Wednesday, December 2, 2015
The Wive's of Jack Frye
Until recently, all that I have ever known is that Jack had three wives. Debbie Santos Greer, Helen Varner Vanderbilt and, Emily Nevada Smith. Then, I came across a newspaper clipping of another wife – Regine LaCoste as described below. To get to know a little bit more about our pioneer aviator and his family life, I would like to share with you what I know about each of Jacks beautiful wives in order to get a sense of his history in this respect. Though I do not have all the facts as of this writing, we hope you find this presentation insightful and interesting.
Generally, famous personalities are the focal point of the reading and viewing public that often overshadow their significant other. This especially holds true during the industrial age of America when many industries were on the rise literally changing the scope and features of our great land, and the world. These pioneering men including Jack Frye shaped this great land and are given all the credit. Unfortunately, the women and children behind them were for the most part ‘just there’ in the background, never receiving their due for enduring and supporting their men out front. With that said, I will attempt to bring these ladies in Jacks life into the forefront. And I hope this comes across very respectful to you the reader who may be a relative or acquaintance.
DEBBIE SANTOS GREER FRYE Jack and Debbie were married September 4, 1924 in Tijuana Mexico. Their marriage lasted 8 years during Jacks youthful years in Southern California with Aero Corporation and Standard Airlines,eventual subsidiaries of Western Air Express, the predecessor to TWA. These were history making formative years for the young couple as Jack, Paul Richter and Walter Hamilton trail blazed new paths into airline history. Jack and Debbie never had children that I am aware of. Debbie was a great cheerleader and co-worker with her husband during the formative years of his airline operations at Burdett Field and others. She is known to have performed many supportive tasks around the airport grounds planning and coordinating activities for the flying school, parties for dignitaries and promoting Aero Corp and Standard Airlines in Southern California. Debbie was an early aviation pioneer in her own right that helped her husband immensely towards the advancement of airline growth on the west coast. After Jack and Debbie parted ways, she moved to Hawaii where she remained a sun and sea loving resident.
click images to enlarge
Jack and Debbie Frye, 1924
REGINE LaCOSTE' FRYE Jack and Regine (they called her Jean) were married December 23, 1932 and divorced on September 9, 1939. It is said they met at Sak’s Fifth Avenue, New York City. They also did not have any children. Regine was born of French descent in Canada. I can only assume she supported her husband during the incredible DC aircraft years and Jacks formative years as TWA’s first president. These must have been exciting, whirlwind times when the early airline industry was at full speed. I am positive many groundbreaking ‘firsts’ in airline travel and development were talked over at the Frye dinner table between Regine and Jack. I can imagine many dinner parties for dignitaries and business associates in the Frye homes by this time. Wouldn’t you liked to have been a fly on the wall!
After much searching I was able to track down Jack and Regine’s marriage application no. 18271. It was documented in the town of Ravena in Clay County Missouri. The spelling of Jack’s new fiancé is recorded as ‘Regine Y. LaCoste’. The date on the application is December 23, 1932. It also states that Jack took an oath that he was 31 years old or older. Well, we know he was born in 1904 which in 1932 would actually make him only 28 years old. Why the difference of 3 years? My initial thought is he wanted to appear older to Regine, his new wife to be who was 29 by her oath. A kind of ‘manly’ thing in those days maybe? This is only conjecture on my part.
Above is the only image I have of Jack and Regine from a San Francisco Tribune newspaper clipping from 1938 showing Jack and Regine LaCoste Frye arriving at the airport on one of Jacks west coast business trips.
HELEN VARNER VANDERBILT FRYE Jack and Helen were married January 1, 1941 in Scottsdale Arizona. Their marriage lasted 9 years ending in divorce January 27, 1950. The couple had no children, something by this time in Jacks life he greatly desired. From what I understand Helen was biologically unable to have children. Jack and Helen's marriage and relationship is very well documented on the ‘Sedona Legend’ website. Helen was married to Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, his third wife of seven prior to marrying Jack. Helen and Jack were deeply in love with each other and the southwest Arizona landscape where they developed a few large revenue producing ranches. And they loved the arts and architecture where they were able to build the now famous, House of Apache Fires home in Sedona Arizona. This became they’re retreat home from the east coast where they resided. In fact, the Frye’s were the pioneers in opening up Sedona to the public as a beautiful getaway oasis in the desert. Today it is now known as the Red Rock State Park in the southwest of Sedona. The most picturesque area of the park.
By this time the Frye’s were a very well publicized corporate couple. This period of Jack Frye’s professional life included many more firsts in the airline industry. Some of them included development of the very first pressurized aircraft cabin to fly comfortably above the clouds. The aircraft was called the Boeing Stratoliner. The development of the first bonifide Trans-Oceanic passenger plane called the Constellation which set the standard for long range air travel. By 1947, Jack resigned from TWA after 13 history making years as its president. He then became the president and CEO of the huge International firm, General Aniline and Film Corp, losing his many TWA offices and resources for travel which enabled the Frye’s to easily relocate between their properties week by week. These later years were a tumultuous time for the Frye’s for both Helen and Jack. This fairytale relationship ended when Jack and Helen could not agree where to live together. As an industrialist with General Aniline, Jack had to be on the east coast for business. And Helen wouldn’t leave the beautiful Sedona landscape where she felt free and committed to the southwest...
