Petersen Automotive Museum Founding Benefactor Margie Petersen Passes Away

Nov 30, 2011

Margie Petersen, wife of the late Robert E. Petersen and co-founding benefactor of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, died Friday at her home in Beverly Hills, California, after a 20-year battle with breast cancer. She was 76.

Margie and Robert Petersen married in January 1963 and were rarely seen apart.

In addition to Robert’s publishing company, which created  legendary industry magazines such as Hot Rod, Motor Trend and Rod & Custom, the Petersens also owned Scandia Restaurant on the Sunset Strip and Petersen Galleries in Beverly Hills.

They were major donors to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, The Music Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In June 1994, Margie and Robert donated $5 million to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to start the Petersen Automotive Museum.

The couple contributed another $24.8 million in 2000 to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to retire the bond debt and establish the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation as an independent nonprofit organization, according to the Petersen Museum’s website. Margie continued to serve on the museum’s board of directors after Robert’s death from complications of neuroendocrine cancer in March 2007.

In April 2011, Margie and the Margie & Robert E. Petersen Foundation donated the 300,000-square-foot building that the museum is housed in, as well as a collection of cars owned by the Petersens and a monetary gift to the Museum Foundation. Overall, the donation totaled approximately $100 million.

Margie was affiliated with numerous charities throughout her life, including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, The Amazing Blue Ribbon of the Music Center, The Diadames, The Los Angeles Orphanage Guild, The League for Children and Childhelp U.S.A., according to a press release from the Petersen Museum. She was also a former St. Jude Research Hospital Woman of the Year.

Margie was also one of the founders of Cedars Sinai Research for Womens Cancers, which raised almost $7 million in less than four years to fund a new institute dedicated to women’s cancers.

In 2008, the Margie & Robert E. Petersen Foundation gifted $15 million to St. Johns Health Center and the John Wayne Cancer Institute, which included the naming of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at St. Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California. She was also a founding member of STOP Cancer and a member of the ABCs (Associates for Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer Studies).

The Petersens supported other charities including S.H.A.R.E, the Hugh O’Brian Foundation, The Jeffrey Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of Hollywood, which named its new club building after the couple.

Margie was preceded in death by her husband Robert, as well as her two sons, Bobby and Ritchie, who died in a plane crash in 1975. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Petersen Automotive Museum at 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California, 90036, or to the charity of your choice in Margie Petersen’s honor.