and Carnegie Hall. The three institutions that received the largest grants from Mrs. Astor were the New York Public Library ($24,600,000), the Metropolitan Museum of Art ($21,000,000), and the Bronx Zoo ($11,800,000).    She has given away approximately $193,317,406 to charitable causes over the course of 35 years. In 1997, at the age of 95, she gave out the last $25 million and closed the foundation, stating that she wanted more time to travel and write poetry.
– Other projects of interest.  In the 1980s through the Vincent Astor Foundation, she donated $200,000 to the Executive Mansion Preservation Fund, for the Governors’ Memorabilia Room and the renovated kitchen.

Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton on 15 Jan 1998
National Medal of Arts 1988
Presidential Citizen’s Medal 1988

*The Brooke Russell Astor Award, 1987 – The Brooke Russell Astor Award was established in 1987 as part of a generous endowment gift to The New York Public Library from David Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller’s gift is a tribute to Mrs. Astor’s continued commitment to supporting the role of individuals who improve the quality of life in New York City. Given annually, the Brooke Russell Astor Award honors an unsung hero or heroine, someone whose unrelenting efforts and tireless dedication to this city have contributed substantially to its betterment.
*Second recipient of the David Rockefeller Award, which recognizes an individual from the Rockefeller University’s community  whose extraordinary service exemplifies David Rockefeller’s commitment to the institution.
*2001 Recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

She married 1st) 26 April 1919 to John Dryden Kuser, son of Anthony & Susie (Dryden) Kuser in Washington, D.C. He was b. 24 Sep 1897 and d. Aug 1996; They divorced in 1930.

She married 2nd) 19 April 1932 to Charles Henry “Buddy” Marshall, son of Charles Henry & Josephine Lenox (Banks) Marshall; he was b. 19 January 1891, and died 1952.

She married 3rd) 8 Oct 1953, in Bar Harbor ME, as his third wife, to William Vincent Astor, son of Col. John Jacob & Ava Lowle (Willing) Astor, who was b. Nov. 15, 1891 in New York City and died 3 Feb 1959.

Son of John Dryden & Roberta Brooke (Russell) Kuser:
1. Anthony Dryden Kuser, b. 30 May 1922 [some sources say 1924] in New York City, NY. His name was changed in 1942 to Anthony Dryden Marshall. He served in WW 2 for four years, as a Lt. USMC, Pacific Area, landing his infantry platoon on Iwo Jima on D+1. He served the Department of State including an assignment in the Consulate General, Istanbul, Turkey (1958-59); was an entrepreneur in Nigeria (1960-69), intelligence officer (CIA) and diplomat. He served as Ambassador over an eight-year period (1969-77) to the Malagasy Republic, Trinidad and Tobago (1972-1974), Kenya (1973), and as non-resident ambassador to the Seychelles (1976). He has served on many boards, including the Vincent Astor Foundation, Brown University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, WNET (Channel 13) and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Marshall is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Explorers Club And a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society He is Founding Chairman (1989) of the United States Marine Corps University Foundation in Quantico, Virginia.  He is a Republican, and a member of Rotary International.   Currently (2006) he is an investment manager, author of seven books,and a contributing editor to Conde Nast Traveler. He is also a theatrical Producer and photographer who has won three Tony awards as a Broadway producer.   Books: The Malagasy Republic, Madagascar (1972); Trinidad-Tobago (1975); Basti (June 1987) Awards: 2004 Tony Award® Best Play — I Am My Own Wife [winner]; 2004 Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play — I Am My Own Wife [winner]; 2003 Tony Award® Best Revival of a Play —  Long Day’s Journey Into Night [winner]; 2003 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Play — Long Day’s Journey Into Night [winner] .

Update July 28, 2006 .
Anthony Marshall married 1st) July 26, 1947 in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania to Elizabeth Cynthia Cryan, divorced; m2nd, on December 29, 1962 to Hoegnell. She was born May 11, 1928 ; divorced Jan. 24, 1990; he married 3nd) 1992 to  Charlene T. Gilbert (her first husband was Rev. Paul Gilbert).
Children of Anthony & Elizabeth (Cryan) Marshall:
1. Philip Cryan Marshall, twin; b. 1953; married Nan Starr; two children: Winslow and Sophie.
2. Alexander R. “Alec” Marshall, twin, b. 1953; m. Susan –,
divorced; one child, Hilary Brooke.

KNOWN COUSINS of Roberta “Brooke” (Russell) ASTOR:
– President Ulysses S. Grant (through her paternal Russell > Treadway
> Grant line)
– James Russell Lowell, poet (through her paternal Russell line)
ME! (through her paternal  Russell > Treadway > Grant >
Miner line

“Power is the ability to do good things for others.”

