Thank You For Visiting Sedona Legend-
The Jack And Helen Frye Story!
The Sedona Legend Web Site is a copyrighted historical photo enhanced narrative presented for
educational and entertainment purposes. Some materials may be displayed in regard to the
United States Fair Use Act. This web portal is totally non-profit and generates no income nor
does it seek or has it ever accepted a single donation. It is an independent venture.
Sedona Legend was envisioned and created to provide Red Rock State Park visitors a
comprehensive historic overview for Jack and Helen Frye and their Deer-Lick and Smoke Trail
Ranches. This effort is now officially cited by R.R.S.P. as an indepth historical venue
representing Jack and Helen Frye.
Sedona Legend is encouraged by the many friends of Jack and Helen Frye. A gracious thank
you to the Frye and Varner families for invaluable support and Red Rock State Park staff and
volunteers for their enthusiasm.
Sedona Legend Helen Frye a.k.a. the Jack and Helen Frye Story
A Decade of Research and Presentation- Created By Randall D. Reynolds
Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved
Sedona's Celebrity Love Story!
This is the official, not to mention only, web portal in the world
dedicated exclusively to the legacy of Jack and Helen Frye!
The Frye Legacy-
a Lifetime of Accomplishment!
By Randall Reynolds
Washington D.C. Girlfriends
Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye
Evangeline Jones Brown & Baroness
Garnett Butler Gardiner Stackelberg
The "Camelot Years"
of Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc.
Three Paths Connect
This saga has never been told- a story rich in love and companionship. Though some details are
lost to the sands of time.... the love and depth has endured. This is a story about three
women.... three very special angelic souls. These three spirits came together to forge a lifelong
friendship here on earth, a friendship that will surely endure for an eternity. From different
stations in life, miraculously they came together as equals, each bringing her own special sacred
gift to the circle. Their lives filled with happiness and joy, tragedy and tears.... each was there
for the other throughout the years. Beyond the curtain of death the bond remained, the circle
In 1935, Helen Varner, a stunningly beautiful small town girl from West Virginia, married into
one of the most prestigious and well-connected families in America. The Vanderbilt name was
synonymous with riches and wealth far beyond the average person's imagination. Her name,
now, "Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.", Helen became a member of an American Legacy. This
young girl, wise and mature beyond her years soon became a woman. Helen was not only a
Vanderbilt, but a member of the main branch of the Vanderbilt family. Her husband was a
direct descendant of the very first Commodore Vanderbilt. For more information please see
In her new marriage Helen suddenly found herself in a world of opulence and pomp.
Throughout her time as a Vanderbilt wife Helen experienced quite a different path. In her new
world, people lived by a sacred code; wealth, power, and privilege. The Vanderbilt name was
well-connected all over the world and Helen was welcomed into the finest palaces and dined in
the presence of some of the most respected icons of our planet. But, the important thing to
mention here is that Helen never forgot where she came from, her life enriched by the
marriage yet never corrupted by the materialism therein. Always she sought to reach out to
those she met with compassion regardless of their path.
A stunning portrait of 'Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt
Jr.' shown aside in a Pond's Cold Cream ad. Helen's
Pond's portraits were advertised worldwide from
1935 to about 1945, lastly (as Mrs. Jack Frye),
making Helen one of the most recognized women in
the world. As Helen was once heard to say, "it
mattered not whether I traveled the ends of the
earth or within Beverly Hills, people would come up
to me and say aren't you Helen Vanderbilt?" This
particular ad ran in December of 1935. Helen is
shown with a sable fur draped behind her wearing an
elaborate silk fringed top. Her hair, (dressed with an
unusual bejeweled comb) and diamond and ruby ear
rings are all highlighted by an art deco broach. To
view this stunning image in vibrant color, please see
Page 1935 or click here. Helen worked for Pond's for
many years as an ambassadress. Ad courtesy of the
Pond's Extract Company.
Helen and Cornelius Vanderbilt socialized all over
the world. The Vanderbilt name opened doors and
American Royalty mixed with the age old titles of
Europe. Traveling throughout Europe, India, China,
observing the way people lived, Helen was struck by
the tremendous rift between the rich and poor.
