Audrey Geisel, widow of children's book author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, poses in 2004 with the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, who are characters from his books. (Reed Saxon/AP)

Audrey Geisel, the widow of children’s author Dr. Seuss and longtime overseer of his literary estate who championed the commercial potential of the work for stage and screen, died Dec. 19 at her home in La Jolla, Calif. She was 97.

Random House Children’s Books announced the death but did not provide a specific cause.

Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Geisel, died in 1991, and two years later, Audrey Geisel founded Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Over the past quarter-century “Dr. Seuss” has proved a highly profitable, multimedia brand, including books, films, theme park rides and the Broadway show “Seussical.”

According to Random House, more than 10 million Dr. Seuss books sell each year and new works continue to come out, such as last spring’s “Dr. Seuss’s 100 First Words.” The 2000 film version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which starred Jim Carrey, was a box-office smash, although Mrs. Geisel despised — as did critics — the 2003 adaptation of “The Cat In the Hat” that starred Mike Myers of “Austin Powers” fame.

“I never saw ‘Austin Powers,’ but I knew ‘Yeah, baby!’ and I didn’t want ‘Yeah, baby!’ at all,” Mrs. Geisel told the Associated Press in 2004.


Audrey Geisel in 2004. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

Mrs. Geisel is credited as executive producer of last month’s film release “The Grinch,” which stars Benedict Cumberbatch.

Audrey Stone was born in Chicago on Aug. 14, 1921, and grew up around New York City. Her parents divorced. “They held together supposedly for me,” she told the Chicago Tribune, “but that has never worked.”

She added that she fantasized about her life’s trajectory. “I would marry a doctor. I would have two children. They would both be girls. They would take care of me. And they would not be alone as I was with my mother. That was it. Then life just came along and changed everything.”

She trained as a nurse at Indiana University, worked at Boston-area hospitals and had two daughters with her husband, noted cardiologist E. Grey Dimond. “When the children were young, I had been very remiss,” she told the Tribune. “Everything else came first. I cleared 10 acres of weeds on the property we’d bought, and I was the hostess for social gatherings of the department of medicine, and I had no help in the house.

“The last thing would be time reading to the girls. There was nothing left of me that could cause me to sit down and stay awake to read. The children were well taken care of, but they didn’t have Mother reading to them.”

They settled in La Jolla around 1960, where she did hospital volunteer work, and met Theodor Geisel at a medical reception in the San Diego suburb.

“As we went through the line, I noticed that when we got to Dr. Seuss, the inflection of the person introducing us was slightly different,” she said to the Tribune. “I thought, ‘Well, it’s for some reason.’ Being my facetious best, I said, ‘Dr. Seuss, you must have a very interesting specialty. The right or the left nostril?’ And I remember him looking at me kind of startled and making no response.”

The two families became friendly — “My husband was very taken with Ted” — and Audrey Dimond and Theodor Geisel, 17 years her senior, began seeing each other as their respective marriages deteriorated.

Theodor Geisel’s then-wife, children’s author Helen Palmer, committed suicide in 1967. The next year, Audrey Dimond married Geisel, and her ex-husband raised their two daughters.

“They wouldn’t have been happy with Ted, and Ted wouldn’t have been happy with them. He’s the man who said of children, ‘You have ’em and I’ll entertain ’em,’ ” she told the New York Times in 2000.

“Ted’s a hard man to break down, but this is who he was,” she added. “He lived his whole life without children and he was very happy without children. I’ve never been very maternal. There were too many other things I wanted to do. My life with him was what I wanted my life to be.”

Survivors include her daughters, Leagrey Dimond and Lark Grey Dimond-Cates.