Phyllis Mills Wyeth – the philanthropist, successful owner of thoroughbred racehorses and wife of renowned American realist painter Jamie Wyeth – died Monday at her home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She was 78.

The Longwood Funeral Home’s website said she died peacefully at home Monday with her husband by her side. The cause was not disclosed.

Phyllis Mills met Jamie Wyeth through her work as an artist’s model. They were married in 1968 and spent their summers on Maine’s coast, including homes on Monhegan Island and at Tenants Harbor. They contributed generously over the years to arts, environmental and other causes both in Maine and elsewhere.

The daughter of the late James Mills and Alice du Pont, Phyllis Wyeth was an “early and major supporter” of Tri-County Conservancy, which later became Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art in Chadd Ford. Last year, the Wyeths donated $1 million to the Monhegan Museum of Art & History.

“In addition to her work with the Brandywine, she was noted philanthropist, conservationist, environmentalist, arts supporter, accomplished horsewoman and a staunch advocate for the rights of the handicapped and disabled,” museum trustees said.

The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland also issued a statement Wednesday evening mourning Wyeth’s death, calling her a longtime friend, steadfast supporter for decades and a key adviser.

Phyllis Wyeth with her dog Iggy on Allen Island off Port Clyde, Maine, in 2017. She was injured in an automobile accident when she was 20, leaving her with a disability that forced her to use a wheelchair and led to her work championing the arts and rights of the disabled. Staff file photo by David Leaming

Farnsworth Director Christopher J. Brownawell said Wyeth was instrumental in crafting the museum’s Andrew Wyeth Memorial Endowment, which doubled the museum’s overall endowment in 2010.

“We will miss Phyllis. We will miss her vision, we will miss her tremendous support of the arts, but most of all we will miss her friendship,” Brownawell said in the statement. “Phyllis Wyeth was a noted philanthropist who provided vital support to not only the Farnsworth, but to arts organizations throughout the country. Her contributions to the museum were immense and helped make the Farnsworth what it is today. We will forever be in her debt.”

Wyeth grew up outside of Middleburg, Virginia, on Burnt Mill Farm, adjacent to Hickory Tree Farm, a renowned thoroughbred breeding, training and racing facility where she developed a passion for horses. Union Rags, which won the Belmont Stakes in 2012, was bred at her racing stable in Chadds Ford. Union Rags finished seventh that year in the Kentucky Derby.

Wyeth was injured in an automobile accident that left her with a physical disability at the age of 20 and forced her to use a wheelchair. Despite that, trustees said, “Wyeth’s spirit remained ever determined, steadfast and positive throughout her entire life.”

Jamie Wyeth is the son of famed American artist Andrew Wyeth and the grandson of Newell Convers Wyeth. After their marriage, the couple lived on 240-acre Point Lookout Farm on the Pennsylvania-Delaware border. They spent their summers on Maine’s coast.

Phyllis Wyeth founded the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde, Maine, in 1999, with the goal of teaching local children about aquaculture and marine conservation. She hoped the center’s work would help preserve Maine’s fishing communities.

She was awarded the NOAA Fisheries Environmental Hero Award in 2002 for her marine conservation efforts, according to Brandywine’s release.

“Wyeth had an extraordinary career in public service, both advocating for the arts and for the rights of the disabled,” the museum said.

She worked as a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts and as vice chairperson of the National Committee on Arts for the Handicapped.

After graduating from the Ethel Walker School in Connecticut, Wyeth majored in political science at Finch College. She later attended the Columbia School of Social Work. She eventually went to work for U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy, and followed him to the White House, where she worked with Kennedy’s special assistant.

Wyeth’s obituary, which was posted on the Longwood Funeral Home’s website, said she died peacefully at home on Monday with her husband by her side.

Funeral services will be private, according to Longwood Funeral Home, which is located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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