Helen Hayes MacArthur (1900-1993)
The “First Lady of American Theater,” Helen Hayes was an American actress whose career spanned eighty years. Born Helen Hayes Brown in Washington, DC, in 1900, she began her stage career at age five, singing at the Belasco Theatre across from the White House. By ten, she had made a short film, Jean and the Calico Doll, though she moved to Hollywood only when her husband, the playwright Charles MacArthur, signed a film deal. She was one of fifteen people who have won an EGOT (an Emmy Award for television, a Grammy Award for music, an Oscar for film, and a Tony Award for theater). Hayes also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, in 1986 and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1988.
Hayes and MacArthur made their home in Nyack. Helen was a generous donor of time and money to a number of causes and organizations in Rockland County and New York City, including the Riverside Shakespeare Company, the Greater New York Council of the Girl Scouts of the USA, and, most notably, the physical rehabilitation hospital in West Haverstraw that in 1974 would be renamed in her honor.
Hayes served on the hospital’s Board of Directors for forty-nine years, until her death in 1993. In that time, she advocated tirelessly for the facility. In the 1960s, she led a successful fight to it from being relocated to Albany, and in the 1970s, she lobbied for funding to transform it into a state-of-the-art facility. Hayes also contributed her enthusiastic support to hospital events and fundraising, leading the annual Classic Race in a classic car and offering the use of Pretty Penny for a dinner to launch the hospital's endowment fund
Hayes wrote three memoirs: A Gift of Joy, On Reflection, and My Life in Three Acts. Her last Broadway show was a 1970 revival of Harvey, in which she co-starred with James Stewart, though she continued to work in television into the mid-1980s.