During these years Helen found comfort in the elite
international commune of Shanghai, an exotic locale
then called, 'the Paris of the East'. An era
unsurpassed in recent times, Shanghai was heady
with glamour and exciting people. From artists to
royalty, opportunists to the idle rich, Shanghai was a
vision of decadence, wonder, and liberation. Mrs.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. was a perfect fit! A beloved
book cherished by Helen from this time frame was
called "Rickshaw Boy".
The image to the right is from a
tour of Europe and the Orient
which Helen and Neil Vanderbilt
embarked on (1934 or 1935).
Shown is Neil Vanderbilt in a
rickshaw at either Peking or
Shanghai. This is likely where
Helen first became enthralled
with the Orient, later living
there for extended stays and
meeting her soon to be dear
friend Garnett Gardiner
(Stackelberg). See Page 1935.
Pond's Cold Cream Celebrity Model
Intoxicating Fragrances Waft Over
Entrancing Shanghai Harbor (1932)
The scent of gardenia and jasmine wafted over Shanghai Harbor and found its way to another
kindred spirit, Garnett Butler. This lovely girl, reared in Nebraska, later settled in Portland
Oregon with her family. At 22, Garnett went south Oregon State College, now (Oregon State
University) at Corvallis. From there she went to San Francisco and took a position with the
Northern Pacific Railway. Yearning for a life of enchantment it was here she became
passionately interested in an exciting place in a far away land where a group of friends had
With her childhood college girlfriend, Margerie Popple Richards as a traveling companion,
bravely the two booked passage to the Orient in 1932. As her ship steamed out of San Francisco
Bay, Garnett gazed back on her familiar world, excited and apprehensive about her new path.
The steamer's heading was the commercial port of the Yangtze region, the gem of the orient....
Garnett arrived with modest means.... all of $200.00 in her handbag. Frightened but brave she
knew she would somehow survive. Thankfully she had friends in Shanghai and in discussing her
survival they encouraged her to visit the American Consulate. Soon, she found her way to the
agency through twisting streets filled with the hubbub of rickshaws, vendors, and intoxicating
aromas she didn't recognize. When asked about her skills all she could offer was typing. One
additional asset though was that she was radiantly beautiful. As a matter of fact, many have
said since "she was the most beautiful woman I have ever met". So, with a quick look up and
down of this entrancing vision the Consulate's assistant immediately said "your hired!"
From this point Garnett's life truly began! With her embassy connections she was integrated
into Shanghai society and included in the social gatherings of the very finest residents. It was
during this time she met Helen Vanderbilt. Both women, glamorous and lovely, had a legion of
men at their feet. Helen, a Pond's Cold Cream spokeswoman was involved with the new orient
Pond's manufacturing-distribution division. Garnett received six marriage proposals in as little
as 6 weeks! Out of these one gentleman captured her heart. He was a charming renowned
Canadian doctor named William Gardiner. Soon they were married at Royal Hawaiian, after
which they settled in Shanghai at a lavish residence overlooking the waterfront on the harbor.
As told by Helen Vanderbilt Frye many years later "the man was rich as sin, their home filled
with ivory, jade and pearls".
Garnett was once quoted in regard to the experience "life was wonderful, we had a 14-room
penthouse and a houseboat. Everybody had a car and a chauffeur..... to say nothing of the good
and faithful houseboys, cooks, and Amahs. If you were at one of the clubs, swimming or playing
cards, you'd call the cook and say, 'we're going to be 12 for dinner' and then you'd go home at 8
p.m., and there would be dinner! Life was so easy and fascinating". Helen and Garnett would
often share outfits and pass themselves off as sisters. Other companions during this time in
China included a lady named Mary Star, Trudy Davis and Marlys Josephine Chatel (who lived
with Garnett for a time in Shanghai, it is thought, before Garnett married).
The Baroness Garnett Stackelberg
was often said to be one of the most
regally beautiful women in the
world. Glamorous and lovely, she
had the world's most eligible men
falling at her feet! Later on, she
became a Washington darling and
D.C. royalty! Courtesy of Charles
"Sandy" von Stackelberg.
