At the moment, cliff dwellers Rocky-Rambo, Bon Jovi, Donald, Howard, Rod, and Dr. Oz assure Palm Beach an almost daily news feed of datelines, making Variety and WSJ as engrossing a must-read as yesterday’s Social Register. Ocean Boulevard’s onetime parade of Old Money names has long since been replaced by Wall Street wizards and Vegas royalty, making for a cutting-edge social zeitgeist. However prominent the current crew of boldfaced culturati, yesterday’s leisure class once harbored another breed of man-about-town with a profile unlike today’s issue of men-at-work.
“There was an unmistakable air of confidence about them,” remarked Rick Herpel, a longtime area resident, historical buff, and collector. “Names come to mind, among them, Peter Pulitzer, Paul Ilyinsky, Walter Gubelmann, Wyckoff Myers, Henry Holmes, Dick Cowell, Mike Phipps, Bob Leidy, George Schrafft, and Dinny Phipps. Back then, there were full-time mariners, fisherman, deep-sea divers, big-game hunters, race-car drivers, aviators, outdoorsmen, gamblers, and gentlemen, for the most part,” Herpel added.
With passports stamped Acapulco, Marbella, Bermuda, St. Moritz, Monte Carlo, San Juan, and Lyford Cay, these explorers pursued blue marlins rather than Instagram followers. “Then, there was Jim Kimberly, a book onto himself, what a life, with that single earring,” recalled Herpel.
Among the town’s characters from the Jet Set to the Space Age, Gurnee Munn Jr., unbothered by decorum and engaged with the out-of-the-way. However far flung his escapades, whether grouse hunting in Scotland, pursuing a Bongo in Kenya’s Aberdare Range, hosting a New Year’s Eve party at Treetops Hotel, encamped in California, or exploring the Seychelles Islands, Gurnee’s chief port of call became Palm Beach.
Among Herpel’s eclectic collections, Gurnee Jr.’s yacht log recording guests aboard his 82-foot Island Waters from 1963 until 1970. “Sometime during the 1980s, my company did some work for Gurnee’s widow Suzanne Munn, at the Sandpiper house, when she sold me, what I thought, were items from the North Lake Way house: a captain’s table, a Rhino horn, lamps, and a glass-top trophy table. She gave me the guest log,” recalled Herpel.
Here is a look back at the building of Island Waters, the who’s who among the guests between 1963 and 1970, as well as a look back at the odyssey of Gurnee Munn Jr. Last month, I was able to locate the Island Waters, still at sea 60 years later, rechristened the Mongoose. The ship is for sale and docked at Dinner Key, just a few blocks south of where I once lived in Coconut Grove.
September 1963 – December 1963
Aboard the Island Waters
Sir James Gault & Meredith Gault – Sir James, an Old Etonian knighted in 1952, served as General/President Eisenhower’s military attaché in England when Ike was Supreme Allied Commander. With an intimate knowledge of Ike’s preferences for golf courses and castles, Sir James remained lifelong friends with the Eisenhowers.
Ogden Hammond Jr. (1912-1976) – A financier and longtime Palm Beach resident, Hammond’s parents were aboard the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland in May 1915. His father survived; his mother did not. Hammond’s sister Millicent Hammond Fenwick (1910-1992) served four terms in the US House of Representatives. A cousin of record producer John Hammond, Ogden Hammond’s interests were Texas oil and Australian mining.
Franci & Gen. William Tandy “Bill” Young – Following his distinguished military service, Bill Young presided over the Leo Burnett Company, a Chicago advertising concern. The second Mrs. Young, Francigene, was a renowned ceramicist. Hand-painted dinner plates could always be found at the Young residence, known as Villa Vanilla, located on Seaspray Avenue. Young’s brother and recurrent Palm Beach houseguest was Collier Young, a Hollywood film producer, previously married to actresses Joan Fontaine and Ida Lupino. Following Young’s death, Franci married Homer Dixon.
