Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Isles' richest person, with $12.6 billion, dies

Share your condolences

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Staff Writer

Barbara Cox Anthony was recognized for her contributions to the community at the YWCA's 15th Annual Leader Luncheon.


spacer spacer


Born: Dec. 8, 1922, in Dayton, Ohio

Married: Four times, widowed twice

spacer spacer

Heiress Barbara Cox Anthony, the richest woman in Hawai'i, died yesterday morning in her home. She was 84.

Anthony, worth $12.6 billion according to Forbes magazine, was the daughter of three-time Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, the man who also founded media conglomerate Cox Enterprises. It is one of the largest media companies in the world with newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and more than 300 businesses employing more than 80,000 people. Its 2006 revenues were $13.2 billion.

But Anthony was much more than a woman who wielded a powerful checkbook: Married four times, twice widowed, she raised two children and two stepchildren and helped found La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls, where her daughter, Blair Parry-Okeden, was among the first students.

"In her later years, they referred to her as a wealthy woman," said her son, Jimmy Kennedy, who now runs Cox Enterprises and was at her Diamond Head home when she died. "My mother was such an important part of my life that I'm a guy who's not ashamed to say I was a mother's boy."

Anthony had a stroke more than a month ago; her daughter flew from Australia to be at her bedside.

Growing up, she was a wonderful support system, Jimmy Kennedy said.

"She never missed a football game when I was at HPA (Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the Big Island), where she was on the board," said Kennedy, who then added with an implied drumbeat, " ... probably to keep me in."

His stepbrother, Reed Glover, the retired headmaster of Holy Nativity School in 'Aina Haina, said he too was a handful. Anthony took over primary mothering duties for Glover and his sister when their father, Jimmy Glover, a widower and successful contractor, died. Anthony was in her mid-30s at the time, with two children of her own.

"My stepmom did a great deal to keep us together, part of the family," said Glover. "She was a great lady."


Anthony married four times: Her first husband, Bradford Ripley, a naval aviator, died during World War II. The young widow met and married Stanley Kennedy while in Miami, where he was a member of the underwater demolition teams, the precursor to today's Navy SEALs. Stanley Kennedy was the son of the founder of Inter-Island Airways and its successor, Hawaiian Airlines.

They moved here and she quickly took to the Islands, making it her home for the next 62 years.

After their divorce, she married Glover, who died a few years later of a heart attack. Later, she wed Garner Anthony.

Friends said she found much joy in her children and grandchildren.

She is also remembered as an avid athlete who loved the outdoors. She'd competed in rodeos as a girl, and later other sports. She rode dirt bikes and raced cars.

"A group of us played tennis at Beretania tennis court," recalled longtime friend Bill Morris. He quipped, "We allowed her to play with us as long as she brought the sandwiches and iced tea after the game."

Actually, he added, she was a tennis standout, once winning a Miami tennis doubles championship with the late great Jack Kramer.

Her activity level remained high despite advancing age. "She was snow skiing when she was 79 with an artificial hip, if that gives you an idea," Kennedy said.

And she especially loved activity involving animals.

"She was a great equestrian, and raised horses," Kennedy said.

The Dayton Daily News, the first newspaper founded by her father, reported that in Hawaii, beneficiaries of her denonations included the Aloha United Way, a police officers charity, homeless shelters, animal rescue groups, hospitals, the YMCA, the Salvation Army and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

That love of animals also translated into support for the Hawaiian Humane Society, though throughout her life, much of her benefactor role was kept quiet.

"She didn't want or need to take credit for her generosity," Morris said. "Every year Forbes came out, we'd learn that (she was the richest person in Hawai'i). She was rich in different ways. She was rich in heart."

Listed by Forbes in March as the 45th richest person in the nation, she was the only Hawai'i resident to make the list of billionaires. She had homes at Diamond Head and on the Big Island and elsewhere outside Hawai'i.

Anthony and her sister, Anne Cox Chambers, served on the board of Cox Enterprises.

She became "the financial angel for La Pietra," said Morris, who met her about six decades ago, surfing in Waikiki.

"Whenever they needed money, she supplied it," he said, adding that in addition to meeting the school's financial needs, she helped with the headmistress' quarters and scholarships.