Jack and Helen Frye, 1941
EMILY NEVADA SMITH FRYE Jack and Emily were married on July 21, 1950 in Hollywood Florida just under one month after Jacks divorce from Helen was final. How did they meet? Jack obviously had an eye for glamorous women hence his prior three beautiful wives, and probably met Emily at one of her shows. Emily Nevada was 24 years old, a successful and gorgeous showgirl at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe in NY City and played roles in movies such as ‘The Harvey Girls’ & ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ during the 40’s. Ethel Merman was one of her closest friends. Emily was stunningly beautiful, one of the best in her field and at one point was written about in the newspaper columns on a daily basis. Walter Winchell, the noted NY Times columnist had been quoted as saying, “In 1944 Nevada was the most photographed showgirl in the country”.
Cousin Emily and Jack were married for 9 years until his tragic death in 1959. It has been reported that in the beginning Emily was a gold-digger looking for her millionaire man. To some degree this is true. What dreams did any showgirl have for their future in front of men? Do you really think all of them wanted to perform near nude every night for the rest of their lives? This assumption is false in the case of Emily as at the young age of 32 after losing her husband, Emily never pursued or had any other boyfriends or relationships with any man for the entirety of her life. Emily deeply loved Jack and never got over her loss. One of the very bright spots in Emily and Jacks life together occurred when they were blessed with a bundle of joy, a daughter, an heir to the Jack Frye legacy. Lili Navajac Frye was born May 9, 1953 into the open and joyous arms of her mother and father. Jack was finally a new father at age 49, and boy did he love his new role. When Nevajac and mother Emily lost Jack on that tragic day in Tucson Arizona, their world literally fell apart. Nevajac was a toddler of 6 years, but to this day she has vivid memories of her dad flying and driving her all over the country in his airplanes and Cadillac's. Jack loved his daughter so very much, he personally took care of her every need including having her present in high powered board meetings bringing him his pen and paper looking sweet. After the accident Emily began a world traveling jet-set lifestyle of extravagance. This was all about running away from the grief for she never was able to resolve losing Jack. Sadly in 1985, Emily succumbed to her life’s end the night before she was to come live with her daughter and family. A complete shock to the Frye, Smith and Johnson families, and more in his extended family I am not aware of.
Jack and Emily Frye, 1950
This brief summary ends what I know about Jack Frye’s wives for 35 years of married life. As more facts and cleared stories emerge, I will update this and other posts.
An obvious question to the married life aspect of Jack Frye’s personal life is, why did he wait until he was 49 years old to have a child? Here are a few of my thought’s, none of them are confirmed though with a little imagination and some real life circumstances he encountered in life, they are probably not far off the trail.
During Jacks formative years with Aero Corp and Standard Airlines, I get an impression he and Debbie (wife no.1) were young lovers in their early 20’s experiencing what any new and first time lover’s experience. A sense of new and exciting horizons were being realized the very first time in their young married lives. Jacks love of flying and airplanes I am sure was his priority without a doubt. After all, he came to California from Texas flat broke wanting to learn to fly more than anything else. He would not be deterred even at earning only $25 a week at the drugstore prior to him receiving his first pilot’s license. Once he caught the vision, a new dream of owning his own flying company, then I am quite positive this and only this was his priority in life and that his new bride was somewhat secondary. Now was she able to have children? Let’s assume she could. The new airline company and his complete love of flying just didn’t have room for Jack to be a consistent father and husband at home in my opinion. Heck Jack was out on the plains of the southwest forging new airline routes and having new airstrips carved into the landscape. He was head deep in building an empire and an airline, one of the first in the country. Who has time for kids... If your relationship is peppered with other priorities than your family, well it becomes a live-in friendship, not a marriage, and you slowly drift apart before you know what happened. I can easily understand the couple just didn’t have room for children even how fulfilling the love of a new little one could have made both Jack and Debbie complete.
So, onto Regine, Jacks second wife for seven years. Obviously this is a beautiful couple with new corporate attachment duties soon to be bestowed upon Jack. Just 2 years into their marriage, Jack Frye is appointed as the first and youngest flying President of TWA, a milestone in airline history. Could Regine biologically have children? Let’s again assume she could. If she couldn’t then all of my work here is useless! Ok, Jack just from a failed marriage where he didn’t have time to devote to a newborn in the house is flying all over the country for hours and days on end, and probably weeks on the road. How is it possible to raise a child? Now maybe Regine being beautiful and of an independent mind just didn’t want children herself. This is very plausible as she was of such a fine character and beautiful, she could have taken care of herself in all manner of luxury whether with Jack or another. On the other hand, Jack had already experienced incredible time schedule issues with ‘the business’ in his prior marriage and could have easily transferred those priorities over to marriage #2 without realizing it. Or maybe he purposely did know what he was doing and began having a vision to where later in life he could fully enjoy a tike running around the house while retired. Jack is 35 years old now, in the prime of his fathering years, but he has a company to run...
