Bruce Dayton died last week. He was a dear old friend. "Old" is right; he was 97 when he died. He almost made the hundred mark that I had goaded him about for a long time. We attended his 90th birthday at the Minneapolis club in Minnesota a few years back. He was chipper then but in recent years his health had burdened him with cerebrovascular disease.
He, a Yalie, was the last of the five brothers who headed the Dayton Hudson company which started as a local department store, eventually morphed into the huge Target retailer that is every where. The company was known for its philanthropy. Tithing, it gave five percent of pre-profit sales to local charities. His personal principal project was the Minneapolis Institute of Art where he served as a trustee for 73 of his years. His great pleasure was acting as my docent taking me through the various new additions that he had provided.
His dear wife Ruth Stricker survives. She has a particular penchant for Chinese art and Bruce accordingly emphasized this in his gifts. When we visited the magnificent Beijing Art Museum right inside the front door is a huge brass plaque acknowledging Bruce's support. When I visited Beijing to run the marathon a few years ago his friend who had been Mao's interpreter served as our guide. It gave me great prestige to ride around Beijing in a huge black limo with a communist flag along.
On one visit he commented that he wanted to come to Palo Alto so I could do a physical examination on him. I said this was silly in that he had the fine Mayo Clinic right down the street. But he insisted. I took his blood pressure and thumped him a little bit. His cerebrovascular disease was minimal at that time so I patted his rump and sent him home. In the next week's mail came a rolled package, inside was a Renoir etching. I immediately protested that this was inappropriate, but he insisted, and so it hangs prominently in my living room.
One of Bruce's sons, Mark, was a senator and now Gov. of Minnesota I visited him in his office in the Senate office building, and was giddy to see my book Dare to be 100 on his table.
Bruce didn't make 100, but he came close and in so doing he fulfilled the New York Times' nomination as dean of American corporate art philanthropy.
Well served, friend Bruce. I will miss you. We all will miss you.