Lily Safra, Star-Crossed Socialite and Philanthropist, Dies at 87

Lily Watkins was born on Dec. 20, 1934, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Her father, Wolf Watkins, was a British engineer who had moved to Latin America in search of business opportunities and found them while servicing the region’s booming rail industry. Her mother, Annita (Noudelman) Watkins, a homemaker, had fled her native Ukraine in the face of antisemitic pogroms.

Mr. Watkins owned a rail car factory in Mesquita, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, where he soon moved with his young family. He became a town elder, and even today the town’s main street, Rua Mister Watkins, bears his name.

When Lily Watkins was 19, she moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, where she married Mario Cohen, a hosiery magnate. They had three children but a rocky marriage, and they soon divorced.

She returned to Brazil, and in 1965 she married Alfredo Monteverde, a Romanian immigrant who had been born a Greenberg but Hispanicized his surname. He made a fortune owning a chain of appliance stores, but he also struggled with depression. He died by suicide in 1969, leaving her some $200 million.

Mrs. Safra’s survivors include a daughter, Adriana Cohen; a son, Eduardo Cohen; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Complete survivor information was not immediately available.

After Mr. Monteverde’s death, she moved to London. She met Mr. Safra, the scion of a Lebanese merchant family, when she asked for his help in handling her sudden wealth. They began dating, though his religious Sephardic family disliked his more secular Ashkenazic girlfriend, and they broke up.

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