Olga Hirshhorn turns 90 in style


On a warm, clear night in Washington, D.C., more than 150 invited guests gathered Friday in the elegant surroundings of the Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden, to celebrate the irrepressible Olga Hirshhorn’s 90th birthday.

“It was a wonderful party, the best I’ve ever been to,” Olga said with characteristic enthusiasm, in a telephone assessment days after the soirée in her honor. “And mind you, I’ve been to a lot of parties.”

Of that there is no doubt. A seasonal Vineyard Haven resident, she maintains social and philanthropic schedules that would tire someone half her age.

The party was not Olga’s idea. When she heard what was in the works, she told organizers to keep it simple. It may have been one of the few times she did not get her way.

Friends, including many from the Vineyard, and family members paid tribute to an unpretentious woman known for boundless energy and for her support of the arts, manifest on the Vineyard by her inspiration to create an art show with thrift store items, now known as the very popular Chicken Alley Art Show to benefit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

Among the tributes, including one from former President Bill Clinton by video, was one unique to the Vineyard — “Fish Tale” sculpture sent by the Derby committee and fisherman and taxidermist artist Janet Messineo.

David Kinney, author of “The Big One,” recognized Olga’s love of fishing and her pursuit of a Derby grand slam — that is, a catch of all four Derby fish — when he presented the broad tail fin of a big striped bass on behalf of the tournament committee.

During her brief comments, Olga thanked the crowd, many of whom had traveled significant distances to attend her party. She said she played tennis until she was 85 and rode her bike until she had a knee transplant and could not do that anymore. Now she walks, but not as far as she once did, she said, because of back problems.

But, the news was not all glum. “As long as I can stand at a cocktail party, I’m ahead of the game,” she said.

On Friday night, she danced.