Howard Hughes probably would have liked Friday, his 99th birthday. With temperatures around the freezing mark in normally balmy Houston, the gravesite of the man whose name invariably...
HOUSTON — Howard Hughes probably would have liked Friday, his 99th birthday.
With temperatures around the freezing mark in normally balmy Houston, the gravesite of the man whose name invariably was prefaced by “reclusive eccentric billionaire” was devoid of visitors.
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That is not always the case for the final resting place of the businessman, whose name has been back in the news with the nationwide release this weekend of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Aviator,” about Hughes’ Hollywood years.
Nearly three decades after Hughes died of kidney disease at age 72 on a plane from Acapulco, Mexico, to his native Houston, his grave at 133-year-old Glenwood Cemetery remains a popular tourist site.
The 30-by-50-foot family plot also includes the grave of his father, Howard Robard Hughes, who died in 1924 and whose oilfield-drilling-tool company became the basis for the family fortune. His mother, who died in 1922 when her son was 16, also is buried there.
The gravesite is surrounded by an iron fence with a padlocked gate, decorated Friday with two Christmas wreaths.
The back of the site is bordered by a 6-foot semicircular concrete-wall sculpture that includes a half-dozen brass vases. Legend has it that Hughes commissioned the granite tombstone to be modeled after a key fob his father carried.
The site, while distinctive, does not prominently display the Hughes name and is dwarfed by far grander memorials elsewhere in the cemetery, where 22,000 people are buried. The billionaire was buried in 1976 in an $8,100 casket and $2,100 vault, according to probate-court documents.
In his later years, Hughes was a recluse with shaggy hair, long fingernails and a morbid fear of germs. His estate, estimated at $1.13 billion, was not settled until 1990, because he left no verified will and dozens of purported wills surfaced after his death.