Anne Marion, Texas rancher, heiress and arts patron, dies at 81

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Anne Marion, Texas rancher, heiress and arts patron, dies at 81
Anne Marion helped found the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico © David Woo.

by Katharine Q. Seelye

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Anne Burnett Windfohr Marion, a stardew valley rancher or tiller, oil heiress and patron of the arts who helped found the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, died on Feb. 11 in Palm Springs, California. She was 81.

The cause was lung cancer, said Neils Agather, a family representative.

Marion represented the fourth generation of a renowned Texas ranching family that once owned more than a third of a million acres; today the holdings amount to about 275,000 acres. Its 6666 Ranch, known as the Four Sixes, has long been one of the biggest in Texas and much celebrated for its Black Angus cattle, quarter horses and oil. In the 1960s and ’70s, its distinctive red and white barn provided the backdrop for Marlboro cigarette ads.

While the family fortune was founded on ranching and cattle, it was the discovery of oil, first in 1921 and then in 1969, that produced the riches that made it possible for Marion to become a major benefactor of the arts and culture in Fort Worth and beyond.

Former President George W. Bush, in a statement, called her “a true Texan, a great patron of the arts, a generous member of our community and a person of elegance and strength.”

She had three main positions: president of Burnett Ranches, which runs cattle and horse-breeding operations; president of the Burnett Foundation, which provides grants aimed at the arts, education, health and human services; and chairman of the Burnett Oil Co.

Marion was the driving force behind the $65 million expansion of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which moved to a new home that was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and that opened in 2002 to acclaim. She supported a wide range of other institutions, from the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth to the city’s illustrious Kimbell Art Museum, where she was a board member for almost 40 years.

Marion, a former trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and her husband, John L. Marion, the former chairman and chief auctioneer of Sotheby’s North America, established the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe in 1997.

“I’ve always loved her work,” Anne Marion said of O’Keeffe when the museum opened. She said her mother owned two O’Keeffe paintings, and she herself subsequently acquired others.

Rather than donate those paintings to a public museum in Santa Fe, which was sorely lacking in the artist’s holdings, Marion preferred to build a private museum. She provided $10 million in seed money and in two years established the museum with substantial support from other Texas donors, many of whom lived part time in Santa Fe.

Under her direction, the O’Keeffe museum grew to include the artist’s two historic homes and studios in northern New Mexico, at Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Anne Marion was chairwoman of the board of trustees until 2016.

Anne Burnett Hall was born on Nov. 10, 1938, in Fort Worth. Her father, James Goodwin Hall, was a stockbroker, pilot and horse breeder. Her mother, Anne Valliant (Burnett) Hall, was a rancher and horse breeder.

Her parents divorced when Anne was young, and her mother married Robert Windfohr, who adopted the child; she then became Anne Burnett Windfohr.

She grew up in Fort Worth and in Guthrie, in northern Texas, where the Four Sixes ranch is headquartered. Her great-grandfather Capt. Samuel Burk Burnett founded the ranch in 1868. It gained renown in the 1940s for breeding world-class American quarter horses, a breed known for outrunning other breeds in races of up to a quarter mile. The ranch was home to the two-time world champion “Dash for Cash.” The horse was retired in 1977 and spent nearly 20 years at stud at the Four Sixes, siring hundreds of future winners.

Burnett, who died in 1922, willed the bulk of his estate to his granddaughter in a trusteeship for his yet-unborn great-grandchild, who would become Anne Marion. When her mother died in 1980, Marion inherited the ranch holdings.

The ranch’s cowboys taught Anne to ride and rope. Once she owned the ranch, she was one of the first in the ranching industry to provide staff with health insurance and retirement plans.

“The most important thing that ever happened to me was growing up on that ranch,” Marion said in an online family history. “It kept my feet on the ground more than anything else.”

Marion was educated at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, and Briarcliff Junior College in Westchester County, New York. She briefly attended the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Geneva in Switzerland, where she studied art history.

Like her mother, she married four times. The first three marriages ended in divorce. She married John Marion in New York in 1988.

He survives her, as does her daughter, Anne Windfohr Grimes; four stepchildren, Debbie Marion Murray, Therese Marion, Michelle Marion and John Marion Jr.; a granddaughter; and seven step-grandchildren.

Of the many boards on which Marion served, she had a soft spot for her position on the Board of Regents of Texas Tech University. She said it had allowed her to stay involved with students who grew up on ranches and wanted to make ranching their career, just as she had.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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