George Gordon Meade Easby, 87

Posted: December 14, 2005

George Gordon Meade Easby, 87, a multimillionaire who firmly believed his fabled Chestnut Hill estate Baleroy was haunted, died of multiple organ failure Sunday at Keystone Hospice in Wyndmoor.

Mr. Easby's first three names can be traced to his great-grandfather Gen. George Gordon Meade, commander of the Union Army during the decisive Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Mr. Easby's mother was a descendant of Nicholas Waln, who landed in Philadelphia in 1683, after sailing with William Penn aboard the ship the Welcome, and was given the land now known as Frankford.

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED DECEMBER 15, 2005, FOLLOWS: The obituary for George Gordon Meade Easby in yesterday's Inquirer should have stated that the medium for the seances in his mansion was still on this side of the spirit world. She is Judith Richardson Haimes, who now lives in Clearwater, Fla.

Mr. Easby was a descendant of seven signers of the Declaration of Independence. Many of his ancestors had the taste and money to satisfy the good life. The 18th-century masterpieces they purchased and that reside in Baleroy belonged to Mr. Easby's family for more than two centuries. It was once called the most important private collection of American antiques.

The stone mansion high above Mermaid Lane was built in 1911 as a showcase for the treasures. Mr. Easby believed the ghosts came with the more than 100,000 pieces in his personal collection. Mr. Easby said in a 1976 Inquirer story that the spirits began to appear regularly after his mother died in 1961.

During one of the many seances Mr. Easby hosted in 1973 at Baleroy, the medium, the late Judith Richardson of New Castle, Del., said she had seen four ghosts at Baleroy. She believed the spirits of John Milton and Napoleon's field marshal, Michel Ney, wanted to be close to their possessions. Baleroy's riches include Napoleon's watch, snuff box, china, and a chair.

Mr. Easby loaned some items to the State Department, where he served 26 years on the Commission of Fine Arts. Many other pieces can be seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Other treasures in the house include silver flatware used by signers of the Declaration of Independence, and a collection of watches and clocks, one of them made for Marie Antoinette. While a student at Chestnut Hill Academy, Mr. Easby did his homework at Gen. Meade's desk.

Mr. Easby did not choose to follow in the family military tradition, but was drafted into the Army during World War II. He patrolled the Atlantic Coast in planes, but "I couldn't call myself an Army man," said Mr. Easby in a 1972 Inquirer article.

Beginning in 1936, Mr. Easby studied illustration at the Philadelphia College of Art for four years.

"My family always considered me a child, and felt a child shouldn't be given very much," he said. It wasn't until his father, M. Stevenson Easby, died in 1969 that he was free to develop his own grand lifestyle. His mother had died in 1961.

Mr. Easby spent 35 hours a week opening dividend checks, paying bills, and overseeing the mansion. He often had to help the guards push silver-laden cabinets to get to the concealed vaults that he frequently inspected.

He worried constantly about fire and theft. Then there was the nuisance of the burglar alarm. Mr. Easby had to carry a fistful of keys with him to open cabinets hidden in places that were themselves locked by other keys.

Mr. Easby, who had no siblings, lived alone at Baleroy, but said he never felt lonely. He was hardly ever without his pet yellow-cheeked Amazon talking parrot, Toby.

Mr. Easby is survived by several distant cousins and a companion, Robert Yrigoyen.

Friends may visit at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Jacob F. Ruth Funeral Home, 8413 Germantown Ave. A service will follow at the funeral home. Burial will be in Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3324 Ridge Ave.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or gsims@phillynews.com.

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