Joan Personette
Joan in her Roxy Theater studio

Family Life

This section is not about my family life. That would be a book in itself. But a few words...

I was married to a beautiful girl, Joan Personette, in 1939. I didn’t know it at the time but Joan had won a Joan Crawford look-alike contest. I think Joan Crawford got the better of it. In addition to being beautiful, Joan was a fine artist. I didn’t realize how fine at the time. Joan was a costume designer for the Roxy Theater for many years—she did magnificent costume sketches, exquisite in form and color, in my opinion the best ever done. Joan became a wonderful painter. She was very modest, and never tried to sell her paintings. Her work came to the attention of The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. This fine museum liked it so much that they held an exhibit of Joan’s work in the important months of October, November and December—and it was extended for an extra month.

Joan and I were legally separated after four years. Not Joan’s fault at all. I guess marriage was not for me because I never got married again or even considered it. After eighteen years of separation, Joan went to Reno for a divorce. She went with great reluctance—she associated Reno with divorce and gambling. Once Joan got there, she found the country so beautiful she loved it, and decided to stay. There she met Bryce Rhodes, a fine gentleman. Joan and Bryce lived together for many more years, before she died in 1998. Bryce and I are good friends.

Johnny and Nellie von Hoensheim

Joan and I had a son, Johnny. When we became separated, Johnny was two years old and I didn’t see him again until he was almost eight. Freud suggests that these young years are very important for a little boy’s old man to be around. It’s the greatest regret of my life that I wasn’t. When Johnny was eight I visited him every Saturday and Sunday in Purchase, N.Y., and we’d play games. A stroke of luck, and a little help from me, brought Bill Damon, the fine golf teacher from Montgomery, to nearby Century Country Club as golf pro. Bill gave Johnny hundreds of golf lessons, while I watched. Soon Johnny became an excellent golfer, won the Club Championship a few times, had a sixty-six at Westchester Country Club, also qualified for the British Amateur. Johnny worked at Dreyfus & Co. until I retired. Since then he has done a great deal of volunteer hospital work, which he enjoys.

Several years ago Johnny went out to Reno to see why his mother liked it so much. He found out and bought a house on a street with a lovely name, Mark Twain Avenue, and has lived there ever since. We visit each other a few times a year, and talk on the phone several times a week. Sometimes we have arguments—we’re both right, of course. A few years ago I told Johnny if my life were in peril and I was given the choice of one person to come to my rescue, I would pick him. He said I was right, but only after he’d had breakfast. I love Johnny very much. And I still love Joan.

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