A Tattered Fairytale
In Newspapers Vanderbilt Re-visits His Marriage With Helen Frye
About ten years after the Vanderbilts divorced Cornelius had the following to say about Helen,
as published in an article by David Camelon in 1948. I thought it was a rather benign and
reflective insight on Neil’s part. We must keep in mind that the Vanderbilts dated for three
years before they got married. It always seemed to me that their union was a classic case of two
people who are great friends and companions- until they marry- then the dynamic shifts and
the friendship no longer works. Excerpt from the article- 'Vanderbilt remained single for
several years, then “on the spur of the moment” he said he married Helen Varner Anderson, a
young artist in Albuquerque, N.M., who had illustrated some of his magazine stories. “Helen
was a flier” he said. “She had her a pilot’s license. I am a motorist. She thought motoring was
too slow and old-fashioned. She always wanted to get to places in a hurry. “Our lives didn’t mix.
Though we were married six years we only lived together six months of that time. The rest of it
she was away- hopping all over the earth. At the end of six years, she divorced me and married
Jack Frye, then president of an airline.”' Please note- As far as Vanderbilt's comment that
Helen had her pilot's license? I have no doubt that Helen knew how to fly and likely was taught
by Tommy Smith or Jack Frye. But a license? -this is something that is pending research.
Another of one of many Helen Frye mysteries! To my knowledge the quotes are the words of
Cornelius Vanderbilt IV and hold no copyright restrictions. Helen reflected on her marriage
with Vanderbilt with a lot of bitterness and rarely would discuss it.
Shangri La Becomes a Nightmare
In China, Garnett and her physician husband were caught up in the Japanese occupation of the
Shanghai region after December of 1941. Interestingly, like two sisters living uncannily similar
lives, Garnett, too, was held prisoner in her home, but her jailer was the Japanese Government.
For seven long months, all non-Japanese residents were kept under house arrest. Garnett
subsisted on cracked wheat. Protecting Garnett with his silence, her husband would slip out of
the flat each day on covert missions which have never been revealed.
Finally, a political deal was arranged whereas the United States offered to exchange a Japanese
spy for one of Dr. Gardiner's patients, a diplomat, John Benjamin Powell. "J. B." Powell was a
well known columnist, managing editor of the Weekly China Review, managing director of the
China Press, and correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, London Daily Herald, and the
Chicago Tribune. During the early 1940's, Mr. Powell proved no friend to the Japanese
government of which imprisoned him from 1941-1942. His health suffered severely at the hands
his captors. (Later, he died in 1947 but not before he became a international spokesman and
denouncer of the Japanese brutality of World War II.) Obviously, a man which could not be
allowed to become a political pawn of the Japanese government. To insure his physical health,
during his liberation, Dr. Gardiner and his wife Garnett were allowed to accompany the
diplomat, and soon, all escaped from China. Part of the journey was on the S.S. Gripsholm.
Mrs. Gardiner shown in
Shanghai with her chauffeur,
and a Japanese guard in 1942.
Behind Garnett you can see
barricades and rolls of barbed
wire. It is assumed these
barricades were in place to
restrict access in Shanghai
during the Japanese
occupation. Courtesy Charles
"Sandy" von Stackelberg.
As the steamer left the mystical "mecca" of Shanghai, now a barbed wire-enshrouded
containment camp, Garnett stood on the deck in tears, knowing they would not be returning
anytime soon. In a letter posted to her mother, she stated, "the Paris of the East has
deteriorated from a fascinating thriving city into a dreary dismal and virtual concentration
camp". Little did Garnett realize, that her heavy heart would soon being mourning the end of
her marriage, as well.
After reaching the United States and settling in Los Angeles for several years, Garnett spent a
majority of her time on the lecture circuit speaking about her experience in Shanghai. During
this time she and the doctor grew apart, partly it is said, because he did not desire children.
Often in life, when one door closes, or two, in this case, another is flung wide open.