"She was very generous," Morris said. "She gave a lot of people scholarships, but without people knowing where it came from. She gave money to Punahou for scholarships, but didn't want them to know who gave it."

It was her way of staying under the radar.

"Every Monday, she'd get a foot-high stack of people asking for money," Morris said. "She didn't want to be given any sort of publicity about things. She knew if (her various contributions would be made public), she'd get, instead of one foot of requests, it'd be two feet."

But when Anthony would hear about a girl who might not be able to make tuition at La Pietra, she was quick to help.

"She was very supportive of our school," said Nancy White of La Pietra. "She really was a supporter of education for young women; she wanted them to have full lives."

Anthony's daughter, Parry-Okeden, become a teacher and wrote a children's book after graduation from La Pietra.

Anthony was a fixture at La Pietra graduation ceremonies up through last year; handing out diplomas and encouraging girls.

"She liked being part of their lives," White said.

Anthony was also successful in running her father's business, which is one of the largest privately held companies in America. The Cox family has owned Cox Enterprises for 108 years, and though she never held an executive position, she influenced its direction and culture, according to the obituary released by the company.

Kennedy, her son, put it this way: "She'd say she was more successful in having good business people and letting them do their jobs, too."

She chaired Dayton Newspapers and was a member of the Cox Enterprises board of directors. She also served as a member of the board of directors of the Hawaii Preparatory Academy and was the first woman member of the board of directors of the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Association.

In Hawai'i, as chairman of Hualalai Land Corp., she oversaw all aspects of that Big Island ranch which, at its height, had 7,500 acres.


As the daughter of the Ohio governor, she met many important people. In 1920, her father was the Democratic nominee for U.S. president, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his vice president. They lost to Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Later, while FDR was president, he visited Trailsend, the Cox family home in Dayton, Ohio.

"I sat with Daddy and the president and listened," she said. "It was wonderful. Daddy always asked everybody questions and President Roosevelt was the first person I ever heard who could answer all of them."

Many years later, when attending a convention of newspaper publishers, she played tennis against another famous woman publisher, the late Katharine Graham, and romped her.

When her son asked why she was so tough on the Washington Post's owner, Anthony replied: "Kay would have done the same to me, if she could."

Anthony is survived by her children, and stepchildren including Eve Glover Anderson of Honolulu; her sister, Anne Cox Chambers, a former ambassador to Belgium under President Jimmy Carter; and five grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.

• • • 

"Mrs. Anthony was remarkably kind. For an individual with the resources at her command, she had a genuine concern for those less fortunate in Hawai'i. She had a deep love of animals, and gave unending support to the Hawaiian Humane Society. She also was a major supporter of Hawai'i youth programs in high-risk areas, contributing to after-school programs and private scholarships. She was always delighted to hear the progress of the many children she helped. Hawai'i has lost a truly exceptional lady."

Matt Levi
family friend

"She basically felt that she was lucky to be in the position she was, but it didn't make her special. Very quietly she was a very generous individual. When she came into my life, she was very important to me. ... She did help a great many people, but it was done out of her belief that people had worth, and if she was able to help them achieve a particular goal, she would."

Reed Glover

"You couldn't help but love her, she was so kindly. She had a great sense of humor. Once, when we were flying her plane, she was serving me a sandwich and said, 'What do you think about Air Cox?' I said, 'It's great, but the hostesses are a bit long in the tooth.' She really belted me. (Laugh.) Best friend I ever had. I could tell her anything. ... Oh, also, she smoked just three cigarettes a day. One at every meal."

Bill Morris
family friend

"Even though she hadn't actually worked in the (newspaper) business, she had a very solid understanding of the business and a remarkable ability to get to the heart of an issue. I spent the better part of 15 years presenting quarterly to her and the board and she was a really dynamite performer on the big issues. She never let us forget the need to do the 'right things' fair and honest reporting in the journalism arena and honesty and integrity in our business dealings."

David E. Easterly
retired president of Cox Enterprises and a former president of Cox Newspapers, in a statement

"I put in a lot of time getting ready for my board presentations, but Mrs. Anthony could fire off a question on any of our businesses that you couldn't prepare for it if you had 100 years to get ready. We always knew she was on top of the businesses."

James O. Robbins
retired president and CEO of Cox Communications, in a statement