by Max Brantley
The paid obituaries -- and only the paid obituaries -- in the Democrat-Gazette today noted briefly the death of Barbara Sears "Bobo" Rockefeller. The obit noted that her son was the late Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller. No mention was made of her former husband, the late governor Winthrop Rockefeller.
Old-timers will remember the then-sensational news generated by Mrs. Rockefeller, a former Miss Lithuania, in her divorce from Rockefeller after he moved to Arkansas. Her story was sufficiently sensational to reach the cover of Life magazine. Says Wikkipedia:
On 14 February 1948, Rockefeller married for the first time. His bride was Jievute Paulekiute Sears, best known as Barbara "Bobo" Paul Sears (a.k.a. Eva Paul), a farmer's daughter and former model, showgirl, and erstwhile movie actress who had previously been the wife of Boston socialite Richard Sears, Jr. The wedding took place in Florida, and at the reception, a choir sang Negro spirituals. Seven months after the wedding, she gave birth to the couple's only child, Winthrop Paul, later a Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas.
The Rockefellers separated in 1950 and divorced in 1954. The dissolution of the marriage was acrimonious, with suggestions that Winthrop Rockefeller owned an extensive collection of pornography. As Bobo Rockefeller said of the ensuing scandal, "I want him to suffer the way he has made me suffer; as he has humiliated me before the world." During the couple's separation, she retreated to her parents' farm in Indiana and claimed that the $1 million trust fund set up for her son wasn't enough for a Rockefeller heir. "A Rockefeller wasn't born to be raised on a farm," said the socialite, who eventually received a $5.5 million settlement composed of $2 million in cash and a $3.5 million trust fund for her and her son. She later became engaged to hotelier Charles W. Mapes, Jr., though the marriage did not take place. As Bobo Rockefeller once said, "I intend to be a Mrs. Rockefeller until the day I die."
An archived LA Times article says a sheriff arrested her for disturbing the peace -- along with her lawyer and two friends -- on a visit to Rockefeller's Winrock Farm on Petit Jean during the dissolution of their marriage.
The obituary said Mrs. Rockefeller, 91, was living at her death in Little Rock, but she'd lived most of her years in other places. The New York Times caught up with her in 1998, when she was selling her home on New York's East Side for $12 million because it had become "a little expensive" to maintain. Then 81, she said she was contemplating moving to her flat in Paris. ''My Paris flat is within walking distance of the President's palace and all my friends,'' she said. ''I'm going to whip around and have some fun!''