Soon after, (according to most published sources) Garnett met the dashingly attractive Baron
Constantine (Steno) de Stackelberg, at a Washington D.C. luncheon. However, surprisingly,
Garnett herself related quite a different story to a friend and business associate many years
later. Garnett said she was enroute to a speaking engagement "chewing gum like a teenager"
this always helped her relax in between her taxing schedule of lectures. As she stepped out of
the taxi cab, Garnett literally bumped into the Baron "it was love at first sight" she said. A
lovely memory for a woman that had seen her share of anguish in the world, and who was
certainly due a little bliss! The Stackelbergs were married August 9, 1945.
Sandy Stackelberg, Garnett's son, stated the location possibly was the British Embassy. During
this time, the Baron was involved with state work in Washington. In a prior interview with the
Baroness Stackelberg she stated, "Steno knew Jack Frye long before I came on the scene". It
is thought he may have known Helen Vanderbilt Frye, as well. Obvious it is they all did connect
and became wonderful friends. The Baron soon became an employee of Transcontinental and
Western Air, Inc. (TWA) early on, perhaps, a consultant of sorts to Jack Frye and the
executive office, but later, he offered his considerate foreign diplomatic experience as an
official consultant to TWA on International and Economic Affairs.
The Fryes Hire a Staff for their Arlington Estate- Spring of 1944
Evangeline Jones Brown shown to the left in her early
20's. At her first interview with Jack and Helen Frye at
the Doubleday Mansion, Arlington, VA., Helen Frye
thought Evangeline was too young, at 22, to handle the
enormous responsibilities of entertaining at the estate.
However, Evangeline presented the Fryes with an
impromptu idea, she asked Helen to let her in the
kitchen (which, at the time, was poorly stocked and not
organized). Evangeline quickly busied herself and within
no time she served dinner to Jack and Helen in the
mansion's large kitchen. The Fryes were so astounded by
the delicious fare Evangeline whipped up, with so little to
work with, that Jack Frye hired her on the spot! The
Fryes also hired her husband as a chauffeur for the
mansion and a caretaker for property.
The "Camelot Years" of Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc.
During the 1940's Helen and Jack Frye were in Washington regularly politicking for TWA.
Helen found a wonderful old estate- (the Doubleday Mansion) now called the Cedars in the
Arlington area of Virginia. She hired a lovely and very beautiful woman to be the chef for the
mansion. For more information please see page 1944.
Thus Evangeline Brown and her husband Aubrey came to work for the Fryes as caretakers,
moving into the 70-acre-estate with a number of other employees. Aubrey and Evangeline were
said to be the very first Afro-American employees ever hired by TWA! Helen and Evangeline
soon became fast friends, and they shopped the east coast securing special furnishings for the
large mansion. Jack and Helen were thrilled at what a world-class chef Evangeline proved to be.
By the end of 1945, Helen was excited to hear that the Baroness was pregnant. A child was born
and named Charles Alexander on November 2, 1946. But "Sandy" as they called him was a very
large baby, Garnett had a difficult recovery and she was none too keen on hospital food. Helen,
in visiting the Baroness at the hospital, was alarmed in seeing her dear friend slipping away.
Suddenly she got an idea, she went home to Hillcrest Farm (the Doubleday Mansion) and asked
her chef Evangeline to prepare the Baroness some of her wonderful homemade chicken soup
which they rushed up to Garnett. This is the first time Evangeline met the Baroness and they
soon, too, became fast friends. Garnett loved the soup and after dining on a fair amount of the
healing "elixir" she made a complete recovery. Helen and Evangeline helped the Baroness pack
her things and sprung her from the dismal building.
The circle was now closed with Evangeline becoming the third member of the group. Evangeline
soon become renowned as being one of the finest chefs in Washington D.C., and later in her life
she was to cook regularly for several Presidents, political celebrities, and private families,
including Stackelberg parties (who always treated her like family). See Page 1944.
Glamourous and a "Lady" too!
Golden Years and Washington Royalty!
