We Are Family: Local Luminaries

Meet the matriarchs and scions of five prominent Palm Beach dynasties.

Photography by Ben Fink Shapiro

Formidable Style

Lilly Leas (left) and Minnie Pulitzer McCluskey at the Palm Beach residence of Bob and Liza Pulitzer Calhoun.

Undoubtedly the most iconic name in Palm Beach fashion, Lilly Pulitzer’s clothing left an enduring legacy for the island. The family matriarch (wife of publishing heir Peter Pulitzer) sold her colorful dresses at her juice stand—and the rest is fashion history. Lilly passed away in 2013, leaving her three children (Peter, Minnie, and Liza) to carry on her stylish legacy.

Minnie McCluskey, a mother of three, is forever inspired by the opinionated women in her family. When not planning daughter Lilly’s wedding, spending time with her grandson, or working as a realtor for Brown Harris Stevens, she collects litter on the beach. This routine ties into one of her favorite causes, Take 3 for the Sea.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    McCluskey: “Granny (Lilly Pulitzer), because of the way she did everything, started it, and how it affected people- the whole thing. She took you to a place. It’s something I’ve never seen before. She was thrilled when it was taken over and she loved seeing where it is going to now, but I think when Mom had it, she inspired so many people. It was this amazing business and I was a visual merchandiser lucky enough to go around and put up stores. It was the look of people’s faces when they walked in.”
  • -What words of wisdom would you give young women of today?
    “Be true to yourself, be true to your heart, but use your brain. Have passion and follow it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.”
  • -What makes women unique?
    “I think women in general, by raising children and doing all that, learn patience, compromise, compassion and willpower. You are not easily flustered. You are focused and not as easily reactive as a man.”

Growing up, “poolside, barefoot with iced tea and bright colors was a way of life,” says Minnie’s daughter, Lilly Leas. Lilly opened a PR and consulting firm but later sold it to enroll in an accelerated MBA program at the University of Florida. She’ll graduate in May and will get married 20 days later. An enthusiastic lover of animals, she supports the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League.

  • -PBIWhat words of wisdom would you give young women today?
    Leas: “Be fearless. I think that’s the biggest thing- knowing that you can conquer, do say, feel anything.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “One strong characteristic that women have is empathy- to be able to come into a situation and really understand everyone’s viewpoints. Being in business school and watching how that plays out with some of my fellow female classmates and being able to interview and work with some very powerful women and CEOs, empathy seems to be a good secret weapon.”

Sugar and Spice

Cathie Fanjul (left) and Allegra Fanjul Garcia-Velez at the Palm Beach residence of Andres and Cathie Fanjul.

The Fanjul name is synonymous with entrepreneurialism. When Alfonso Fanjul Sr. married the daughter of Pepe Gomez-Mena in 1936, it created an alliance between two of the biggest families in Cuban sugar. When faced with Fidel Castro’s Marxist Revolution in 1959, Alfonso and his family relocated to Florida, where he bought 4,000 acres near Lake Okeechobee and, with his son Alfonso Jr., established a new empire. Truly a family endeavor, Alfonso Sr.’s other sons, Pepe, Alexander, and Andres, joined the operations in the late 1960s and 1970s. Now known as Florida Crystals, the mammoth company controls hundreds of thousands of acres in Palm Beach County and the Dominican Republic, where they also own and operate luxury resort Casa de Campo.

Catherine Fanjul, wife of Andres, believes in rolling up her sleeves and getting things done. She grew the family charitable endeavor, New Hope Charities Holiday Bazaar, from a modest initiative to a mainstream event. Another passion is her rustic compound in Stuart, which houses an organic farm.

  • PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    Fanjul: “Jane Fonda. In the old days when I had the children, I did her one hour complete workout no matter what. Then, a couple of years ago, I read a little bit about her life and everything she’s been through. She seems to always pick herself back up and keeps a healthy lifestyle as her goal. She’s a great inspiration of keeping going and keeping moving, but being comfortable in your shoes as we get older.”
  • -What words of wisdom would you want to share with the young women of today?
    “Life goes by very fast. Enjoy the moment and try not to overdo everything. I think there’s a sense of trying to be too much of a supermom. Do what you can do and take the time the do puzzle swith the kids.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    Women can do anything, just like anyone- it’s a mindset. I try to follow Mother Theresa by just doing one thing at a time. Just helping one person or doing one thing can lead to a big change.”

