JAVS Fall 2023

fell out. Alice immediately dove overboard to look for her sister and although she did find her, in the process she had lost sight of their boat. Given no other alternative, Alice chose to swim her sister to shore after which numerous attempts to save Audrey ultimately failed. It is not difficult to imagine the emotional devastation which impacted both Alice and her surviving mother as a result of these two significant family losses, and all within a one-year period. Now knowing both William’s and Alice’s history of the two years immediately preceding their happenstance meeting in Davenport, I believe you will find it a bit easier to comprehend the force that almost immediately ensued between the two of them. After all, here you have before you a man and woman who are both currently experiencing a similar process of healing from significant personal losses. Add to that the vision of a mature and extremely successful “dapper-looking Scotsman” … and upon his arm, a beautiful young princess living an appropriate lifestyle. I will leave the rest to your imagination! Long story short, on July 17th, 1952, Alice French and William Primrose were married in New York City. Following the wedding, the Primroses returned to Davenport for a few days to visit Alice’s mother and to be the honored guests at several formal high-society celebrations. After their departure from Iowa, Alice and William honeymooned in Switzerland, ultimately setting up a formal residence in Paris, France. In 1952, Alice and William were blessed with the birth of their first child, daughter Marion Primrose, while living in Paris. This was followed in 1953 by the birth of their second child, daughter, Audrey Primrose. I think it is interesting to note here that the name of Alice’s deceased sister was Audrey Marion French, and that Alice and William named their two daughters Marion and Audrey. While we are on this subject, it would also appear that their son, John, was named in honor of William’s younger brother John, and that son John ultimately named his first-born William after his father. Although Marion (who several years ago officially

A Second Chance At Love William suffered many dark days in his life following Dorothy’s death in 1951 and relied heavily on his performance career as his primary means of personal expression. Fortunately, while on a subsequent tour of the United States, he found himself in the city of Davenport, Iowa for a recital performance. His pianist’s page turner for the evening turned out to be a stunning young debutante (and music lover) by the name of Alice French. Although only a mere 23 years old at the time of their meeting, Alice had already experienced both a fairy-tale life, as well as a tragic one. Her grandfather (on her father’s side), Nathaniel French, was one of the most prominent judges in the state of Iowa. In 1888, Judge Nathaniel French and his brother, Colonel George Watson French, along with William P. Bettendorf, the inventor of the built-up metal wheel, formed the Bettendorf Metal Wheel Company in Davenport. By 1909, the French brothers had bought out their original partner, William Bettendorf, taken in a new junior partner, Joseph Hecht, and renamed the company the “French & Hecht Company.” The French & Hecht Co. became the leading manufacturer of steel wheels for tractors, farm equipment, trucks, automobiles, trolleys, and trains; needless to say, the French brothers amassed a considerable fortune. In 1883, Grandfather Nathaniel had married Alice’s grandmother, Marian Montgomery Eldridge and ultimately the couple produced two children. Their first born child was a son, Francis Henry French, who in 1926 married Virginia Allen Roberts. She gave birth to Alice Virginia French (our exquisite page turner) in 1928, and three years later, in 1931 gave birth to Alice’s sister, Audrey Marion French. Unfortunately, in 1947, Alice’s father, Francis French, passed away; and the following summer, her sister, Audrey (at age 17) drowned in a boating accident. What made Audrey’s death even more tragic was that at the time of the accident, Alice and her sister Audrey were alone in a 16-foot motorboat on Rainy Lake near the Canadian Border. Audrey had chosen to lean over the side of the boat to retrieve something when she accidentally

Journal of the American Viola Society / Vol. 39, No. 2, Fall 2023


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