Huguette Clark Was a Generous & 'Quirky' Person, Says Family Friend

Huguette Clark Dead: Who Was She?
Huguette Clark, in 1930

06/01/2011 AT 09:30 AM EDT

She spent the final days of her life in a New York City hospital room. It had no frills and no visitors, either – just her dolls.

Worth $500 million when she died at the age of 104, Huguette Clark chose to live in a series of hospital rooms for 22 years though she had no known ailments. She also owned a $100 million estate in Santa Barbara, a $24 million chateau in Connecticut and a $100 million Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan.

Nearly a week after the reclusive copper heiress's death at Beth Israel Medical Center, details have begun to emerge about the woman who decades ago cut herself off from family and friends and who once flew a doll first-class to France.

"It's a very sad story," Kurt Harjung, whose cousin, Suzanne Pierre, was one of Clark's closest confidantes and the widow of the her former physician, tells PEOPLE.

Harjung says Pierre would tell him and his mother about Clark, who was the daughter of the late Montana senator and mining tycoon William Andrews Clark. Yet much, he says, remains a mystery.

'A Level of Comfort'

Harjung believes that Clark's seclusion began with the death of her mother, Anna Eugenia, in 1963. Twenty-five years later, she would move to Mount Sinai Medical Center, and later be transferred to Beth Israel Medical Center.

"It gave her a certain level of comfort to be in the hospital," Harjung says. "She didn't want a fancy hospital room or anything."

Even while hospitalized, however, Clark made sure her properties were maintained. "She wanted to keep things up even though nobody was living there," he says. "Otherwise, why have them?"

Her Dolls

No friends or family were at her bedside when she died. But for someone who spent the greater years of her life alone, Clark seemed to seek company elsewhere.

"She treated her dolls as children," Harjung says of Clark's vast doll collection. "She dressed her dolls and talked to them, according to my cousin."

"Yes," he adds. "She was quirky."

'Extremely Generous'

She may have kept to herself, but Harjung says Clark used her wealth to reach out to others.

"She was extremely generous, from what I understand," he says. "Some people played up to her and told her a tale of woe, hoping she would give them something. She bought one of the nurses a condo. She would give away a $100,000 here or there."

In her prime, Clark made headlines in a high society as a young woman – she was even once linked to a British duke – though Harjung describes her as a "very sharp businesswoman."

Says Harjung: "It wasn't like she was somebody sitting in a hospital room playing Tic-tac-toe all day long."

• Reporting by ANNE DRISCOLL

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