One of the Fanjul daughters, the newly married Allegra Fanjul Garcia-Velez credits the genesis of her jewelry line to when she was in sixth grade, designing pieces to sell at the New Hope Charities Holiday Bazaar. These days, her statement-making pieces can be found online as a part of her posh style blog, Very Allegra, and at select locations including Grace boutique and the Island Bee in Palm Beach.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    Fanjul Garcia-Velez: “Style-wise I love Olivia Palermo. I think she is always very well put together and poised and very chic and classy. I feel like she has a very good sense of self.”
  • -What words of wisdom would you want to share with the young women of today?
    “Always believe in yourself – just own it and be confident. It’s something I’ve always struggled with. I always try to give myself words of affirmation and surround myself with positive friend and family. I have had to realize that some friends aren’t positive people or their energy isn’t there, so maybe that friendship isn’t really for me.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “Be persistent and keep going for it. Some people will just quit after someone says you can’t do it. Keep following the path you want to go on and follow your dreams- it’s all possible.”

Fiercely Philanthropic

Dani Hickox Moore (left) and Lesly Smith, poolside at Smith’s Palm Beach home.

In her 97 years, the late Mary Alice Fortin created an enduring legacy of charitable giving and benevolence. The wife of shipping magnate Lester Napier Stockard and later oilman Philip Fortin, Alice (as friends called her) used her financial resources to bolster the area’s civic footprint. Alice’s foundation, once under her direction but now carried on by daughter Lesly Smith and granddaughter Danielle Hickox Moore, has invested in projects such as the renovation of Sea Gull Cottage (the oldest house in Palm Beach), the restoration of the historic Memorial Fountain on Palm Beach, and the establishment of the Mary Alice Fortin Children’s Art Gallery at The Society of the Four Arts.

Lesly Smith served as mayor of Palm Beach from 2000 to 2005. Life has hardly slowed down since then. She is chairman of the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League and oversees the Mary Alice Fortin Foundation’s charitable efforts, including the South Bay daycare center for babies suffering from AIDS.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    Smith: “Susan B. Anthony because of everything she did for women.”
  • -What words of wisdom would you want to share with the young women of today?
    “Be honest, be straight-forward with people, and be strong. Also, be civil. I think civility is one of the missing items in the world today, which is very unfortunate.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “I think they need to focus on their children. Their children have to see the example set by the mothers of what’s important, what they must maintain and the outlook for when they are growing up and the work they decide to do. They must have a focus and I think that comes from a mother.”

Danielle Hickox Moore’s days start early (her youngest daughter wakes her up at 5:15). Mornings are spent at the foundation before she tackles her Palm Beach Town Council duties and charitable obligations (she sits on the board at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, Town of Palm Beach United Way, and Rosarian Academy). This pace breeds innovative ideas such as her Christmas in July program, which helps struggling families meet basic needs.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    Hickox Moore: “I’ve always admired Nancy Reagan because I thought she was so incredibly classy and had the ability to hold her head up and keep plowing forward even when people were unkind to her or her husband.”
  • -What words of wisdom would you want to share with the young women of today?
    “You have to be open to all possibilities. You may think you have a path, but if something else comes along and seems interesting, go for it.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “I think they need to realize that they can make a change one person at a time. Good begets good.”

Community Minded

Kit Pannill (left) and Talbott Maxey at the orchid house at Pannill’s Palm Beach residence.

William and Kit Pannill shared a love of horticulture. In addition to growing the Pannill Knitting Co., William was also a bigwig in the botany world, developing more than 210 new daffodil varieties in his lifetime. Kit preferred orchids and was a founding member and director of the Horticulture Society of South Florida. William passed away in 2014, but Kit’s Palm Beach home and garden continue to wow with exquisite blooms, like the Vanda Kit Pannill, named in Kit’s honor by The American Orchid Society.

Kit believes in giving back. She chaired the Lighthouse Guild’s annual gala again this year and “gets her hands dirty” in a number of gardening initiatives. She oversees the maintenance of The Four Arts Botanical Gardens for The Garden Club of Palm Beach and travels the country as a horticulture judge for the Garden Club of America.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    Pannill: “Jackie Kennedy. She was so well educated with all the arts and the beautiful things in life and diplomacy, I think she brought the standard of the first lady up in our country to what it should have been.”
  • -What words of wisdom would you give young women today?
    “I know so many women work now. When I came along we didn’t have to work and most people I knew had people to help them with their children. Nowadays people don’t have that as often. My advice is to find a balance between family and work.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “I think now more women are more philanthropic about the way they think about other people. I grew up thinking about other people and helping people, but I feel like now today young people are aware of people that don’t have as much as they have and they really do try to help. I think that is the difference.”

