Suppose you were an only child for the first 57 years of your life. Then suppose you received a letter intimating you had a half brother. How would you feel — other than astonished, curious, and skeptical?
Would you feel excited and overjoyed to have a sibling? Or would you feel uneasy and vexed of your otherwise stable life? Would you feel relieved and blessed that you hadn’t had to share the advantages of your childhood with a sibling? Or would you feel grieved and resentful that you’d had to weather the burdens of adulthood alone? Would you feel angered or amused by your philandering father? Would you feel protective or unsympathetic toward your cuckolded mother? Or, like me, would you feel absolutely nothing?
I did feel nothing when that letter arrived. What could I feel for a sibling when I’d never experienced one? Certainly, I could have no feelings about a complete stranger. But then, I’d never thought my father was a stranger — I’d always believed I knew where I was coming from — until I began to write this chronicle that I call Derek’s Legacy and rewrite my own history.
My father, Irving Salomon, who lived from 1897 to 1979, was born and raised in Chicago, as were his parents and most of his grandparents. Since Irving’s family was not well off, he delivered newspapers, did odd jobs, and became a stock boy for the Royal Metal Manufacturing Company, a metal-furniture firm. He was employed there until 1917, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Once WWI ended, he returned to Royal Metal, learned the business from the ground up, pulled it out of near bankruptcy, became its president, and pushed it through the depression.
Irving met my mother, Cecile, in 1937. She had been born and raised in St. Joseph, Missouri, had attempted a career in ballet, and had worked in her family’s business until Irving asked her to move to Chicago to become his secretary. They married in 1937, and I was born in 1938.
Initially, we lived in Michigan City, Indiana, where Irving operated Royal Metal and Pact Farm, a summer camp for underprivileged boys. During WWII, we also quartered in Washington D.C., where Irving, rejected by the Marines due to his age, was finally accepted by the Army for a Pentagon post. In 1945, when WWII ended, we moved to a ranch in San Diego County. Irving planned again to operate a camp for underprivileged youth, but this plan did not materialize because Irving soon became engrossed in ranching – breeding Herefords, Hampshires, and quarter horses – funding colleges on behalf of the Ford Foundation, raising funds for Eisenhower, and devoting himself to the United Nations efforts. By 1958, he was a veteran of UNESCO and the UN’s Economic and Social Council and was ripe for his appointment as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.’s General Assembly. Until his death, Irving continued to travel for the U.N. to serve on boards of numerous colleges and universities, to take an active interest in San Diego’s cultural life, and to enjoy ranching.
I grew up at the ranch, attending first grade in a one-room school there and then transferring to an elementary school in Valley Center. I attended high school in Escondido. In 1954 and 1955, when Irving became immersed in United Nations assignments, we took up temporary residence in New York, commuting to and from the ranch. I completed high school in New York and went on to earn my B.A. from Gouchet College in Baltimore. I married in San Diego in 1958, bore two children, became involved in many of San Diego’s cultural and scientific institutions, and in 1968 decided to earn a law degree at Cal Western.
In 1974, I became a law professor, teaching real property law and land use and negotiations, but after maintaining this career for 11 years, I wanted to bridge the gap between land-use planning in theory and in practice. Hoping to help San Diego become a well-planned city — and grow humanely with self-sustaining communities – I ran for city council. I was elected and reelected, serving eight frustrating but productive years. Then I retired from politics, regained my health, renewed my interest in writing and traveling — and began to determine whether or not I had a half brother.
Monday, July 8, 1996
My incipient ex-husband, Louis Wolfsheimer, called to tell me of a curious letter he’d received. It was from a Derek Taylor, who thought he might be my half brother. Louis seemed quite amused by this, chuckling and upbeat, which Louis seldom is. He offered to read the letter and then mail it to me. Astounding! Louis finally made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Tuesday, July 9
Derek’s letter arrived today. The letter, addressed to Louis at his law firm, was dated July 7, 1996, and read, word for word.
Dear Mr. Wolfsheimer,
My name is Derek Taylor. I currently reside with my wife Julie, in Seattle Washington.