The Baron was instrumental in helping secure the oversea routes for TWA with his diplomatic
and family connections. One invaluable relative was his cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten the last
Viceroy (Governor) to India. The Baron was raised in the court of the last Czar of Russia
(Nicholas II) where his father served as the Master of Ceremonies. Another connection is the
royal family of Great Britain and a cousin (not 1st) H.R.H. Prince Charles among other threads.
In placement of Constantine de Stackelberg within TWA we find him at the very top. Steno is
found in a corporate photo including some of the top executives of TWA (late 1946) his position
at the time was assistant to Brig. Gen. T. B. Wilson (Chairman of the Board for TWA). Also
pictured was Stackelberg’s assistant, TWA executive George Lasocki (who also served) as
assistant to Gen. Arthur R. Wilson (Director of European Operations for TWA). Adjoining
Stackelberg in the photo were the afore mentioned men to include Steno’s good friend Jack
Frye (TWA president), Otis F. Bryan (TWA vice president), Harold F. Blackburn (Director of
TWA’s Atlantic Division), Dean Hanscom (Director of Traffic), Julius C. Holmes (president of
TACA) and former TWA vice president, and lastly Edward Bolton (assistant to Otis Bryan).
The TWA routes were eventually secured and TWA became the reigning airline of the world,
much to the chagrin of Juan Tripp, president of Pan American Airways. At this point, Jack
Frye, weary of the mismanagement TWA’s largest stockholder Howard Hughes exerted on the
airline, made the difficult decision to resign.
Jack felt at that time, Howard was no longer mentally capable of rational decisions. This
stemmed from the recent, near fatal, accident Howard experienced in Beverly Hills (1946). The
injuries he sustained led him to become addicted to powerful painkillers for the rest of his life.
Concerned about his two friends, Steno Stackelberg and Aubrey Brown, Jack Frye discreetly
advised them of his plans and encouraged them to resign from TWA, as well. They both
complied and both men went on to other careers. Throughout the years, the wives like sisters,
all married to men like brothers, kept in touch until death tore them apart. First Jack in 1959,
Helen in 1979, Steno in 1989, Aubrey Sr. in 2000, and Garnett in 2005.
The Stackelbergs are married as shown above, and to the right Garnett and her new baby boy,
Sandy. Courtesy of Sandy von Stackelberg.
Sad News Stuns Evangeline and Garnett
When Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye died in 1979 at Sedona, a call was put through to
Evangeline Brown in Washington D.C. The news so overwhelmed Mrs. Brown that her son
Aubrey Jr. was put upon to make the dreaded call to the Stackelberg residence. Garnett came
to the phone, "she took the news unusually well and seemed rather stoic", said Aubrey Jr., in a
recent interview, "it concerned me, as it was unlike the Baroness". Later, worriedly he called
the Stackelberg residence to make sure the Baroness was really, O.K. This time, Garnett's
husband Steno answered the phone, gravely he conveyed to Aubrey Jr. that Garnett was not
receiving calls or guests. He continued stating the Baroness was so overwhelmed with grief in
hearing of Helen's death that she had retired in seclusion to her bedroom. As Aubrey Jr. had
suspected, the Baroness was too much of a lady to show her emotions, bravely coping with her
dear friend's death she succumbed to her emptiness in silence and privacy. She would always
take comfort in the fact that she and Helen had been like sisters for over 40 years and shared
some very exciting Shanghai and Washington D.C. history. The last time the two saw each
other was in the 1970's when Garnett flew out to the Frye Ranch with a lady friend that had a
private plane. They stopped enroute to see Helen Frye. Garnett later knew Nevada Frye too.
At the End of Garnett's Life-
Mysterious Intimations are Made
I have heard that Jack was involved with several secret operations before and during World
War II. Either way the story has been related by Jack's last wife, Nevada Smith Frye, Jack's
daughter Nev Frye, and Evangeline and Aubrey Brown, (all knew the Stackelbergs intimately).
Garnet's comments on the matter were evasive. Because the Baroness is now gone I am unable
to follow up and derive any more information. However, the biggest mystery is that Garnett's
son Sandy says he has never heard the stories and is totally puzzled. So alas we will never know
what really happened or what it all means.