The daughter of Kit and Tampa media giant John Stewart Bryan III, Talbott Maxey upholds the family tradition of philanthropy. Her own schedule is packed with charitable commitments. She’s involved in an array of causes and is on the board of trustees for The Society of the Four Arts, the Preservation Foundation, and Hospice of Palm Beach County. Her multifaceted work allows her to be what she calls “a connector,” helping charities and influencers join together to advance the greater good.

  • -PBI: What words of wisdom would you give young women today?
    Maxey: “Trust yourself. Trust your gut feeling and intuition, even if you feel it’s not pleasing everyone. Don’t let people sway you one way or another.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “I don’t think women should waste their time on the hamster wheel where they are just going in the same direction and nothing is getting done. Switch it up. There are all kinds of solutions and, if one doesn’t work, then go to the next one.”
  • -What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    “Helena Christensen- she’s a model and photographer.  She’s beautiful and cool and I like that she dates a younger man. She’s my icon because she does what she wants. My other female icon is my best friend Julia Koch- because she is the best mother I know. She helps me with my kids and stepson where and when I cannot. There’s nothing more amazing g than that.”

Beauty and Compassion

From left: Inger Anderson, Kristina McPherson, and Bettina Anderson at Inger Anderson’s Palm Beach home.

The late Harry Loy Anderson Jr. was a man of riches, both in his career and in his generous spirit. Banking was in Harry Loy’s DNA. His father was the president of First Federal Savings & Loan, and he followed suit when, at the age of 26, he became president of Worth Avenue National Bank.

His love of community lives on in further generations thanks to his role in opening The Academy of the Palm Beaches, today known as Palm Beach Day Academy. In 1978, the Andersons took over the local gift fruit shipping company in Palm Beach Groves. A former model with Eileen Ford in New York, Harry Loy’s wife, Inger Anderson, continues the Palm Beach Groves business, but her compassion and faith drive her inner bottom line. Her causes include the YMCA, Urban Youth Impact, and the Paradise Fund, which her family created to support underprivileged children.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    Inger Anderson: “Mother Teresa because she had such compassion for helping others”
  •  -What words of wisdom would you want to share with the young women of today?
    “Take good care of yourself physically and mentally and treat others the way you want to be treated.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “Women have a voice here in the US. We need to speak up for the women around the world who do not. (Keep pushing for equality).”

Daughter Kristina McPherson’s greatest joy is her children’s laughter. When not working as a realtor, she serves at Family Church on Flagler, is active with the YMCA, and supports First Care, Urban Youth Impact, and the Paradise Fund.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    McPherson: “The women I find most inspirational are the ones who are making positive changes in the world. For example, Christine Cane who is tirelessly fighting against human trafficking or a local friend of mine, Lyette Reback who, despite having 16 kids, finds the time to bless and build houses for Gold Star families (with perfect hair and make-up too!) These are my kinds of icons.”
  • -What words of wisdom would you want to share with the young women of today?
    “I would tell the young women of today that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, put on this earth for a purpose. Know that, and don’t let anyone make you doubt that.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “I feel like if every woman loved, encouraged, and inspired the people around them (family, friends, co-workers) to do great things, the world around us would change.”

Kristina’s twin, Bettina Anderson has modeled for various fashion campaigns, including Sam Edelman. Over the past decade, she’s focused on growing the Paradise Fund and is especially proud of helping build a kids’ community center in Jacmel, Haiti “with our own hands.” She is an adventurer who enjoys diving, flying, and exploring far-flung locales.

  • -PBI: What female celebrity/icon do you find most inspiring and why?
    Bettina Anderson: “Maya Angelou, Author & Poet Laureate.She lived her life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. And because Angelou said two of my favorite quotes 1.) ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ That thought is always with me. My second favorite thing she said is: ‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’”
  • -What words of wisdom would you want to share with the young women of today?
    Never fade your light for someone else. You must take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Be dependable, punctual, and void of apathy. Be compassionate, not just with others but also with yourself. Live freely and love wholeheartedly. And don’t waste money on shoes — men are not looking at your feet.”
  • -In what ways do you feel women can be agents of change in the world?
    “In the words of A. Cripps, ‘Educate a man and you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a family’. I really believe education is the most empowering tool for anyone but since the focus of this piece is on women, the education of a woman, I believe, will transform a household in all aspects — socially, morally, economically and even politically. An educated woman is able to stand up to prejudices and gender bias logically, rationally and more successfully by being connected and informed globally. An educated woman is no longer isolated in her ignorance, rather has embraced and become empowered through the connectivity and information that the world has to offer.”

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