A few weeks ago, I attempted to reach you via telephone. I was informed by your secretary that you would be out of the office until July first. It was probably just as well, for I feel that I can better put into writing what is difficult for me to say in words – especially to a stranger on the telephone. This letter is of a personal nature. As you read through this, I realize that you may find this letter’s contents rather shocking. I know that I would be shocked if the roles were reversed.
I have spent the last several weeks in thought as to how I might write this letter, the words to choose, and so on. Despite this, I am still at a loss of how to do so gracefully, so I will be direct.
We have never actually met. I am writing the letter because I have reason to believe that I am related to your wife, Abbe. It is quite probable that I am Abbe’s half brother. The explanation of how Abbe and I are half siblings will not be comfortable to read, but I hope that you will continue reading. I will, for now attempt to keep the explanation concise.
I believe that Irving and Cecile had a strong marriage [sic]. Yet from the late nineteen-fifties through the early nineteen-sixties, Mr. Salomon was involved with my mother, Ethyl [sic] Mortensen Taylor. They first met at a political fund-raiser for Barry Goldwater in the late nineteen-fifties. From the details I have learned, they discovered they had a great deal in common; they were both natives of Chicago; they both served in the Virginia and Washington, D.C. areas during World War II; and they both had an interest in music, the arts, and world affairs. A relationship ensued and lasted until the early nineteen-sixties. The strength of that relationship was evidenced by the fact that in 1961, Mr. Salomon helped finance a nine-month stay in France and Switzerland for my mother and her family. My mother’s family included or course myself, my older sister Frieda and my mother’s husband Harry. It is my understanding that Mr. Salomon even accompanied us on the voyage to Europe aboard the SS United States, and while living in Switzerland, my mother would on occasion take my sister and me to visit Mr. Salomon in Paris. The details of those years have been provided to me by family members, especially my sister Frieda, who is ten years my senior and has vivid recollections of Mr. Salomon, whom she still refers to as “Colonel Salomon.” Among her many recollections are those of visits to the Rancho Lilac with my mother and me whenever Mrs. Salomon was absent, a private tour of the United Nations General Assembly chambers with Mr. Salomon while he served as U.S. delegate, and dining with Mr. Salomon and our mother aboard the S.S. United States, while my mother’s husband stayed in his quarters tending to me. Some of the details have been reluctantly provided by my mother’s husband, Harry. It is a mystery why he chose to tolerate this liaison, but he chose to look the other way. Perhaps he felt that in showing patience, his marriage to my mother would survive the relationship with Mr. Salomon; shortly after her liaison with Mr. Salomon ended, so did her marriage to Harry Taylor. She subsequently married a Mr. John Benoit and was married to him until she died of cancer in July 1966.
After her death, I was raised, at my mother’s request, by Harry Taylor, whom I believed to be my father, until the age of eighteen. It was then that I was told by my sister, Frieda, that in all probability, I was not Harry Taylor’s biological son, but the son of Irving Salomon. When I confronted Harry with this hurtful discovery, he reluctantly admitted that my sister’s assertion was quite probably true. In the ensuing years, I have questioned other relatives who were very close to my mother, and they, too, have confirmed the veracity of this story, even showing me a photograph of Mr. Salomon and my mother together, taken several months after my birth in 1960.
Like one who is adopted, my quest is not to find my “real” father, because I believe that one’s real parent is the person who has loved and raised their children, even where there is no biological obligation involved. In this regard, I consider Harry Taylor to be my father, because he took me in under the most trying of circumstances and raised me as his own son. I will never have anything but love, respect, and admiration for him. However, like one who is adopted, I am also curious about my roots. Although I have made a life for myself, there are questions I have regarding my heritage, including what is my biological father’s family medical history? Do some of my interests, likes or dislikes, mirror his or possibly Abbe’s? It is very difficult to have such questions, but no answers. I have chosen to write to you in hopes that Abbe, and perhaps you as well, Mr. Wolfsheimer, may be able to provide those answers. Please do not interpret my attempts to approach you as an attempt to insinuate myself into your family. Like an adoptee, my quest if for answers regarding my biological roots, not so much a quest for “family.”
