Ends Long Career
Henie retired from skating in 1956, the same year that she married her third husband, following two earlier marriages that ended in divorce. Her union with American sports investor (and later owner of the New York Yankees) Daniel Reid Topping lasted from 1940 to 1946, likely a victim to her grueling film production and touring schedules. The year after they were married she became a U.S. citizen. Henie wed American business executive Winthrop Gardiner Jr. in 1949; he divorced her in 1956 for "desertion and mental cruelty." Less than a month later, she was married to a childhood friend, Niels Onstad, who had become a shipping magnate and art collector. Henie did not have any children and became an active collector with her new husband. Her wealth allowed her to maintain a home in Hollywood, a villa in Norway, and an apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland, and to invest in impressionist and expressionist paintings. The couple decided to build a museum for their collection, and in 1968 donated 250 works to the Sonja Henie-Niels Onstad Art Center outside of Oslo. It would later house all of Henie's skating memorabilia. Not long after the center's lavish opening celebration, Henie was diagnosed with leukemia. She died a year later at age fifty-seven. The international star had managed to keep her illness a secret and was seen with her husband at an Oslo theater less than two weeks before her death. Henie died in her sleep on an ambulance plane that was taking her from Paris to Oslo to see a specialist.