“Anything is possible with sunshine
and a little pink.” – Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau
The Glam Pad mourns the loss of Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau. Not only did Lilly make the world brighter by turning Palm Beach Chic into a national dress code, but she was also an active philanthropist.
support for a wide range of philanthropic causes – from supporting the children
and elderly of Darfur to serving as honorary chairman of the 2008 Red Cross
Designer’s Show House. In addition, she was a supporter of Stop!
Children’s Cancer of Palm Beach County, Inc. and the Palm Beach Cat Rescue and
Humane Society. She also actively supported the Junior League, an organization
near and dear to my heart.
Lillian Lee McKim Pulitzer
Rousseau, whose colorful Lilly Pulitzer fashions endure as a one of the
strongest symbols of Palm Beach, died Sunday, April 7, 2013, at her South
County Road home after a brief illness.
Mrs. Rousseau, whom everyone
called “Lilly,” was 81.
Born in Old Westbury, N.Y., on
Nov. 10, 1931, Mrs. Rousseau attended Miss Porter’s School, a boarding school
in Farmington, Conn.; the Chapin School in New York City, and long-closed Finch
College, also in New York City.
In 1950, when Mrs. Rousseau was
19, she eloped with Peter Pulitzer to Palm Beach. She married Enrique Rousseau
shortly after her divorce from Pulitzer in 1969.
Mrs. Rousseau, who never trained
as a designer, could not recall the precise year that she first created the
Lilly signature shift, designed as a uniform for her and those who worked at
the juice stand she operated in Via Mizner.
“It was either 1959 or 1960,” she
said at the time of the Jubilee celebration of the Lilly Pulitzer company in
2009. The bright tropical prints that became her signature were chosen for
their practicality; the boldly patterned cotton prints masked citrus stains.
Customers, including boarding
school classmate and then-current First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, requested that
their pal Lilly make them shifts too, and soon Mrs. Rousseau found that her
designs were outselling the juices. Soon after, she got into the fashion
business full-time, while raising her three children, Peter McKim Pulitzer of
Manzanita, Ore., and Palm Beach, Lillian “Minnie” Pulitzer McCluskey and Liza
Pulitzer Calhoun, both of Palm Beach.
Mrs. Rousseau operated the
company until 1984, opening Lilly Pulitzer boutiques throughout the country,
primarily in resort towns along the East Coast.
In 1993, the brand was relaunched
by a Pennsylvania company, Sugartown Worldwide, which eventually changed its
name to Lilly Pulitzer. In 2010, the brand was acquired by Oxford Industries, a
Georgia fashion company. Mrs. Rousseau continued until recently to work with
the companies as an adviser and as the name and face behind the brand .
Mrs. Rousseau was involved with
numerous charities during her life and in 2008 was honored as a “Woman of
Distinction” by Palm Beach Altantic University. She was a longtime member of
the Everglades Club and the Bath & Tennis Club.
Mrs. Rousseau’s children
characterized their mother as a compassionate, loving matriarch and a unique
and utterly original person. And they are all proud of her accomplishments. She
was known for her laid-back, casual approach to living, barefoot most of the
time, and spending her days at her home, nicknamed “the jungle” for its lush,
“She had a gift of making people,
just about everybody she met, feel loved,” Minnie said. “Before she died, she
was able to see all her grandchildren, who meant the world to her, and was
surrounded by her peeps and her pussycats. It was a beautiful, peaceful time.
She was our rock, always there, and our best friend.”
“Mom was an extraordinary cook
and hostess, always entertaining the people she loved, which was a large,
extended group,” said Liza. “And she had a wicked sense of humor. And while she
was serious about her fashion career, she always put family first.”
“How she loved, cared and gave us
her all, while living her life to the fullest and having a pretty good time
designing clothes is a mystery to me,” said Peter. “She was amazing, a
grounding force of her extended family, which included many, many friends over
“I’ve spent a part of just about
every day with my sister over the past 30-or-so years,” said her sister
Florence McKim Chase of Palm Beach. “She was just a beloved person, making
everybody and everything fun. She was my best friend.”
In addition to her children and
sister, she is survived by grandchildren Emma and Charlotte Pulitzer, Rodman
and Lilly Leas, Jack McCluskey and Robert and Christopher Leidy; her
half-brother Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps of Palm Beach; and stepchildren
Toinette Boalt and Sandra Boykin.
Quattlebaum Funeral Home is
A memorial service is scheduled
for 2 p.m. Thursday at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea.
In lieu of flowers, the family
requests that memorial donations be made to the American Cancer Society, 235 S.
County Road, Ste. 20, Palm Beach, FL 33480, The Peggy Adams Animal Rescue
League, 3100-3200 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, FL 33409, or to the
charity of their choice.