Sarasota seems to specialize in the “grand dame,” the somewhat older society woman who does good deeds and runs the town’s social life. But we never had one quite like Betty Schoenbaum. She was the cheerfulest person imaginable, funny and full of life, using her considerable fortune to further a wide variety of causes not just in Sarasota, but all over the world.

Betty died last year at age 100, and her famous apartment in now on the market. It's one of two penthouses in Sarabande on Palm Avenue. The other penthouse belonged to Ed Kalin, the furniture store mogul. Betty used to tease him that she got the biggest penthouse.

And it is huge: 5,751 square feet, with four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and several terraces. It probably has the best views of any apartment in town. You not only see out to the keys, you see over them, out to the Gulf and all the way up to Bradenton. Other features include high ceilings, an oversized dining room, curved walls of glass, marble floors—the list of luxuries goes on and on. And Sarabande is one the top buildings in town when it comes to social prestige. 

Betty moved there from Longboat after her husband Alex died in 1996. He founded the Shoney’s Restaurant chain and invented the Big Boy hamburger. “I’m the big girl with the Big Boy,” Betty used to say. I cherish the memory of the tour she gave me of her home about 10 years ago. My favorite moment—and a very “Betty” one—was when she showed me the master suite. “I love my bedroom,” she said, gesturing toward the several walk-in closets and the sitting area. “It’s got everything I need. Except a man to chase me around it.”

340 S. Palm Ave., Unit 162, is priced at $4.55 million. For more information call Lenore Treiman of Michael Saunders at (941) 356-9642.

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