Friday, August 17, 2007
Maria Heinz (born October 5, 1938) is an American philanthropist, the wife of U.S. Senator John Kerry and the widow of the late Senator H. John Heinz III. She was born Maria Teresa Thierstein Simões-Ferreira to Portuguese parents in Portuguese East Africa, at the time a colony and now the independent nation of Mozambique. Heinz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She graduated from the Interpreters School of the University of Geneva (Switzerland) before moving to the United States to work at the United Nations as an interpreter. She is fluent in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, as well as her native tongue, Portuguese.
In 1966, Teresa Simões-Ferreira married billionaire and future Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Henry John Heinz III of the Heinz family famous for their food products. In 1971, Teresa Heinz became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Senator Heinz died in an airplane crash in 1991 and Teresa Heinz inherited his fortune.
John Kerry and Teresa Heinz were married in 1995. Teresa Heinz reportedly is the chair of The Howard Heinz Endowment and the Heinz Family Philanthropies, disbursing money to social and environmental causes. She assists the community of Pittsburgh, where the Heinz family has had many financial and family connections. In recognition of her philanthropy and activism, Heinz has received eleven honorary doctoral degrees. In 2003, she was also awarded the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism.
Teresa Heinz was a registered Republican, the same as her first husband, Senator Heinz, and she remained a registered Republican despite being marrying Democratic Senator John Kerry. In January 2003, she changed her registration to the Democratic Party. Later in 2004, she reportedly changed her name from Teresa Heinz to Teresa Heinz Kerry during her husband's presidential run and, after her husband's defeat, changed it back.