I understand that, despite any biological ties that exist between Abbe and myself, she and I are strangers to each other. As such, I completely expect that much skepticism, as well as some anxiety, will exist once you have received and shred this letter. If any negative feeling have been created as a result of this letter being written, I apologize and hope that such ill feeling will soon be surpassed by a genuine curiosity [sic] about me. My curiosity [sic] of you is real and is evidenced by this letter.
I am writing to you at this time because my wife and I will be leaving Seattle on the twenty-first of July. We plan to be visiting friends in the San Diego area on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth before returning to Seattle. If Abbe and you are willing, we would like very much to meet with you in a public place of your choosing — perhaps a restaurant or café — to ask those questions for which I would very much like to have confidential answers. If Abbe and you are willing, please feel free to call me collect at my residence telephone number… so that a time and place may be arranged. If you prefer to respond in writing, my home address is…
Again, we will be leaving Seattle on the morning of July 21. Therefore, a reply as soon as possible would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading this letter and considering my request.
[signed “Derek A. Taylor”]
Mesmerized, I read the letter again and again. Dubious but excited at the prospect of having a brother, I felt compelled to underline certain words, circle others, and scribble notes and questions in the margins. To avoid damaging the original, I made a photocopy that I could mark up copiously.
Any analysis of the letter seemed impossible. I had too many unanswered questions – the ultimate question being whether Derek was a fraud, a pretermitted heir, or my half brother seeking his roots.
My initial questions were: How did Derek locate me? Why did he write Louis instead of writing or phoning me, especially when my telephone number is listed in the directory? Did Irving really meet Ethyl at a Goldwater fund-raiser? If so, where and when? Why would Irving conduct an affair in public, traveling with the Taylor family to Europe on the S.S. United States? Was he that confident he could avoid wagging tongues? Just when did this group go to Europe, where did they live, and how long did they stay? Did Ethyl ever tell Irving that Derek was his child? If so, what did Irving do about it? Why did Ethyl’s relationship with Irving end? Why did she divorce long-suffering Harry and marry another? Did Derek ever contact Irving, and if so, what occurred? Why did Derek wait so long to make contact with me?
Intense curiosity dominates my thoughts. For this reason, I didn’t doubt that I would call Derek and arrange to meet him. But first, I had to get organized.
I decided to formulate a list of questions. As it turned out, I developed two lists. The first would be sent to Derek prior to our meeting. The second, far more comprehensive and nosy, would be answered solely by me – based on any facts I uncovered plus any information Derek gave me when we spoke. At this point, my only goal was to determine whether Derek was telling the truth. And my earliest hurdle was determining which facts I should check first. There was so much to investigate in so little time. Derek would arrive in less than two weeks.
I began by calling Alice, my father’s former secretary and bookkeeper. Alice was hired in 1958, and, since his death in 1979, has worked part-time for me, Louis and my mother, Cecile. Alice’s base of operations is the ranch, or Rancho Lilac, my home from age five until my marriage.
When I reached Alice, I asked her to look up Ethyl’s names – both Mortensen and Taylor – in Irving’s address books. I wanted to know how long Irving had known Ethyl and when, if ever, Irving had decided to enter her name among his friends.
In the 1958 address book, Alice found the listing:
Mrs. Ethel M. Taylor (1st Manager of Renette Terrace Apartments), 330 No. Ardmore – Apt. A, Villa Pk. Ill.
However, Alice could find no similar listings in Irving's later address books.
When Alice commented that the words “1st Manager of Renette Terrace Apartments” appeared to be in her handwriting, I asked how this might have happened. Alice said that when she began working for Irving, one of her first tasks was to clean up his quasi-alphabetized 1958 address book so he could send out Christmas cards. In the process of doing this, Alice remembers that she made additions to it, culled from Irving’s collection of loose addresses, so that she could prepare a new and comprehensive address book for 1959.