Rodman Arturo Heeren (1910-1983) – Born in Paris and educated in the United States, Princeton ‘33, Gurnee Jr.’s double cousin, Rodman de Heeren (1910-1983) was the son of Arturo de Heeren and his aunt Fernanda “Nana” Wanamaker (1887-1958). Following the de Heeren’s divorce, Nana married Gurnee Jr.’s uncle Ector Munn in 1924. Rodman joined his cousin Gurnee enlisting in the First Philadelphia Cavalry where weekend duty was served at El Morocco. NYC tabloids reported Rodman was arm-in-arm with Brazilian beauty “Amy Lopez.” After their marriage in 1941, she became best known on Best Dressed lists as Aimée de Heeren, with the couple settling in Paris, New York, Rio, and Biarritz. After Gurnee Munn Sr. died in 1960, Rodman and Aimèe bought Louwana, adding Palm Beach to their stationery. The family’s 17 East 90th Street townhouse, designed by Vizcaya architect F. Burrall Hoffman Jr., was sold to the Spence School in 2008 for a reported $27 million. Nearly a decade later, Rodman and Aimèe’s daughter Cristina de Herren Noble sold Louwana in 2015 for $18 million.
Atwater Kent Jr.(1908-1988)and daughter Suzanne Kent (1942-2013) – Regarded as one of Palm Beach’s “greatest gentlemen,” Atwater Kent Jr. could be found at the Peruvian docks aboard the Adventurer, his 50-foot cruiser. In 1936, Harrison Williams sold Kent The Towers, an Addison Mizner-designed oceanfront estate at 548 North County Road with 400 feet of ocean frontage, next door to Blythedunes, Williams’ estate. Known for developing the “Atwater Kent radio,” Kent leased The Towers in November 1944 to Robert and Anita Young who bought the house four months later. Commodore Kent was anchored at the Corinthian Yacht Club and the New York Yacht Cub. Between 1961 and 1966, he served as president of The Society of the Four Arts. Suzanne Kent, an artist and interior designer, married Tommy Hitchcock III, grandson of Thomas Larimer Mellon, at Palm Beach in April 1966.
Bob Brumby – A former sportswriter, Brumby headed the publicity department at Jack Tar Hotel’s Grand Bahama Club.
Gurnee and his sister Nonie (Mrs. Francis) Munn Kellogg shared a passion for big-game hunting and conservation in Africa. Nonie’s husband, former OSS veteran Major Francis Kellogg, was an EVP at John Wanamaker and a former president of the World Wildlife Fund. In November 1963, Nonie chaired the first Louwana Fund gala dinner dance at Delmonico’s to support anti-poaching efforts, animal surveys, and provide an airplane for Kenya’s game wardens.
At the time, Gurnee was a newly designated a Commodore at New Providence’s Coral Harbor Yacht Club. As well, Gurnee and Suzanne, then known as Brigitte, described then as his “beautiful blond French date,” were headed for the opening of Allen Manus and Lou Chesler’s Grand Lucayan Hotel, along with Brownie and Jock McLean, Russell and Mary Alice Firestone, and 200 other epicures and sensualists.
In January 1920, Gurnee Jr. first arrived on Palm Beach where his parents held a housewarming for the completion of their new Mizner-designed beach house, Louwana. Ever since Gurnee Jr. could walk and lift a silver spoon, his comings-and-goings, marriages-and-break-ups, as well as his final days, made newspaper headlines.
1938 – 1963
Following Gurnee Jr.’s graduation from Cambridge’s New Preparatory School in 1938, he was reported in Europe rounding out his education before beginning a business career. Apparently, Gurnee’s major interest was La Dolce Vita rather than economics. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported his marriage to one of his sister Nonie’s friends, Dodina Manfredi, daughter of Marchese and Marchesa Manfredi, a prominent Bolognese family. Any plans for him in the Wanamaker office were tabled. Soon after, a daughter Marie Louise Munn was born.
Despite Gurnee’s efforts to advance American-Italy diplomacy, he was unable to bring his family to the United States in 1941, as an apparent irreparable political breach stalemated the process. Some newspapers reported the Mussolini-allied Manfredis did not want their daughter or granddaughter living in the United States. Gurnee spent the next two years stationed near Philadelphia with the First Philadelphia Cavalry. With little hope his family would join him, he won a divorce in October 1942.
