Carol Helme Brewster

A Philadelphia socialite and equestrian, she owned Worthington Farms and hosted Hunt Cup parties

February 08, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Carol Helme Brewster, a former Philadelphia socialite and renowned equestrian who during her marriage to former Maryland Sen. Daniel Baugh Brewster owned Worthington Farms, where the couple hosted the annual Maryland Hunt Cup and feted celebrities from the worlds of politics, film and business, died Thursday of complications from a stroke at the Brightwood retirement community in Lutherville.

She was 92.

Carol Helme Leiper, the daughter of a wealthy and socially prominent lawyer and businessman, and a homemaker, was born in Philadelphia and raised in Chestnut Hill, Pa.

Mrs. Brewster's father, James Gerhard "Gerry" Leiper Jr., was a talented equestrian, a master of foxhounds and co-founder of Andrew's Bridge Hunt in Pennsylvania. He won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1911, riding Alexander Brown's horse, Pebbles.

Born into the world of fox hunts and steeplechase races, Mrs. Brewster was riding by the time she was 3.

"She was a successful amateur race rider on the flat and over jumps, competing in an era when few women were riding against men," said a son, former Maryland Del. Gerry Leiper Brewster, a Towson attorney and former Baltimore County teacher.

"She also won numerous horse shows and hunter trials. As a member of the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, she continued to fox-hunt into her 60s, a passion she started at age 6 when she was taught to ride side saddle before switching to stride later in life," Mr. Brewster said.

"We fox-hunted together and raced together," said Katharine "Kitty" Hoffman, a friend of more than 60 years. "We went to Eastern Europe together, and we were neighbors at Brightwood."

Mrs. Brewster attended Springside School in Chestnut Hill and St. Timothy's School (then located in Catonsville). She graduated in 1935 from the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

She majored in animal husbandry at Ambler College, now part of Temple University, and studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

Mrs. Brewster played the straw-hat circuit, performing in summer stock theaters in New York, New Jersey and New England in the late 1930s and 1940s.

She was Ginger Rogers' stand-in in the 1940 Academy Award-winning film "Kitty Foyle," which was based on the novel by Christopher Morley. She also performed in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" and in "Burlesque" with Gypsy Rose Lee.

At the same time, Mrs. Brewster - who resembled another Philadelphian, Grace Kelly - had a budding modeling career working for the Conover Modeling Agency.

She appeared on the June 1941 cover of Mademoiselle magazine, and also modeled for Promenade magazine, Life, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and other magazines.

She was married in 1939 to Gaston de Havenon, who was CEO and president of the Ann Haviland Perfume Co., and became a homemaker after becoming pregnant with her first child.

After divorcing her husband in 1947, Mrs. Brewster returned to Philadelphia, where she raised two sons.

She met her second husband, Daniel B. Brewster, at a Chestnut Hill party after he had won a hunt club race near Philadelphia.

"They dated for seven years before marrying in 1954," her son said.

The couple, who had two sons, owned and operated Worthington Farms, a 450-acre horse breeding and cattle farm on Tufton Avenue in Glyndon, where the Maryland Hunt Cup is held the last Saturday of April. It is regarded as the world's oldest, toughest and most prestigious steeplechase.

"Loving to entertain, she threw great parties, including her annual Maryland Hunt Cup party, which was a Who's Who of Washington: congressmen, senators and ambassadors; Hollywood: Dorothy Lamour, MacDonald and Betty Carey; and international celebrities like the Ali Khan ... who was married to Rita Hayworth," her son said, "as well as Maryland business, civic and political leaders."

Mrs. Hoffman said that Mrs. Brewster had a knack for planning and hosting elegant parties with Washington luminaries, as well as the "casual supper with a few friends."

Mrs. Brewster actively supported her husband, who had served two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates and two terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962.

A popular figure in Washington, she was described in a 1962 article in The Washington Post as "a talented campaigner with a firm handshake and a knack for getting acquainted with voters."

Former Gov. Harry R. Hughes and his wife, the late Patricia D. Hughes, had been old friends of the couple.

"Carol was a strong woman, and she had her own views about things. She was very intelligent and very charming, and she loved sitting up late into the night discussing politics. She really was an excellent conversationalist," Governor Hughes said Friday.

"She was genuinely concerned about things in the world. My wife, Pat, and I thought the world of her," he said.

After Mrs. Brewster and her husband divorced in 1967, she moved to Chattolanee Hill in Owings Mills, where she lived until moving to Brightwood in 2003.

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