Third wife Helen and Jack marry in 1941. I don’t know if Jack was aware of the following fact or not prior to him marrying Helen. I would assume he did. Helen was unable to biologically have children. They tried three times as reported from another source. If he was aware of her biological birthing issues, then one can only assume he loved Helen very much and realized she being of her stature, beauty and notoriety was definitely a plus to be his mate and for his corporate purposes. Jack and Helen both were by this time worldwide figures of public notoriety in the corporate world. Did they speak about adopting? Probably but my mind as a man tells me that Jack all along his timeline of life since becoming his own man wanted a blood heir that he would be proud of and be able to finally feel he did the right thing by becoming a real father as God intended. I am positive Jack had many thoughts about being a dad while flying alone somewhere over the country and glistening oceans by himself wondering, will I ever be a father? There is speculation that when Helen and Jack were unable to work out their differences on living locations as a couple – Jack in New York, Helen in Sedona Arizona, Helen let her man slip away. Underneath that it is said she let him go on purpose so he could remarry and finally have a child. That would have been very honorable of her, but at the risk of losing her true love? Seems kind of odd to me. I can only assume she had other interests also underneath her breakup with Jack Frye.
Emily Nevada and Jack Frye were married in under 30 days after Jack and Helen’s divorce was final in 1950. Below is Jack and Emily’s application for their marriage license dated July 17, 1950.
By now you can tell I have written more about Emily and Jack than the prior wives. Let’s just say that I am in an interesting position here able to speak from the outside as an aviation history hobbyist, and from the inside as a family member who loves my family heritage. While developing the Jack Frye blog space acquiring all the materials about Jack and Emily the last ten years, talking to dad about Emily and aunt Lillian and Emily’s father George ‘Buck’ Smith, and having a relationship with Jacks only child, his blood heir, cousin Nevajac Frye, I am completely honored and feel very responsible too maintaining and promoting the Jack Frye Legacy. This without effecting my family and God knows, they have seen and experienced all the hours and miles traveled to come to this point of the historical journey. Nevertheless, I can now proudly say – Jack Frye finally became a father! So, the original question was, “Why did Jack Frye wait so long to have a child?” You know it’s still a good question. In an attempt to put some validity to this question, I hope you can follow along and understand my caricatures.
While Helen and Jack drifted further and further apart, Jack was probably dating other women to the point he knew he wanted to marry again. Being on top of the world financially and professionally having friends in high places throughout industry and government, why did he have three failed marriages? He had all the property one could ever dream of owning with tens if not hundreds of thousands of acres of land all across the country and abroad. He had oil wells, offshore accounts, insurance policies, stocks and bonds, a portfolio to die for. He was a pioneer aviator of high esteem, he had great looks and all kinds of new ideas about new aircraft designs and companies he was ready to start breaking ground on. What else could a man want? ‘That’s right, A child’. The business mogul Jack Frye by the time he was 42 years old had an empty spot in his incredible life that had to be filled. You see, even with all of the accolades and success, sometimes a man must have blood kin if he desires any sort of completeness in his life. Even after all of his great inventions and business successes he was not complete and he knew it.
One of the things we know about Jack Frye is he was dearly loved by his thousands of employees. He was a gentle soft spoken man tall in stature but humble in spirit with an infectious personality and smile. Sounds like a complete and fulfilled man right? Emily Nevada was in her own right equally successful as a beautiful and talented showgirl who Jack met at a show somewhere, and he was smitten. The 29 year old beauty 17 years his younger was just who he wanted to finally have his child. A young and attractive lady succumbed to her loving husbands desires and bore him a child at age 32. Here is another thought Jack might have had alone to himself though I cannot prove, nor disprove. An aviator who flew as much as Jack did professionally and leisurely for over 35 years accumulating tens of thousands of flight hours, narrowly escaping so many flying mishaps, some even close to death must have known his time clock was ticking. I am not an aviator but I am getting older realizing my clock is ticking as well. Imagine being of sound mind knowing something is going to happen out of your control that suddenly ends your life. Jack was fully aware of the constant danger of equipment failure in the sky. If I were in Jacks pilot seat I would most definitely wish to have a child of my own as soon as possible. Three years after Emily and Jack married; Lili Nevajac Frye came into Jacks world! – Finally, Jack Frye, the Aviators aviator has an heir, a beautiful daughter.
Today, Jack Frye’s only heir, Nevajac Frye resides with her daughter Brieana Frye and her grandsons, ‘Jax Frye’ and 'Jett Truman' (cool names), great grandsons of Jack Frye. Other living grandchildren of Jacks are Morgan and JT Frye.
Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog