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Family excluded from Huguette Clark burial

Huguette M. Clark, the mysterious copper heiress who died Tuesday at 104, was entombed on Thursday morning with no funeral Mass, no priest, and no family members present. Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of msnbc.com reports.
Flowers at the bronze door of the Clark mausoleum, where Huguette Clark was entombed on Thursday.
Flowers at the bronze door of the Clark mausoleum, where Huguette Clark was entombed on Thursday.John Makely / msnbc.com

With no funeral and with her relatives barred from paying their last respects, the reclusive heiress Huguette M. Clark was entombed Thursday morning as she had lived, with solitude and secrecy.

Before the public gates opened at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, N.Y., her casket was carried by funeral home employees up the 18 steps of the Clark family mausoleum. The massive bronze door was open, leading to a private chapel with gold-inlaid ceiling, a tile mosaic floor, and an altar with the inscription, "Nearer My God to Thee." A single bouquet of daisies was placed by the door.

There was no priest for Huguette Clark, who was raised a Roman Catholic, like her mother. The only people in attendance were employees of the funeral home, the cemetery, and the company that supervised a restoration of the mausoleum this year to make room for her.

She was laid to rest next to her father, mother and sister.

Clark family members, who had known and visited Huguette in years past, had inquired about plans for a funeral or burial, but they were shooed away by e-mails from her attorney, Wallace "Wally" Bock, who along with Clark's accountant is under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney, who is looking into the handling of her copper mining fortune, estimated at $500 million.

"It was Ms. Clark's specific wishes and instructions that no funeral service or mass be held," attorney Bock wrote to relatives. "We expect interment to take place immediately."

Though the relatives have cooperated with their Aunt Huguette on making recent changes to the family-owned mausoleum so there would be room to bury her there, and have visited the mausoleum through the years to pay respects and even for a family picnic on the grounds, Bock refused to tell relatives the time of her burial. Some of these relatives had visited Huguette and her mother through the years, and exchanged cards and letters, but the relatives said the attorney abruptly cut off all family contacts five or six years ago, about the same time as he has said Clark signed a will.

Clark had no children, and her only relatives were half-great-nieces and half-great-nephews and others descended from her father's first marriage, and scattered descendants of her mother's siblings.

Huguette Clark, the daughter of mining tycoon and U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), died Tuesday at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, where she was registered under a fake name. She had lived in hospitals since the late 1980s, even when her health was good. (Click here to read  her obituary.)

A last-minute rush for a burial spot
Huguette Clark had reached age 104 without having a place to be buried.

Photo of Huguette Clark. This photo, purportedly of a young Huguette Clark, hangs in her father's former home, the Copper King Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Butte, Montana.Courtesy of Copper King Mansion Bed And Brea

Although her father's mausoleum was built before she was born, its last crypt was occupied when Huguette's mother, Anna, died in 1963. Beginning in 2008, her attorney obtained consent from the Clark family, all of whom are descendants from her father's first marriage, for an additional space to be added inside the mausoleum.

Construction didn't begin until this spring, allowing Huguette to be entombed next to her beloved older sister, Andrée, who died of meningitis at age 16 in 1919, when Huguette was 13. Also resting in the massive granite mausoleum are their mother, their father the senator, his first wife, and other children and relatives from his first marriage.

A criminal investigation continues, with the Manhattan district attorney looking into her financial affairs, which are handled by Bock, 79, and her accountant, Irving H. Kamsler, 64, a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to send indecent materials to minors.

No one has been charged with any crime in the handling of Clark's finances, and the men have said that they handled her accounts strictly according to her wishes, and were only following her desire for privacy by keeping relatives at a distance.

A will has not yet been filed, nor an accounting of her fortune. A will could be contested, leading to a court battle over her estate. If a court invalidated the will, Clark's estate would flow under state law to her nearest relatives, the dozen or so direct descendants from her father's first marriage.

Mrs. Hugnette Clark Gower, daughter of the late Senator W.A. Gower of Montana, upper magnate, who was granted a divorce from William MacDonald Gower in Reno, Nevada August 11, 1930, on grounds of desertion. The couple were married in Santa Barbara, California in 1928, and separated more than a year ago. There are no children, and the decree was awarded with neither property alimony settlement. (AP Photo) Taken in 1930, this is the last known photo of Huguette Clark. Source: Associated Press.

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