Updated at: 12/05/2012 8:05 PM
By KRISTEN GELINEAU
(AP) SYDNEY - Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, a prominent Australian philanthropist and mother of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has died at age 103.
News Ltd., the Australian media company headed by her son, confirmed her death.
She died peacefully on Wednesday surrounded by family members in her garden estate outside Melbourne. She had been hospitalized in September after a bad fall in which she broke her leg.
"We have lost the most wonderful mother but we are all grateful to have had her love and wisdom for so many years," Rupert Murdoch said in a family statement.
Rupert, 81, has said that his mother’s long life was evidence that he would be able to continue leading News Corp., the global media company which he founded, for many years.
Dame Elisabeth was a patron of the arts and contributed to an estimated 100 charities annually.
"Probably the most useful contribution one can make is to forget oneself and care for others," she once said.
She was the wife of Sir Keith Murdoch, a hotshot journalist and newspaper publisher, and the mother of his four children _ Rupert Murdoch, Anne Kantor, Janet Calvert-Jones, and Helen Handbury, who died in 2004.
Murdoch’s philanthropic roots began during her childhood, when she started knitting woolen tops for babies at a children’s hospital and volunteering at a kindergarten. As a teen, she volunteered for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In 1927, Keith Murdoch _ one of Melbourne’s most coveted bachelors _ spotted a photo of Elisabeth in a society magazine. At 18, she was 23 years his junior, but he was intent on meeting her. They were introduced at a dance and she later said she fell instantly in love.
Her family and friends were initially panicked over the age difference, but she ignored their warnings and married him the following year. The two were married for 24 years, before Keith died in 1952.
By then, philanthropy had become the main focus of her life. She spent more than three decades on the board of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. Queen Elizabeth II made her a dame in 1963 in recognition of her service to the community.
Murdoch was open about the advantages wealth had granted her, particularly the opportunity to help others.
"Wealth can be very misused, but generally speaking it’s a tremendous tool in here in helping community," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in 2008.
"People say to me sometimes, `You must be very proud of Rupert,’ and I know what they mean. They think he’s made a lot of money and I say, `I am very proud of him because he’s a good father and a good son.’ And that’s what I’m proud of. Not so proud of his wealth."
She has 77 direct descendants, including 50 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.
Her family said arrangements for a memorial service were still being decided, but that the funeral was expected to be private.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)