A DE­VOTED GUARDIAN

WIFE OF DR. SEUSS KEPT HIS WORKS IN SPOT­LIGHT AFTER HIS DEATH

National Post (Latest Edition) - - OBITUARIES - Katharine Q. Seelye

Au­drey Geisel, the widow of chil­dren’s au­thor Theodor Geisel — bet­ter known as Dr. Seuss — and the guardian of his legacy since his death in 1991, died Dec. 19 at her home in San Diego. She was 97.

Random House Chil­dren’s Books, her hus­band’s pub­lisher, an­nounced the death.

Be­fore Theodor Geisel died, he told his wife that she would be in charge of all the crea­tures he cre­ated, in­clud­ing the Cat in the Hat, Hor­ton the ele­phant and the Grinch.

Tak­ing care of them be­came her mis­sion. She de­vel­oped and over­saw a global op­er­a­tion of pub­lish­ing ven­tures, film projects, games and cel­e­bra­tions that kept Dr. Seuss’s name, and his beloved sto­ries, in front of suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren as they learned to read.

She was deeply in­volved in the mar­ket­ing and manag­ing of all his ma­te­rial. Some peo­ple com­plained that her ag­gres­sive com­mer­cial­ism went be­yond the wishes of her very pri­vate hus­band.

“You use it or you lose it,” she re­sponded to San Diego Mag­a­zine in 2007 when asked about that com­plaint. “If we’re not out there — if we don’t keep up the re­minders and re­mem­brances — you fall off. And as long as I’m here, that isn’t go­ing to hap­pen.”

In 1993 she founded Dr. Seuss En­ter­prises, whose stated mis­sion was to “pro­tect the in­tegrity of the Dr. Seuss books while ex­pand­ing be­yond books into an­cil­lary ar­eas.” That meant keep­ing a sharp eye on copy­rights and trade­marks as Dr. Seuss mer­chan­dise and spinoffs were sold around the world.

It also meant over­see­ing sev­eral film adap­ta­tions of his work, among them com­puter-an­i­mated adap­ta­tions of Hor­ton Hears a Who! and The Lo­rax, as well as the 2000 live-ac­tion film Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas, star­ring Jim Car­rey, which was one of the worst-re­viewed movies of the year and yet one of the high­est-gross­ing.

(Geisel was the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on many of these film projects, most re­cently the an­i­mated Grinch, star­ring the voice of Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch; it opened in Novem­ber to me­diocre re­views.)

Not ev­ery­thing made money. The 2000 Broad­way show Seussi­cal was a flop. And Geisel did not hide her an­noy­ance that Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures cast Mike My­ers in the ti­tle role of The Cat in the Hat (2003), which also sagged at the box of­fice. She felt he was ill-suited for the part. The re­views were ter­ri­ble — A.O. Scott of The New York Times called it “a vul­gar, unin­spired lump of poi­soned eye candy” — and it prompted Geisel to de­clare she would never al­low an­other live-ac­tion por­trayal of Seuss char­ac­ters.

Over the years she re­peat­edly told in­ter­view­ers that she was still re­cov­er­ing from that ex­pe­ri­ence. As she of­ten put it, “I’m just get­ting my ‘Cat’ out of the lit­ter box.”

Geisel presided over a year’s worth of cer­e­monies in 2004 cel­e­brat­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of her hus­band’s birth un­der the ti­tle Seussen­te­nial: A Cen­tury of Imag­i­na­tion.

Random House sells 10 mil­lion Dr. Seuss books a year, and new ones crop up pe­ri­od­i­cally. Dur­ing a home ren­o­va­tion in 2013, Geisel found a man­u­script for a pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get? Random House pub­lished it in 2015 with a first print­ing of one mil­lion copies.

Geisel, a petite woman of bound­less en­ergy, would hold court each morn­ing with aides at a ho­tel restau­rant in San Diego, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported, ar­riv­ing in a 1984 Cadil­lac with a li­cence plate that said GRINCH.

In ad­di­tion to run­ning Dr. Seuss En­ter­prises, she de­voted her­self to phi­lan­thropy, sup­port­ing dozens of char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions.

She gave US$20 mil­lion and thou­sands of her hus­band’s draw­ings and manuscripts to the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego, where the Geisel Li­brary is named for both of them. She and her hus­band also do­nated mil­lions over the years to what is now the Au­drey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dart­mouth Col­lege, where Theodor Geisel was an un­der­grad­u­ate.

Au­drey Stone was born on Aug. 14, 1921, in Chicago. Her fa­ther left the fam­ily early, and Au­drey was later raised in and around Queens, N.Y. When she was five, her mother de­cided to live in a nurse’s dor­mi­tory to save money and sent her daugh­ter to live with a friend in New Rochelle, N.Y., for five years.

When she was 21, she en­rolled in the nurs­ing pro­gram at In­di­ana Univer­sity, where she met E. Grey Di­mond, a pre-med stu­dent whom she would soon marry. He be­came the dean of car­di­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Kansas, and they had two daugh­ters be­fore they moved to the La Jolla neigh­bour­hood of San Diego in 1960.

There the Di­monds be­came friends with Theodor Geisel and his first wife, He­len. Theodor Geisel was 18 years older than Au­drey Di­mond, but they fell in love, and in 1967 He­len Geisel, who suf­fered from sev­eral ill­nesses, com­mit­ted sui­cide with an over­dose of bar­bi­tu­rates.

In a note she left to Theodor Geisel, she wrote in part, “My go­ing will leave quite a ru­mour, but you can say I was over­worked and over­wrought,” ac­cord­ing to Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel (1995), a bi­og­ra­phy by Ju­dith and Neil Mor­gan.

Au­drey Di­mond di­vorced her hus­band to marry Geisel, at which point she sent her daugh­ters, ages nine and 14, away to school.

“They wouldn’t have been happy with Ted, and Ted wouldn’t have been happy with them,” she told The Times in 2000. He was afraid of chil­dren, she said, es­pe­cially of their un­pre­dictabil­ity.

“He lived his whole life with­out chil­dren, and he was very happy with­out chil­dren,” she added. “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.”

After Theodor Geisel died, she said, she apol­o­gized to her daugh­ters for not be­ing “the best of moth­ers,” and they be­came closer.

Her sur­vivors in­clude those daugh­ters, Lark Grey Di­mond-Cates and Lea­grey Di­mond.

In an obit­u­ary last month, Pub­lish­ers Weekly said they re­mem­bered their mother as “an ex­tra­or­di­nary whistler” who loved “pa­rades; early morn­ing; pop­corn; danc­ing cheek to cheek; and all hol­i­days.”

YOU USE IT OR YOU LOSE IT. IF WE’RE NOT OUT THERE — IF WE DON’T KEEP UP THE RE­MINDERS AND RE­MEM­BRANCES — YOU FALL OFF. AND AS LONG AS I’M HERE, THAT ISN’T GO­ING TO HAP­PEN. — AU­DREY GEISEL, WIFE OF THEODOR GEISEL, BET­TER KNOWN AS DR. SEUSS

REED SAXON / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Au­drey Geisel, widow of famed chil­dren’s book au­thor Theodor Seuss Geisel, bet­ter known as Dr. Seuss, with Dr. Seuss char­ac­ters in 2004.

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