The peculiar thing is this. The 1959 address book contained no listing for Ethel M. Taylor. Sometime in December of 1958, Irving must have purged Ethel’s name from the draft Alice had prepared.
Why? Was including Ethel’s name too risky? Could it be that Ethel was living in the Chicago area in 1958 and that her affair with Irving preceded that date? If so, that would mean that Derek was not his child, or it could mean that Irving and Ethel continued to see each other during my father’s frequent trips to Chicago.
This was more than a possibility, as the atlas indicated that Villa Park is a suburb of Chicago. It was also possible that the Renette Terrace Apartments are or were located in or near Chicago. I remember my father often mentioned he had business to attend to at the Renette. The question is did Irving mention this in conjunction with trips to Chicago or trips elsewhere? And when?
Alice knew nothing about the Renette, although she’d handled all my father’s correspondence and accounting. Perhaps, she suggested, Irving had traded the Renette for another complex prior to 1958. Or perhaps he had delegated the Renette bookkeeping to its resident manager.
Determine to find the location of the Renette and Ethel’s account ledgers and tenant rosters, I called Alice’s predecessor, who said she’d left my father’s employ when she married in 1958. She had then worked for him sporadically until Alice came aboard. “No,” she said, “I’ve never heard of Ethel Mortensen Taylor or the Renette.”
I called both Chicago and Los Angeles to see if the Renette were located in either place, but neither city had a listing for it. Then I called my cousin Renee in North Carolina. It was possible that the Renette was located in Los Angeles, since Renee’s mother, Mae, and Irving had co-owned several apartment buildings there. Renee could list every Los Angeles apartment that Mae and Irving had owned from 1951 to 1964, but she could not recall one named the Renette. Then Dan, Renee’s husband seized the phone. He was eager to remind me of how significant education was to Irving. Irving had served on the board of numerous universities, and he was always there to provide tuition funds for his family, his employee’s children, and even deserving strangers.
Once Dan reminded me of this, I was positive that if Derek was Irving’s son, Irving would have set aside funds for his education. Did Derek ever receive a trust? If so, it would be excellent evidence of Irving’s paternity. I couldn’t wait to find out. That evening, I conducted a wary phone conversation with Derek. I didn’t know if I could trust him, although I usually trust everyone until they prove untrustworthy.
I first asked Derek how he had located me. He said he’d read the book You Too Can Find Anybody, and begun his search by calling the DMV in California, Irving’s last known place of residence. When I again asked Derek how he found me, he said it was a long story and he’d give me the details when we met.
Derek was very concerned about my feelings. He said that it must be difficult for me to think that my father could have sired a second child behind my mother’s back. He said he was nervous speaking about this. I told him candidly that I thought it must be far more difficult for him than for me. After all, he was the one who had discovered that his father was not his biological parent, while I, on the other hand had not been dealt such a blow.
I didn’t mention that Irving had an “eye for the ladies” and that I’d long suspected he’d had an affair with Myrna Loy. I couldn’t tell a near stranger that I held Irving blameless for cheating on the perennially cross Cecile.
Once Derek felt more comfortable talking with me, he told me about himself. He was born in San Diego in January of 1960 – which meant he was now 36 – and, at his birth, Ethel was 37 and Irving about 63. Derek lived with his mother until her death, in July of 1966. Then, he and his sister Frieda went to Seattle to live with Harry, their presumptive father. Harry, who was then working for Boeing, is now 76 years old, disabled, and living in Arlington, Washington.
Derek told me what he knew about Irving and Ethel. He said that “according to Frieda” (this was to be a familiar preface) they met in the late 1950s at a Goldwater fund-raiser. Ethel, an appealing blonde, “needed to be surrounded by men,” was attracted to prominent men, and in turn, used her appearance to gain their attentions.
According to Frieda, when Derek was just a baby, Irving had taken him, his sister, and his mother to the ranch when Cecile was not there. I wondered when Cecile might not have been there. Was it when she had an errand or appointment in the city? No. There’d be too much risk that she’d return earlier than expected. It must have been after she and Irving had moved into their San Diego apartment. But when was that?