“Mirrors in a room, water in a landscape, eyes in a face—those are what give character.” (Architectural Digest, March 1982)

“No matter how horrid a person may appear on the surface, if you dig
deeper, you will find some nice, unexpected little quality.”    Brooke Astor at age 15

“When it was built, in my mind, too late. It was love among the
ruins!” Speaking about the Renaissance Towers in 1981 before the
German Society.

“Never sulk and never be rude. … If people are rude to you, pay no
attention; they simply don’t know any better.”

“If I live a .little bit longer by never leaving the beaten track, and
losing all sense of adventure — then life will close in on me and I will
become an introspective old bore.”

“Next to being an only child, the greatest gift my parents passed on to me was marvelous health.”

“Sixteen years of that kind of security helps one withstand almost any blow that life can deal.” (Speaking of her mother)

“If you love to read, if you love nature and if you have a dog, you’ve got it made.”

Brooke Astor, NY Times:
“There was a young lady from Kent
Who said she knew what men meant
When they asked her to dine
Private room, champagne, wine,
She knew what they meant and she went.”

FAMILY TREE of Roberta Brooke Russell Astor

Capt. James-1 Russell
, son of Samuel & Mary (Watt) Russell of Donegal Ireland, was b. abt 1735  in Rathmelton, Donegal, Ireland, and d. 1804 in Gettysburg PA. His will was witnessed 19 March 1804, and probated 9 May 1804.  He married 15 Oct 1755 in Harrisburg, Dauphin Co PA to Hannah Blackburn, dau of John Blackburn. She b. abt 1735 in Harrisburg, Dauphin Co. PA.
Children of James & Hannah (Blackburn) Russell:
1. Samuel Russell, b. 22 Aug 1756 Marsh Creek (Gettysburg) PA; m. Mary McClure
2. +Alexander-2 Russell, b. 25 Feb 1758 in Gettysburg, Adams Co PA
3. Mary Russell, b. 30 Jan 1760 Marsh Creek PA; m. Atcheson McLaughlin
4. Elizabeth Russell, b. 20 Nov 1762 Marsh Creek PA; m. James Speer
5. John Russell, b. 25 Feb 1765 Marsh Creek PA; m. Sarah —
6. Hannah Russell, b. 15 June 1767 Marsh Creek PA; m. David Hosack
7. Jane Russell, b. 1 Oct 1769 Marsh Creek PA; m. John Dickson
8. James W. Russell, b. 30 Nov 1771 in Marsh Creek PA; m. Ann Throckmorton

Capt. Alexander-2 Russell, Esq. son of James & Hannah (Blackburn) Russell, was b. 25 Feb 1758 in Gettysburg, Adams Co, PA, and d. 15 Apr 1836 in Gettysburg, Adams Co. PA. He marrried 23 May 1785 in (Marsh Creek) Gettysburg PA to Mary McPherson, dau of Robert & Agnes (Miller) MacPherson. She b. 23 Sep 1763 in Cumberland Twp, York Co PA [Adams County by 1800], and d. 29 Sep 1850 in Gettysburg PA, she was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg PA. He was a graduate of Princeton College, and in 1776 a
military officer during the American Revolution, 7th PA Regiment, Continental Army (1777-1779).
Children of Alexander & Mary (McPherson) Russell:
1. James McPherson Russell, b. 10 Nov 1786 in York Co PA; m. Rebecca Lyon
2. Nancy Russell, b. 6 Aug 1787 Marsh Creek (Gettysburg) PA; m. John Mitchell Stevenson
3. +Robert Grier-3 Russell, b. 20 Aug 1788 Gettysburg PA
4. Hannah Russell, b. 22 Sep 1790 Marsh Creek PA; unmarried
5. Alexander Russell, b. 31 Aug 1794 Marsh Creek PA; unm.
6. Maria Russell, b. 28 Feb 1797 Marsh Creek PA; m1) — Stevenson; m2) Robert W. Wilson
7. John Russell, b. 13 Feb 1800 Gettysburg
8. Judge Samuel Riddle Russell, b. 21 June 1801 Gettysburg PA; lawyer, judge, graduated Princeton; married and had issue.
9. William Russell, b. 30 July 1803 Gettysburg PA

Robert Grier-3 Russell, son of Alexander & Mary (McPherson) Russell, was b. 20 Aug 1788 in (Marsh Creek) Gettysburg, PA, and d. 18 Feb 1853 in Rockville, Montgomery Co MD.  He married 31 Aug 1818 in Montgomery Co MD to Susanna Hood Worthington, dau of William & Mary Anna (Wilson) Worthington. She b. 17 March 1791 in Frederick, Frederick Co MD, and d. Nov 1882 in Rockville MD.
Children of Robert G. & Susanna Hood (Worthington) Russell:
1. William Worthington Russell, b. 28 July 1819, died young
2. William Worthington
Russell 2d, b. 30 Sep 1820 in Frederick MD; m. Virginia Fletcher
3. Mary McPherson Russell, b. 25 Aug 1822 in Frederick MD
4. Alexander Wilson Russell, b. 4 Feb 1824 in Frederick MD; m. Julia Ann Campbell
5. Robert Grier McPherson Russell, b. 5 May 1825, d. 1830
6. +John Henry-4 Russell, b. 4 July 1827 in Frederick City,
7. Elizabeth Hilary Russell, b. 24 Sep 1829, died young
8. Elizabeth Gaither Russell, b. 22 Nov 1831, died young