Stackelberg Escapes Europe- Frye Assist?
Information for this article came from a variety of sources: Garnett Stackelberg and her son,
Sandy, Evangeline and Aubrey Brown, Marlys Chatel, Carol Kender, and Nevajac Frye. Many
thanks to all for your generous help! Painstaking efforts have been made to assure this article
is as accurate as possible after 70-80 years.
Now we explore an interesting story as related by various sources in interviews. However, I
have had absolutely no luck documenting the information. As I mentioned, certainly one
person who was privy to Frye’s involvement in the war effort was Washington D.C. insider,
Baroness Garnett Stackelberg. The Baroness was a Washington correspondent, not unlike our
current icon, Barbara Walters. Garnett’s husband, Baron Steno Stackelberg worked for TWA
and was a close friend of Frye, he also worked for the State Department.
The Baroness related that Jack Frye had flown out endangered people from behind enemy lines,
and that the communists were killing off all the free-thinking wealthy families. They didn’t
want free thought, she stated, continuing that one of these people was her husband. She added,
that the Stackelberg family would forever be grateful and indebted to Jack Frye for his efforts.
Certainly a comment that carried an enormous amount of weight. Garnett also said that Jack
knew her husband long before she came on the scene and that in regard to these war efforts,
there was a plane (involved) in the rescues named after Frye (perhaps the Frye Interceptor I
have heard references to).
She closed by stating all the information was in storage or with her son. I have never been able
to make sense of any of this and because it was the very end of Garnett's life I wonder if she
was confused on some of the details. Garnett died before I could follow up with her, or meet
her, her son Sandy was not privy to any of these classified operations.
This I do know, Frye’s activities in World War II were top secret and Frye worked directly with
the president’s office so uncovering the details of operations he was involved with is difficult at
best. Frye was said to be one of the only civilians allowed unfettered access to the oval office
during World War II, and during Truman's administration, day or night. The only parties I am
aware of (all dead now) who were privy to Frye's involvements, were President(s) Roosevelt and
Truman, Helen Frye, Steno, and Garnett Stackelberg. I think we can now better understand
why Jack Frye was given the Medal for Merit, even if the classified details have never been
fully disclosed to the public at large. He truly accomplished great things for the United States
during World War II. Frye was a close friend of Truman and was one of the key men who made
sure Truman became president. Jack Frye's circle of friends was astounding, and the high
esteem in which he is remembered. Please see Page 1946 for more information.
The historical work on this page is respectfully dedicated to the late Helen Vanderbilt Frye,
Baroness Garnett Stackelberg, and Evangeline Brown, three beautiful and gracious women!
Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye, absolutely stunning, in a baby blue
tailored suit, heels, and mink coat, awaits the arrival of her
husband, Jack Frye, and friend, Howard Hughes, at Washington
D.C., after the two famous aviators broke a transcontinental
record in the Lockheed Constellation airliner designed and
developed by the two. Adjoining Helen, on the left, is Jack's
personal secretary, Beverley Dille. On the right, Helen Frye's
friend, society columnist, Austine (Bootsi) Cassini (later Mrs.
William Randolph Hearst). Image courtesy TWA in-house
publication- Skyliner. Date of photo April 17, 1944. Please see
Page 1944 for more information.
Not only were all three Washington D.C. girlfriends stunningly beautiful but they were
fashionable dressers, as well. At different times in their lives, they all received that
coveted fashion accessory which all women desire, full-length mink coats!
Meanwhile, Helen Vanderbilt, her marriage
waning and weary of her husband's
womanizing, eventually returned to the states.
Helen, in those early years, would often catch
Cornelius Jr. with various women, after which
he would try to win her back with roses and
furs. Finally Helen had enough and expressed
a desire to divorce. However, money and
power do not always equate to fairness. One
notable incident, early in the marriage, is
when Neil locked Helen in a tower room of
their Lake Arrowhead mansion after she had
expressed a desire to leave him. Helen, like a
bird in a gold-gilded cage, was unable to
escape. Garnett, visiting the mainland, tried to
see Mrs. Vanderbilt and was horrified that she
had been restrained by her dominating
husband. So, she enlisted the help of a friend,
found the key, and rescued Helen.
