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Books Philanthropist Drue Heinz used her riches to support literary causes

This 1955 photo provided by Heinz Endowments shows Drue Heinz at Rolling Rock in Ligonier, Pa.

H.J. Heinz II/Heinz Endowments via AP

Drue Heinz, who used her riches to fund literary prizes, support The Paris Review and start a publishing house, died Friday in Lasswade, Scotland, at Hawthornden Castle, which she had turned into a writers’ retreat. She was 103.

Her death was announced by Heinz Endowments, a foundation established by members of the family behind the H.J. Heinz foods empire. Heinz’s third husband, Henry John Heinz II, known as Jack, was a chairman of the company.

The British-born Ms. Heinz gave generously to the arts and had an affinity for literature. In the fall of 1970, intrigued by the literary quarterly Antaeus, she requested a subscription.

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After contacting Daniel Halpern, the editor, she agreed to do substantially more: help fund the publication. But her largesse stipulated that Mr. Halpern do one significant thing for her: help start the publishing house called Ecco Press.

“She loved good literature and she loved writers,” said Mr. Halpern, the president and publisher of Ecco, now an imprint of HarperCollins. “She was an insomniac who read at night, read all our books and loved the idea of reprinting books that had gone out of print, which was all we could afford at that time.”

Bankrolling a quarterly and a book publisher preceded another step in Ms. Heinz’s literary journey: acquiring Hawthornden, the former home of the 17th-century poet William Drummond, which stands on a promontory overlooking the River North Esk, and remaking it into a peaceful sanctuary for writers.

Ms. Heinz was born Doreen Mary English on March 8, 1915, in Norfolk, England. Her father, Patrick, was an army officer; her mother was the former Edith Wodehouse. Doreen – who changed her name to Drue – did not attend college.

Her first marriage ended in divorce, and her second husband, Dale Maher, an Oklahoman who was the first secretary to the United States legation in Pretoria, South Africa, died in 1948.

She had a brief acting career under the name Drue Mallory, cast in bit parts in three movies in 1950, and married Jack Heinz in 1953. They remained together until his death in 1987.

They had homes in Europe and the United States and held lavish parties; among the guests at one, to celebrate Jack Heinz’s 75th birthday in 1983 in Ascot, England, were the Queen and Princess Margaret.

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By then, Drue Heinz’s literary philanthropy was in full swing. She had started, in 1980, funding a prize for short fiction at the University of Pittsburgh Press, and later endowed its annual US$15,000 prize in perpetuity.

In 1993, as she neared her 80th birthday, she began a 14-year tenure as publisher of The Paris Review, the literary quarterly edited for many years by George Plimpton, who died in 2003.

Ms. Heinz leaves two daughters, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. Her stepson, former U.S. senator John Heinz, died in a plane crash in 1991.

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