Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a philanthropist who contributed millions of dollars to a fund that led efforts to restore the Hudson River, died April 23 at her home in Hobe Sound, Fla. She was 106.
Scenic Hudson, the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based environmental and cultural preservation group that Mrs. Davis supported, announced her death. The cause was not reported.
Officials with Scenic Hudson said Mrs. Davis grew to love the Hudson River when she was a graduate student at Columbia University and later when she and her husband lived in a hilltop home overlooking the river in suburban Tarrytown, N.Y.
Mrs. Davis took up kayaking in her 90s, which gave her a close-up view of the waterway and surrounding landscape the group was trying to preserve, said Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, who served as her guide on annual expeditions for 13 years.
Mrs. Davis was born into a wealthy carpet-manufacturing family in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, 1907. After graduating from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1928, she traveled through the Caucasus Mountains on horseback during the first of what would be more than 30 visits to Russia.
“We ate wild berries for breakfast and spit-roasted mountain goat for dinner,” she told a Moscow newspaper in 2002, “and I couldn’t have been happier.”
In 1932, she married Shelby Cullom Davis, an investment banker who later served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland during the Nixon and Ford administrations. He died in 1994.
After his death, Mrs. Davis initially focused her philanthropy on educational institutions. Several, including Wellesley and Harvard University, have named schools, centers or museums after her.
Scenic Hudson and preservation groups in Maine gained Mr. Davis’s financial support after she took up kayaking, her family said.
Her $20 million donation to the New York group in her 100th year led to major riverfront park improvements in Tarrytown and neighboring Sleepy Hollow, Sullivan said.
Survivors include two children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.