Understandably, this was the end of the
Vanderbilt marriage and a close friendship
between Helen and Neil, which had ignited in
1932. The old adage that "friends don’t always
make great lovers" certainly applied to the
Vanderbilts. After a 4-year separation, Helen
married airline mogul Jack Frye.
The beautiful Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt at Indian Springs, Nevada where she was keeping her
sister Mildred Varner company while (Mildred) was awaiting a divorce. Taken 'Fall of 1937'. The
stunning image was also used as a Christmas Card by Mrs. Vanderbilt in the late 1930's.
December 20, 1944
Helen Frye meets her girlfriends, movie star- Faye Emerson, and
the Baroness Stackelberg, at the Mayflower Hotel lounge for a
champagne lunch. Reporters cornered Faye who recently married
the president’s son Elliott Roosevelt at the Grand Canyon. The
early December wedding was hosted by Jack and Helen Frye. The
Roosevelts also spent part of their honeymoon at the stunning
Frye cattle ranch at Sedona. Media reports ran the story with
photo of Helen and Faye in front of 3 champagne trumpets.
To the left- Mrs. Jack Frye on a West Virginia flight to see her
family. 1943-1944 timeframe.
On one of their frequent cross country flights
in their private Lockheed Lodestar, Jack and
Helen Frye board passenger Baroness Garnett
Stackelberg on a flight from Washington D.C.
to Los Angeles. Reporters awaited the group as
they deplaned in Los Angeles, the Fryes always
fodder for the newspapers, and the Baroness-
Washington Royalty and a D.C. insider. The
Baroness was recently voted Washington's
"Most Beautiful Woman of the Week". The
private Frye Lodestar is shown to right being
loaded for a Frye cross country flight.
Jet-Setting (rather prop-setting) Fryes
The information for the above article was derived from a Washington Post column written by
veteran columnist Carolyn Vance Bell, among other sources. Bell’s column is the only one that
states the Baroness Stackelberg was the third member of the luncheon party. I totally missed
the significance for some time, until I realized that Baron Steno Stackelberg and Garnett were
not married until August 9, 1945. So why would Carolyn Bell (who knew the Garnett
personally) specify in her column that it was “Baroness” instead of Garnett Gardiner? This
really puzzled me. After much consternation and even contacting Garnett’s son Sandy, I realize
I likely been the victim of what was possibly an “inside” joke between these luncheon women. I
feel the only explanation is that the four women hoped Steno and Garnett would be married and
thus Bell printed the “title” instead of Garnett’s real identity in jest. There was never any
other Baroness Stackelberg associated with Helen Frye, and Garnett, certainly was not yet a
Baroness in December 1944. I am sure these four women would be thrilled after 75 years that
it took an archivist literally days to figure out their clever match making spin.
You will find wonderful testaments to Garnett all over the Internet from people who knew her,
admired her, and treasured her like a fine jewel. I wanted to include a comment on this page
from an associate of Garnett’s who contacted me several years ago. I found the note to be quite
sincere and a reflection of most people’s experience with this grand lady.
One thing I must mention is that even though I have heard Garnett referred to as “the
Baroness” by people associated with these writings who knew her, I have also heard that she
never lorded this title over others and was as kind and gracious as a true lady. I would expect no
less from Garnett who was loved by so many and I would suspect never made an enemy. I would
imagine many were enriched by her graciousness and poise.
Garnett’s circle of friends encompassed the world and she left a lasting impression on so many-
even Jack Frye’s daughter Nevajac Frye, who adored Garnett. Nev experienced Europe and Asia
traveling with her mother, Nevada (who was akin to Auntie Mame) and established a friendship
with the Stackelberg’s to include Garnett’s son Sandy. Nev's memories of her association with
the Stackelbergs are as rich as they are treasured.
