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Eleanor Marr, 101, philanthropist

Eleanor Stewart Marr, a retired schoolteacher turned philanthropist who was married to a storied athletic figure and a prominent physician, has died at 101.

A resident for 84 years, she died Monday (Feb. 13, 2006) at Crystal Oaks nursing home in Pinellas Park. It was her birthday.

Her legacy includes the students she drilled with Latin and English for 40 years, as well as a major gift to the new YMCA.

"She was a very elegant lady who always thought of others' needs, and she was kind and generous to her church and her community," art professional Eric Lang Peterson said Tuesday. "I knew her for 60 years, and I had her for Latin at St. Pete High, and my mother (Marjorie Duke Applebee Peterson) had her for Latin at St. Pete High."

Mrs. Marr announced in 2000 she was giving $1-million to the St. Petersburg Family YMCA for a facility in the Central Plaza neighborhood. The new Y opened in October 2001 after 74 years downtown.

In honor of the gift, the gym in the Y's new building is named for Fred K. Stewart, Mrs. Marr's first husband, who was the football coach and then principal of St. Petersburg High until his death in 1948. The football field is named for him.

After two decades as a widow, she married Dr. Norval Marr Sr., a longtime family friend. He had been the SPHS football team's doctor.

The Marrs lived well, "but we kept our finances separate and when he died in 1975, I didn't really inherit anything," Mrs. Marr said in an interview at the time she announced her gift to the Y. "I never expected to be a millionaire. It was my father's wise choice in the stocks he left me."

For years, she held onto the inheritance, which paid few dividends, as it split and increased in value, she said. She realized it was worth more than she needed for her lifestyle. She gave stock to her two children and her grandchildren, but she also wanted to make a community gift.

"Fred's greatest interest was in high school-age children," she said. "To me the Y represents the American way, character-building, instilling values, physical fitness. He had been a board member of the Y. It was a great opportunity, and I seized it."

Born in Cleveland, she came to St. Petersburg in 1922 with her parents, Laura and James Pierson, after her father retired as vice president of Acme Tool and Die in Cincinnati.

Mrs. Marr went back to Cincinnati to graduate with her class at Hughes High School. Just across Clifton Avenue, her future second husband, Dr. Marr, was graduating from medical school at the University of Cincinnati.

After a year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, she bowed to her father's wishes and transferred to Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University) in Tallahassee.

She found an all-women school boring, but she and three sorority sisters each pitched in $25 and bought an open touring car.

"We had an awful lot of fun with that," she said in 1995.

She went back to Ohio to finish her college years and one extra year of graduate studies. She returned to St. Petersburg to take a job teaching at St. Petersburg High School.

Survivors include a daughter, Virginia Brew, of St. Petersburg; a son, John, of Treasure Island; three grandchildren, Nancy Eleanor Brew, Anchorage, Alaska, Robert Stewart Brew, St. Petersburg, and Lt. Col. Thomas Richard Brew Jr., Fort Bragg, N.C.; and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral, 140 Fourth St. N. A reception will follow in the parish hall. The family suggests memorial contributions to the church or a favorite charity.

National Cremation Society, Largo, is in charge.

Information from Times files was used in this obituary.