Inspiring story of a woman who is using her wealth for philanthropy.
At 82, Warren Buffett’s older sister, Doris, has contributed more than $100 million in support of battered women, sick children, the mentally ill and others through a highly personal style of giving that sets her Sunshine Lady Foundation apart from larger organizations staffed with trained professionals. In this admiring account—more tribute than biography—Zitz, a reporter with the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., where Doris Buffett lives, describes her difficult life and her success as a philanthropist since inheriting her mother’s Berkshire Hathaway shares in 1996. Writing with Doris’s cooperation, Zitz tells an upbeat story of charitable giving that has its roots in this bright and attractive woman’s misfortunes. Emotionally abused by a mother who apparently disliked her children, Doris was made to feel stupid and unloved (“I never heard the words ‘I love you,’ ” she writes). She struggled through four disastrous marriages and depression, nearly lost her home in the 1987 stock-market crash, had cancer twice and remains estranged from her children. Now, writes Zitz, she wants “poor children, sick kids and abused women to experience a little happiness” through her targeted gifts that help them weather crises and move ahead on their own. Friends and other nonprofessionals help her vet letters from the needy to select recipients. The book offers intriguing glimpses of young Warren Buffett—he provides a foreword—and describes how Doris became an anti-communist activist and Barry Goldwater supporter in the early ’60s to have something to talk about with her dying father, a Republican Congressman. The author offers moving examples of Doris’s philanthropy and rightly praises her support of prisoner education at Sing Sing and San Quentin prisons, among other causes shunned by most of her peers. Having learned what matters the hard way, she is determined to give all her money away to others who have also been unlucky in life.
Despite some puffery, this is a readable portrait of a remarkable individual.