Barbara Piasecka Johnson, a housemaid who famously married into the Johnson & Johnson fortune, died Monday at her home in Poland. She was 76.
Johnson’s family announced the death on Thursday, saying she died “after a long and serious illness.”
Born in eastern Poland in 1937, Barbara Piasecka moved to western part of the country with her family after World War II.
She earned degrees in art history from the University of Wroclaw and later immigrated to the United States, arriving in 1968 with $100 and speaking little English, according to the New York Times.
Upon arriving in American, Barbara landed a job working as a cook and maid in the New Jersey home of Johnson & Johnson heir J. Seward Johnson Sr. and his wife of 32 years.
Johnson Sr. reportedly began having an affair with Piasecka shortly there after and in 1971, divorced his second wife, the mother of two of his children, and married Barbara. At the time he was 76 and she was 34.
Upon his death in 1983, J. Seward bequeathed most of his $500 million fortune to his wife, largely excluding from his will his children.
The children, portraying their stepmother as aggressive and manipulative, said she coerced him into signing the will and that he was not of sound mind when he did so.
Barbara Johnson instead argued her husband’s children were blaming her for family rifts that predated her arrival in the United States.
“I’m very sorry these children are ridiculing their father,” she said during the trial, according to People. “They were out of the will long before I came to this country.”
She eventually settled with Seward’s children for $40 million and ended up hanging onto more than $300 million.
In recent years she focused on providing help to children and young adults with autism. In March, Forbes magazine estimated her net worth to be $3.6 billion, making her one of the 50 richest women in the world.
A funeral Mass for Barbara Johnson is planned at noon on April 15 in the Wroclaw cathedral, after which she will be buried at a cemetery in the city, the death notice for her said.