Dina Merrill and Dementia


dina merrillDina Merrill was an American actress and philanthropist who was the only child of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Post Cereals heiress who became the richest woman in America, and her second husband, E.F. Hutton, the fabulously-wealthy founder of the financial company that bore his name.   Known throughout her life for her high intelligence, drive, fashion and elegance, Dina died on May 22, 2017 at age 93 of heart failure caused by Lewy Body Dementia.  At the time of her death, she was worth an estimated five billion dollars.
A Life of Privilege
As a child, she spent up to six months a year on the family yacht with gilded fireplaces, marble bathrooms, a barber shop and a wine cellar, and guests such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  Her family’s Manhattan apartment had 66 rooms and their summer home on the North Shore of Long Island had 59 rooms.  Their Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, had 115 rooms including 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms.  In 1985, Donald Trump purchased the house for $8.0 million and his daughter, Ivanka, slept in the same children’s suite that Dina Merrill had used.  When the Huttons entertained, they hired the cast of Broadway shows and members of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Barbara Hutton, the famous Woolworth heiress, was her cousin.  However, having so much money is no guarantee of happiness; her mother divorced her father because she was convinced that he had an affair with a maid. 
Dina was a successful student, played on her high school field hockey team and was president of the dramatic club, but she complained that she wanted to take the bus to school instead of being driven by their chauffeur.  Her father wanted her to be a lawyer and run for Congress.  Her mother felt that a woman's place was in the home and wanted her to be a wife and mother, but  Dina had other ideas.  She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for one term and then dropped out to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.  She made her stage debut at age 22 in 1945.  She did some modeling and in 1957, at age 34, she appeared in her first movie. She made dozens of Hollywood films including Operation Petticoat (1959) with Cary Grant, who had married her cousin Barbara Hutton. Merrill also appeared in many television series and was in several Broadway plays. 

Three Marriages
She was married three times. In 1946 she married Stanley M. Rumbough, Jr., an heir to the Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste fortune. Together they had three children.   In 1966, at age 43, she divorced her first husband and married actor Cliff Robertson. They had a daughter, and divorced in 1986.  In 1989, she married producer Ted Hartley, a former Navy fighter pilot, actor and investment banker.  When she was 68, they formed RKO Pictures.
Lewy Body Dementia
Dementia means that a person loses his ability to reason, remember and think.  Sometimes there is a known cause of brain damage, such as a head injury, brain tumor, stroke, arteriosclerosis, infection (meningitis, HIV, syphilis), normal-pressure hydrocephalus, hormone disorders such as of the thyroid, lack of oxygen, lack of nutrients such as vitamins, drug abuse, alcoholism or diseases of the liver, pancreas or kidneys.  Most cases of dementia are progressive and have no known cause.  Alzheimer's disease and Lewy Body Dementia are types of dementia that are diagnosed during an autopsy when a biopsy of the brain shows specific clumps of tangled proteins, but researchers do not know what causes them.
At this time there is no cure for dementia, but doctors can give medications that help to lessen some of the symptoms.  Symptoms of dementia can include:  
• Personality changes in which a person becomes hostile and angry 
• Defects in thinking, confusion, poor attention and memory loss 
• Hallucinations, such as seeing, hearing, or smelling things that aren't there
• Movement disorders, tremor or shuffling feet during walking
• Parkinson's disease 
• Involuntary nervous system changes such as dizziness, falling or constipation
• Difficulty sleeping
• Disorganized speech
• Depression 
Dementia Can Happen to Anyone
Some very successful and brilliant people have suffered from dementia, including former president Ronald Reagan, Glen Campbell, Rita Hayworth, Perry Como, Charlton Heston, Norman Rockwell, Rita Hayworth, Sugar Ray Robinson, Aaron Copeland, E.B. White, Robin Williams, Barry Goldwater and many more.   By age 85, from 25 to 50 percent of North Americans suffer signs of dementia (Archives of Neurology. 2003;60(8):1119-1122).  You can lessen your chances of suffering from dementia by: 
• keeping your brain stimulated with any activities that challenge you to think and concentrate
• exercising your muscles regularly
• avoiding smoking, smokers and recreational drugs
• restricting or avoiding alcohol
• following a healthful high-plant diet
• preventing and treating everything that damages arteries, which also can damage your brain: heart disease, strokes, diabetes and high blood pressure.
See Preventing Dementia     
(Nedenia Marjorie Hutton)
December 29, 1923, – May 22, 2017