The comment I received about Garnett appears below-
“I was talking with my 12 year old granddaughter the other day and she told me that when she
grew up she wanted to move to China. Then I told her about a woman I had met and admired
when I worked for the New American in Baltimore. The woman was Garnett Stackelberg and
she wrote a column that the paper published. I happened to be the editor who handled her copy
and through that contact we became friends.
I remember Garnett telling me about her going to China when she was young woman - about
the internment, the "escape" to the states, her involvement with speaking on behalf of the war
issues and about her meeting the Baron. Her story of how she first met Steno differs a bit from
what you reported. She said that she had just alighted from a taxi in D.C. As was her habit (she
said) she had been chewing gum which she claimed she did to relax before a speaking
engagement. She said that as she stepped from the cab, still chewing wildly (like a teenager -
her comment not mine) she literally bumped into him. According to her comment, it was love at
Garnett was a wonderful mentor to me as I pursued my newspaper career in the D.C. area. She
was directly responsible for me getting a job at the Washington Post. I visited her DC
apartment several times and enjoyed her afternoon teas. After I had left Washington (and the
news business) I would call her just to talk. Once I told her that she was one of my all time
heroes. She seemed quite surprised and touched by that comment. She was a lovely woman and
I feel richer having known her.”
To Sedona Legend- from Carol Kender, who wrote I could use her sentiments however I wished.
Garnett Remembered as a Treasure
Cross Country Business Flights
Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. Denies Romance With Tommy Smith
After Helen and Jack became romantically entwined it was Jack who helped Helen finally
obtain a divorce from Vanderbilt. The Fryes were married January 1, 1941 with Skeeter as her
matron of honor (page 1941). Helen never forgot a friend in need and it grieved her that
Tommy Smith was lost somewhere in Newfoundland (likely dead) but never properly buried. So
rumor has it she enlisted the aid of Jack with TWA, (along with Howard Hughes), to search for
the Smith wreckage. This they accomplished, but the body was mysteriously never found. As
busy as Jack Frye was he was never so short of time that he couldn't offer assistance to a fellow
aviator. Certainly, the mystery of Tommy's death haunted Helen till the end of her life. In the
1970's, Helen, as a spiritualist, not unlike Sarah Winchester, would try to contact Tommy's
spirit, searching for any clue as to his last hours and where his body rested.
Helen Vanderbilt (right) displaying her true
essence. Often seen elegantly smoking a
cigarette (as was vogue in the 1930's) Helen
exhibits a sophisticated and stylish pose. Never
forgotten by those who met her, she parted the
waves with her beauty and class. Men fell all
over her and women were envious! This
particular image is a press photo which ran
with the following caption, "estranged wife of
Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. sharply denies
rumors of a romance, which is said existed
between her and Thomas (Tommy) H. Smith,
lost trans-Atlantic flyer, who was unheard of
after an attempt to span the ocean in a midget
plane. In New York, Smith's representative
Howard Huntington, declared Mrs. Vanderbilt,
(through a spokeswoman) begged by
long-distance telephone, 'for hope the airman
might be saved'. Mrs. Vanderbilt denied
Huntington's story." To be sure Tommy Smith
was smitten with Helen and in his last letter he
declared such, bequeathing all his worldly
possessions to her (if he was to disappear).
However, Helen was already betrothed to
aviator Jack Frye and considered Tommy just
a friend. Tommy's plane was recovered but not
his body. Helen's dear friend was Tommy's
mother Anita (Skeeter) Smith.
The photo above (taken around May 31, 1939)
shows Helen Vanderbilt in the garden of her
home, a mansion at 259 Monterey Road, South
Pasadena, California. This 3.15 acre mansion
(now apartment-suites) was built in 1912.
Credit: The image above was originally used by a media-news agency. It is a vintage wire-photo
or what we would categorize today as a copy of an original used for various news publications.
The image was not owned by news service agencies (in the field) who reproduced (published) the
image, rather it was on loan. The original photographer is unknown and this image is not
thought to hold a renewed (current) copyright. This original vintage wire-photo from 1944 is
owned by Sedona Legend. Further information regarding photos seen on Sedona Legend can be
found at the bottom of Page 2010.