Granted a medical discharge following an automobile accident, Gurnee was soon among the pack at El Morocco. Several months after VJ-Day, Gurnee married Margaret “Peggy” Bridged Keohane in early December 1945. The newly-weds moved to Palm Beach. Ten months later, Gurnee filed for divorce. After the couple reconciled, they moved to Southern California. A son, Gurnee III, was born in 1948; then, a daughter Bridgid.
During the 1950s, Gurnee and Peggy made seasonal jaunts to Palm Beach, staying with Gurnee Sr., at what he called The Lodge. In 1936, Gurnee built The Lodge, designed by Treanor & Fatio, as a guest house on a parcel adjacent to Louwana. By 1955, Peggy and Gurnee had separated. Peggy and the children had relocated to Glyndon, Maryland, near the family’s American Totalizator Company’s offices.
Further widening his international expertise, Gurnee skipped summers in Newport or Maine and joined the 1950s haute monde at Torremolinos on Spain’s Costa del Sol, rubbing elbows with the likes of Juan Peron and Rafael Trujillo. Gurnee’s Prehistoric Party in 1956 made international headlines with photographs of “scantily clad cavewomen.” A Spanish regional governor fined Gurnee $250 and each of his 75 guests was fined $40 for attending “a party with immoral features” — lost in translation, perhaps. News clips reported Gurnee attached to Suzanne Delchambro, variously described as a French school teacher, a French divorcee, and “that lovely French lady.”
Albert C. Bostwick & Mollie Bostwick – In March 1960, Mollie Netcher Bragno, 33, having divorced a wine merchant, married Albert Bostwick, 21, a Standard Oil Trust heir, who gave his occupation as “Unemployed.” Despite a honeymoon in Jamaica, a 17-carat engagement ring, and plans for an ultra-modern Paul Rudolph-designed oceanfront home, the marriage was tumultuous, even by Palm Beach standards. During the summer of 1966, their divorce moved from Miami to Palm Beach, each with their own private detectives. Bostwick had to break-in to Sandreef, the couple’s Treanor & Fatio designed home at 1075 North Ocean Boulevard, armed with a photographer to catch Mollie in flagrante with someone else’s husband. After a protracted divorce, Mollie married publicist Paul Wilmot in December 1970. The following year, Bostwick married Claudia E. Bradley at Vizcaya.
Nadine Bretin Stearns (1930- 2017) – Nadine Stearns, a longtime supporter of the African Wildlife Foundation, was married to fashion photographer Philip Stearns.
Stewart Kellogg – Nonie Munn’s brother-in-law.
Edward, Duke of Windsor (1894-1972) – Wallis and Edward were houseguests of Ambassador Arthur Gardner and his wife Susie on South Ocean Boulevard before moving onto Anita Young at The Towers on North County Road. Their spring 1964 visit was highlighted by dinner with Alfonso and Lillian Fanjul on Kawama Lane and an intimate dinner for twelve at Amado hosted by Gurnee Jr’s uncle, Charles Munn. Upon the Windsors’ return to Europe, they made plans to visit the uber-chic Marbella Club, as Anita Young announced plans to demolish The Towers, where her husband, railroad financier Robert Young took his own life in 1958. For the following season, the Windsors made plans to stay at The Colony as construction got underway on Young’s new mansion Montsorrel.
Anita Ten Eyck Young (1892-1985) – The sister of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, Young shuttled between Fairholme, her Newport mansion, and Palm Beach. After she demolished The Towers, construction on her more palatial mansion suffered delays. During the Windsors’ 1967 mini-season, they stayed with Arthur and Susie Gardner. That is, until Mr. Gardner died suddenly during their stay. The Duke was bestowed a Palm Beach houseguest’s ultimate honor, serving as an honorary pallbearer at Gardner’s memorial service at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. The following spring, the Windsors checked into their Montsorrel royal suite.
Jean and Sandy Kellogg – Nonie Kellogg’s brother-in-law Sandy, a sailing enthusiast, was associated with Larchmont’s Storm Trysail Club.