Rear Admiral John Henry-4 Russell, son of Robert Grier & Susanna Hood (Worthington) Russell was b. 4 July 1827 in Frederick City, Maryland. He d 1 April 1897. He was an officer of the United States Navy during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. Rear Admiral John Henry Russell was born at Frederick, Maryland on 4 July 1827 and died 1 April 1897. He  was appointed midshipman in 1841 and served in the sloop of war Cyane in the Pacific until 1843. He returned in the frigate United States in 1844 and served in St. Mary’s in the Gulf of Mexico from 1844 to 1846. He participated in operations at Galveston, Corpus Christi, Brazos, Resaca, and Vera Cruz. In 1848 he graduated at the United States Naval Academy. He served honorably during the Civil War. This was followed by Various duties on both coasts, and he completed his last assignment, 3 years as Commandant Mare Island Navy Yard, in 1886. He was appointed rear admiral 4 March 1886. , he retired on 27 August, and resided in Washington, D.C. until his death. He married Cornelia Pierrepont Treadway, daughter of Rev. Amos C. & Minerva B. (Grant) Treadway.  She b. abt 1837 and d. 1891, and is buried in Oswego NY. In 1938, the destroyer USS Russell (DD-414) was named in his honor. USS Russell (DDG-59) was named for him and his son, Major General John Henry Russell, Jr.
1870 United States Federal Census > California > Solano > Vallejo
Russell, J.H. 41 M W U.S. Navy 1000 Maryland
Russell, Cornelia 32 F W keeping House MD [b abt 1838]
Russell, Minnie F. 4 f W MD
Russell, Mary 3 F W Cal
Treadway A.C. 72 M W Clergyman Con
Treadway, L.A. 30 F W NY
1880 United States Federal Census > District of Columbia > Washington, District of Columbia > Washington > District 37
Russell, John H. W M 52 Capt U.S. Navy MD MD MD
Russell, Cornelia P. W F 45 wife Keeping house NY NY NY [b abt 1835]
Russell, Minnie T. W F 14 dau at home D.C., MD, NY [b abt 1866]
Russell, Mary M. W F 13 dau at home California MD NY [b abt 1867]
Russell, Harray J. W M 7 son at home California MD NY [b abt 1873]
[plus servants]
Children of John H. & Cornelia Pierrepont (Treadway) Russell:
1. Minerva “Minnie” Treadway Russell, b. 24 May 1866 in Washington
D.C.; married Alfred CRAIN.
2. Mary McPherson Russell, b. abt 1867 in California, d. 1898
3. +John Henry “Harry”-5 Russell Jr., b. 14 Nov 1872 at Mare Island, California

Major General John H.-5 Russell Jr., son of Rear Admiral John Henry & Cornelia Pierrepont (Treadway) Russell, was born 14 November 1872 at Mare Island, California and d. 6 March 1947 in Coronado, California. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He lived in Oswego NY during his boyhood.He retired from the USMC as a major general and the 16th commandant of the United States Marine Corps.  He married Mabel 12 June 1901 to Cecile Hornby Howard, dau of George Henry & Roberta Traill Brooke (MacGill) Howard. She b. 23 Dec 1879 and d. –.    He was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1888, graduating in 1892. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. US Marine Corps 1 July 1894.  His tours of duty include during the Spanish American War aboard the USS Massachusetts, and later in Guam, Washington D.C., several navy yards (possibly in Portsmouth NH where his daughter was born),  Maryland, Hawaii, Panama Canal Zone, Rhode Island, China, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In 1922 he was appointed American High Commissioner of Haiti where he served until 1930. Upon his return to the United States, he was Commanding General of the Marine Corps Base in San Diego, California, and later was in command of the Marine Barracks in Quantico, Virginia (1931). He was appointed Commandant of the Marine Corps on 1 March 1934
(remaining until 1936). After his retirement he had a career as a military journalist. He rec’d the Haitian Medaille Militaire, 1920; U.S. Navy Cross for Distinguished Service, 1920, and Distinguished Service Medal for duties as High Commissioner 1930.
Child of John H. & Mabel C. H. (Howard) Russell Jr.:
1. **Roberta Brooke-6 Russell, born 30/31 March 1902 in Portsmouth New Hampshire, d. 2007.


This entry was posted in New Hampshire Women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Portsmouth New Hampshire Philanthropist: Roberta Brooke (Russell) Kuser Marshall ASTOR (1902-2007)

  1. Pingback: Celebrating New Hampshire Women Through History | Cow Hampshire

Leave a Reply