By  on January 13, 2005

NEW YORK — Lucile Peyrelongue, a popular and respected figure on the New York social scene and wife of retired L’Oréal USA president Guy Peyrelongue, died Tuesday evening at the couple’s home in Careyes, Mexico.

She was 64. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to a family friend, who said arrangements were incomplete Wednesday.

During much of the Nineties, Peyrelongue  was often seen at events for the New York City Ballet, the Colbert Foundation or one of the other organizations upon whose boards she served. Invariably, she was accompanied by her husband of 40 years, Guy, who retired as president and chief executive officer of L’Oréal USA in 2001, capping a 28-year career with the company. He was credited with leading the subsidiary through one of its most dynamic periods, but through all the accolades, Guy Peyrelongue was careful to attribute his success, in part, to the efforts of his wife.

“They were a magical couple,” said Rose Marie Bravo, chief executive officer of Burberry, who added, “She was part of the team.” Bravo described Lucile Peyrelongue as “an all-round renaissance woman.”

For the past two years, the couple, who have a daughter, Florence, divided their time between London and Mexico. Recently, they added another address in France’s Brittany, while still maintaining their homes in Manhattan and Millbrook, N.Y.

“She will be missed — globally,” said Blaine Trump, another close friend. “She was the quintessential French grande dame. She loved France; she loved life and she was such a great friend. When she was in New York she loved to be part of the social fiber. Whenever she was in charge, things were done impeccably because she had such a sense of what was right — great food, great wine. She really inhaled life.

“One thing that always struck me,” Trump continued, “was that she had a wicked wit. You never knew when she was going to drop a one-line bomb on you. She loved to laugh.” 

While Guy Peyrelongue had spent virtually all of his career at L’Oréal, his wife had earlier worked extensively in advertising and public relations after graduating magna cum laude from the Institute Sciences Politiques of the Sorbonne in Paris. She went to work at Publicis before Fashion International, a division of McCann Erickson, from 1965 to 1968. From 1968 to 1976, she headed p.r. in the textile department of E.I. Du Pont De Nemours before the couple moved to Mexico City for 11 years. There, her husband ran the L’Oréal business and she consulted in public relations.Once in New York, Peyrelongue joined the boards of the ballet and Colbert Foundation as well as the French Institute/Alliance Français and French American Aid for Children. And she chaired a long list of charity events.

Her friends talk about her versatility, her determination — above all her tenacity — and what Bravo remembers as “ultimate class.”

Bravo marveled at Peyrelongue’s depth of interest as a businesswoman, a wife and a mother.

The Burberry ceo attributed her friend’s success, in part, to a “brilliant curiosity — pure brainpower.” That combined with the fact that “she was a woman you couldn’t say no to.” Bravo recalled an instance when she told Peyrelongue that she could not participate in a certain event. “I tried to talk my way out of it,” Bravo said. “She seemed so disappointed. I thought about it all night and finally decided, ‘I’ve got to do it for her.’ Then she would make sure everything about it was perfect so you would be proud.”

Helen Gurley Brown agreed. “She was dedicated, she believed in her cause and she got busy. She was someone who made things happen.”

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