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    Gray Reisfield, at 85; heiress to fortune of Greta Garbo

    SAN FRANCISCO — Gray Gustafson Reisfield, the sole heiress to her aunt Greta Garbo’s estate and a woman who was a longtime companion to the late Swedish-born actress, died Sunday at her home in Marin County, Calif., following a bout with pneumonia, said her son Derek. She was 85.

    Ms. Reisfield was separated by 27 years from Garbo. But the two bonded over being strong, independent women and enjoyed the lighter side of life together, sitting by the swimming pool, traveling to Caribbean islands, and teaching children to do cartwheels in the backyard.

    ‘‘She viewed [Garbo] as a truly remarkable woman,’’ Derek Reisfield said. ‘‘I think my mother really respected her because she had accomplished so much, and she had done it her way. She was very independent when women were not, and I think that was a real lesson for my mother.’’


    Born in Stockholm, Ms. Reisfield came to the United States with her parents and spent her childhood in Southern California.

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    She attended Bryn Mawr College, spent a year at Yale University, where she met her future husband, the late Dr. Donald Reisfield, and later transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated in 1957.

    Derek Reisfield, now 54, said he was about 12 when he realized his great aunt was famous after seeing a magazine that showed his mother and Garbo vacationing together. Every spring, the two women would go to the Caribbean.

    ‘‘They were very close,’’ he said.

    Garbo starred in 26 films in 17 years. In 1941, at age 36, she quit Hollywood.