A Local Life: Evelyn Twombly Stewart-FitzRoy
Engaging Nature Carried Wife Of Attache Through Good, Bad
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Take a moment and gaze into the soft eyes and beautiful face of the young Evelyn Whalley Nichol, who so enraptured the Corps of Keydets at Virginia Military Institute that they included a rare full-page photograph of her in their 1938 yearbook. It's as if you're stepping into a vanished era, one that F. Scott Fitzgerald might have chronicled.
The face in the photograph recalls a time and place familiar to many Washingtonians of a certain social standing in the years between the wars: childhood in idyllic Chevy Chase, country club dances and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority events at George Washington University, globe-trotting as the wife of an Army officer and diplomat.
Miss Nichol -- Evelyn Twombly Stewart-FitzRoy when she died March 7 of complications from surgery -- lived that life and lived it fully, a son and daughter recalled last week. High-spirited and outgoing until her death at 89 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, she enjoyed life and she enjoyed people.
"She was a real social being," said her daughter Charlotte Twombly. She had amazing social abilities and got along with people from every state in life, her children said. She was interested in everybody, whether the checkout person at Safeway or a European diplomat.
She was known as "Reds," for the red highlights in her dark-brown hair and her fiery disposition.
In postwar Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where her husband was a military attache, she was preparing to move her family into a house down the hill from the mansion of Marshal Tito, the Yugoslav Communist leader. Just as the family was moving in, the Communist Party slapped a red star on the front door, with a note in Serbo-Croatian forbidding anyone from taking up occupancy.
But the Yugoslav "Reds" didn't know the American "Reds." She snatched down the star, settled her family in the house and dared any party bureaucrat to object.
Her husband, Col. John Fogg Twombly III, was a calmer sort, more analytical, their daughter recalled. Occasionally, when his vivacious wife got a little too worked up about something, he would calmly address her by her pet name, telling her, "Now, Spookie, just smile."
Twombly got to know the young woman who would be his wife when he was a student at VMI. She had a friend from Alexandria at the school, and she would drive to Lexington for dances.
"She ended up dating the guy with all the chevrons on his sleeve," her son John Twombly IV recalled. That was the elder Twombly's very accomplished roommate and captain of the Corps, who asked the young woman from Chevy Chase to marry him. She said yes.
A bit later, after the roommate had gone into business, he occasionally asked Twombly to "look after Evelyn" when he was away on business trips. He did, and she decided she preferred the quiet, scholarly soldier and horseman to the hard-driving businessman who was her fiance.
"I think the last straw was when he had the audacity to ask her how much money her father made," John Twombly recalled.