Henry Stillman “Stilly” Taylor (1918-1985) – The recipient of a Silver Star during WW II for his bravery operating torpedo boats, Taylor was president of the J. P. Stevens Inc., a textile company. He was first married to Vivian Stokes whose family-owned Villa Giardino on Peruvian Avenue for many years. An Oyster Bay resident and well-known yachtsman, Stilly was also part of The Colony’s croquet set. His daughter Barbara married John Drayton Cochran in 1971.
(Thomas Jackson) Oakley Rhinelander (1920-1989) – The son of Philip Rhinelander, Oakley Rhinelander was a director of the family’s Rhinelander Real Estate Co. and associated with the Douglas Elliman real estate concern.
Francis Dring Wetherill (1916-2013) – Wetherill’s first wife was Fernanda Pauline Wanamaker. In 1950, he married Aimee du Pont Wickes (1920-1997), the daughter of Eugene Irénée du Pont (1873-1954). A longtime Delray Beach resident, Wetherill was part of Constellation syndicate, winner of the 1964 America’s Cup.
Gertrude Gretsch Coletti Astor Perucca (1919-1997) – Her 1944 marriage to John Jacob “Jakey” Astor VI (1912-1992) ended in a 1955 divorce. Their daughter Mary Jacqueline was born in 1949. Jakey’s mother Madeline Talmage Astor survived the Titanic sinking in 1912; his father JJA IV did not. Gertrude married Sonio Coletti-Perucca in 1961.
John W. Handel Jr. – Handel was a member of the Constellation crew with Buddy Bombard, winning the America’s Cup in 1964 against the British challenger, Sovereign. Newspaper scion Eric Ridder skippered, and Walter Gubelmann managed the Constellation’s syndicate with 31 investors.
Leo “Buddy” Bombard Jr. (1932-2022) – A Bronxville, New York resident, Bombard was part of the Constellation’s foredeck crew for the 1964 America’s Cup. An experienced ocean racer and Dartmouth graduate, Bombard’s first America’s Cup competition was in 1958. Thus, “he knew everyone in Newport …” His New York-based Chalet Club expanded from ski trips to Vermont into worldwide adventure travel, hot-air balloon trips over French and Italian vineyards, sky diving, and whitewater rafting.
Hugh Sommerville – One of England’s leading yachtsmen and ocean racers, Sommerville was an honorary commodore at the Warwickshire Yacht Club. Sommerville became a noted sailing journalist and editor. During the 1964 America’s Cup at Newport, he was the spokesman for the Royal Thames Yacht Club.
Newport was a flurry of events for the America’s Cup races in September 1964, as more than 1,000 guests attended the America’s Cup Ball. Chauncey Stillman hosted 300 at The Elms for the Royal Thames Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club’s crews past and present flag officers. Walter Gubelmann gave a dinner dance for 300 at Bailey Beach. Phil and Minnie Miller also gave a dinner dance in honor of the America’s Cup.
DeWitt Coffman–A Washington hotel executive at the Hotel Commodore, Coffman became president of International Hotel Management, operator of the Miami-based Prestige Resorts.
Louise deKoven Wanamaker (1922-2017) – Philadelphia and Boca Grande’s Louise Wanamaker was akin to Chicago’s W. McCormick Blairs. She was a nationally ranked tennis player and champion ice dancer. Her grandmother and namesake Louise DeKoven Bowen was a founder of Arcadia National Park and regarded as one of Chicago’s best-known philanthropists, as well as author of the biographical Growing Up With A City (MacMillan, 1926).
Commodore John Rodman Wanamaker (1918-2004) – Gurnee Jr.’s cousin was the son of Pauline Disston Wanamaker (1896-1956) and Captain John Nelson Wanamaker. The Commodore married Louise deKoven in 1940. The Wanamaker’s son, J. Rodman ”Roddy” Wanamaker II (1944-2008) became a ship’s captain in 1980. At Boca Grande, you could find Wanamaker at the docks where he ran a tarpon fishing charter boat. Later, aboard the Cheeka, he ran a deep-sea fishing business in Longport, New Jersey. The Wanamaker family sold their 16-store chain to LA’s Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Inc. for $60 million in 1978.
Evarts “Zig” Ziegler (1917-1990) – Zig, Princeton ’38, was another OSS veteran, who became an A-list Hollywood literary agent for directors, producers, writers. His firm, Ziegler, Heilman & Ross, merged with ICM in 1983. Among Zig’s clients, Mario Puzo and William Goldman.
