WROCLAW, Poland (AP) — Barbara Piasecka Johnson, a former maid who married the American heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, was buried Monday in her home town in Poland after a modest funeral attended by about 200 people.
An art collector and philanthropist, Piasecka Johnson died at age of 76 on April 1 near Wroclaw, in southwestern Poland. She lived and studied art history in Wroclaw before moving to the United States in 1968.
She was buried at a Wroclaw cemetery in a ceremony attended by her brother, Piotr Piasecki, family members and a few dozen city residents. Local archbishop, Marian Golebiewski, led the funeral Mass over her wooden casket at the Wroclaw Cathedral.
This farmer's daughter traveled to America with just $100 and no knowledge of English. But soon she found a job, as a cook and then chambermaid, for J. Seward Johnson, 42 years her senior. They became close when she cared for him in times of sickness and later advised him on purchases of paintings. In 1971 she became his third wife.
After his death in 1983 she inherited some $300 million from a fortune of over $500 million, following an ugly legal battle with Johnson's children from two previous marriages.
Piasecka Johnson invested the money wisely, multiplying its value, and set up a foundation helping single mothers and children in poor areas, also in Poland.
She became popular in her native country in 1989, when she visited the financially troubled Gdansk Shipyard, the cradle of the Solidarity freedom movement that helped end Communist rule in the country. However, her offer to invest some $100 million was rejected.
The Johnson & Johnson fortune was made principally from bandages, baby oil and pharmaceutical products.