I just read Barbara Piasecka Johnson’s obituary in the New York Times. Her life story was one of those rags-to-riches Cinderella tales with a dash of legal drama. She came to the United States from Poland with two hundred dollars in her pocket and landed a job as a maid at the home of J. Seward Johnson Sr., heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, and his second wife Essie. She was 34, he was 76. He left Essie for Barbara and they were married for 12 years before he passed away.
After he died, he left most of his $500 million dollar estate to Barbara. A huge legal battle ensued between the maid and his six children, creating quite a lot of publicity back in the early eighties, but Barbara managed to keep $300 million dollars of the estate, making her one of the world’s wealthiest women. She never married again and as an heiress she bought lots of artwork and supported several charities in Poland, where she returned after settling the lawsuit.
But the reason I am writing this post is a minor detail that just jumped right out at me, as these odd little coincidences so often do. Call me superstitious but I firmly believe there are no coincidences. I believe there are signs and omens all around us. So I was perplexed and slightly amazed when a day after posting the blog “Marry a Prince or a Princton Man?” on the Huffington Post, I read that Barbara the former maid who married a millionaire, built a 140 acre, $20 million dollar estate in Princeton, NJ. (Yes! That Princeton. Home of Princeton University.) Together she and her rich old man filled their Princeton home with Flemish tapestries and the artwork of Rembrandt and Botticelli.
So I can’t help wondering, what the hell is going on in Princeton, NJ? Was it named PRINCEton for a reason? Is it truly the place where dreams come true? Where girls who were once maids or naive college freshman or possibly former bookkeepers working in cubicles, go to live happily after?
I attended a lacrosse tournament in Princeton a few summers ago. It’s a lovely little town. The campus with the gargoyles on the buildings reminded me of Hogwarts. I had an awesome pizza at Conti’s and the Triumph Brewing Company is a great local brew pub. But I didn’t run into any princes while I was there. Of course, back then I didn’t know this was a mecca for highly desirable bachelors and dreams come true. But now I do and I am not sure what to make of this information. Maybe as a child, I read one too many fairy tales. Maybe as an adult I have struggled to live happily ever after. One thing I do know, I have always loved a road trip and I am planning a route right now that will pass through Princeton.
One more thing. Barbara’s former estate in Princeton, NJ is now a golf course. I’m not sure what to make of that either.
If you’re ever in Princeton check out:
And of course take a stroll through the lovely Princeton University campus, whether you’re looking for a husband or not.