Aimée de Heeren (1903-2006) and daughter Cristina de Heeren Noble. Artist Alejo Vidal-Quadras (1919-1994) – Aimée was regarded as “the personification of elegance.” Named to the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1996, several online biographies refer to Aimée as a “secret service agent,” adding to her legendary mystique.
Geoffrey Jones – A former television and theatrical producer, Jones was best known for his WW II clandestine missions and medals as president of the Veterans of the OSS. Jones commanded the OSS in Nice, credited with “liberating the French Riviera.” Jones was known “to always be seen at the better parties,” a reminder of the time when if you saw the OSS Directory on a Palm Beach coffee table, you knew you had arrived at Palm Beach’s inner sanctum. Appropriately, Jones ran the El Morocco (“The Elmo”) as a private club during the 1970s.
Albert Putnam “Pat” Humphreys (1911-1990) and Odette Nicole Humphreys – In 1933, Humphreys was youngest member of the New York Stock Exchange. A champion downhill skier and life member of the Corviglia Club, the Denver-Palm Beach based bon vivant and diamond merchant donated his Etruscan antiquities to The Met. Their 96-foot yacht the Golden Scimitar, later aka Mariner III, was donated to Palm Beach Atlantic College.
William Horace Schmidlapp (1916-1987) – Regarded as a true sportsman, Schmidlapp’s mile-a-minute lifestyle took a wide latitude, whether backing a race car or financing a Broadway production. Born in Cincinnati and schooled in France, his fortune was based on his family’s breweries and manufacturing concern, the Monitor Stove and Range Company. Horace’s marriage in 1945 to actress Carole Landis was short-lived, separating after two years, and ending the following year, when she took her life. In 1958, he and Patricia McClintock (1917-2015) married at the Everglades Club. Seven months later, her daughter Patricia McClintock wed Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, one of actress Elizabeth Taylor’s string of ex-husbands, at the Plaza Hotel. Horace adopted his wife’s other daughter Victoria McClintock who married film producer H. Gray Frederickson in 1970.
G. F. “Reggie” Di Varmo(1905-1998) – St. Louis.
Gurnee died on May 27, 1978, at his North Lake Way home.
His death followed a spiraling three-year chain of events — health concerns, divorce, marriage, trust agreements, and at the end, disparate theories as to the circumstances surrounding the cause of his death, resulting in court proceedings.
Three months after Gurnee’s marriage to Peggy Keohane was dissolved on April 6, 1975, he and Suzanne flew to Las Vegas and were married. Court clerk documents at Clark County, Nevada, indicate Gurnee Munn Jr. and Suzanne Lacheze Delchambre married on July 23, 1975. Two years earlier, court records indicate that in September 1973 Suzanne Delchambre changed her name legally to Suzanne Lacheze. A new trust agreement was drawn up, designating the 3rd Mrs. Munn as his executor and principal beneficiary. That December, Gurnee deeded the sizable North Lake Way house to the revocable trust set-up the previous year. Despite evidence questioning the trust agreement’s validity, Circuit Court Judge James R. Stewart ruled in favor of accepting it as Munn executed it in 1976.
Too often at Palm Beach, when an estate of some means is in play, children from previous marriages who question these seemingly “last-minute” wills are sidelined by a phalanx of lawyers from 3rd, 4th, or 5th wives, non-profit organizations, trust officers, and professional executors.
While we may never know what happened to Gurnee Munn Jr., his ship stands ready for the next owner’s global pursuit of every horizon. However distant, the Island Waters guest book remains, an intimation of the people and places that Gurnee made a part of his 20th-century journey.
September 14, 1962
America’s Cup Dinner
The Breakers, Newport
I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea and the light are forever changing, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.
Island Waters: The Mongoose @ Coconut Grove
The Mongoose is a classic teak-decked long-range vessel powered by Cat D-342’s and twin Cat 40 KW DSL generator sets. According to yacht records, Island Waters was first listed for sale under its original name in 2008. It then became known as the John Isaacs and the Cherokee V before renamed the Mongoose.