Derek said that in 1978 when he was 18, his sister told him that Ethel had been seeing Irving and that Irving might be his father. Derek then confronted his father, Harry, and asked if this were true. Harry’s response was “Possibly,” and, with that, Harry began to weep. Derek said he also confronted his mother’s sister, Aunt Katherine, and his mother’s brother, Uncle Ray, who both told him that he could be Irving’s child.
Derek described himself. He said that he was 5’6” to 5’7”, had light brown eyes, auburn brown hair, his mother’s nose and cheekbones, and that he did not resemble his dad Harry. Harry was 5’10”, with dark hair, dark brown eyes and an olive complexion.
Derek wanted to know what Irving looked like, and I described him as 5’7” or 5’8”, with light brown eyes, medium complexion, freckles, and gray hair for as long as I’d known him.
Oddly enough, I could not picture Derek as he portrayed himself. From the moment I’d read his letter, I assumed that he must resemble me — not my father or his mother – and that he must be my contemporary — not twenty years younger! Wasn’t that how brothers were supposed to be?
Derek said he’d soon be moving east to Washington State University, where in two years he would obtain his engineering degree. Once he said this, I was dying to know what he’d been doing previously and why he hadn’t searched for Irving 18 years before.
When I asked, Derek said he’d begun his search at his wife’s urging and he now regretted having waited so long to contact me. He’d felt a need to find his roots for some time, but he’d been reluctant to upset Harry with a search for them. From this comment, I sensed that Derek was trying to spare Harry’s feelings and that Derek might feel insecure about alienating himself from Harry in any way.
At the end of our conversation, I told Derek that I was eager to meet him in San Diego on July 24 or 25 and that I would keep these dates open. I asked him to call when he arrived so we could arrange the time and place.
Once the phone call ended, I edited my lengthy questionnaire and the short list of questions I planned to send Derek prior to our meeting. Then my fiancé David and I discussed where at what time Derek and I should meet.
David, a former Secret Service agent and now a deputy district attorney, was concerned for my safety. He thought that I should not meet with Derek alone, even at a public place in broad daylight. Initially, David was adamant that an off-duty investigator occupy a neighboring table to monitor the conversation. Then, mellowing, he agreed that no harm could really come to me. It would be satisfactory if his daughter sat nearby, just in case I needed assistance. Ultimately, we opted for neither of these scenarios.
Wednesday, July 10
I woke with the thudding certainty that Irving couldn’t have met Ethel at a Goldwater fundraiser. Either Derek’s comment or Frieda’s recall was in error.
First of all, I was positive that Irving had never supported Goldwater. He detested Goldwater and his alliance with Joseph McCarthy, and furthermore, Irving had been a staunch supporter of Eisenhower, Lodge, and then Nixon. There would have been no reason for Irving to attend a Goldwater fundraiser.
Second, it was illogical for Goldwater to have been fundraising in California when he was serving as the U.S. senator from Arizona from 1953 to 1965 and from 1969 to 1987. Who in California would have given him political contributions when Arizona and California were in bitter debate over their rights to Colorado River water?
With this in mind, I called the registrar of voters. I wanted to find out when Ethel first registered to vote in San Diego County, when she ceased to vote here, and if she voted consistently. If she were a political faithful, she might have met Irving at a Republican Party gathering. Unfortunately, the registrar of voters was unable to give me any information. By 1970, the records had been purged, eliminating the names of those who no longer voted in San Diego County.
I was disappointed, but as I was leaving home to take my friend Pat to lunch, my optimism returned. Spotting my Thomas Brothers map in the door pocket of my car, I felt foolish for not beginning my search for the Renette in the San Diego area. I looked for Renette Avenue in the index and was instantly rewarded. Renette Avenue was about 16 blocks long, and another seemingly undedicated street, Renette Way, was also noted on the map. My search had been narrowed to 16 blocks in El Cajon.
Now all I had to do was go to the county recorder’s office to look up the dates on which Irving had purchased and sold the Renette. That should, with a little margin for error, place Ethel in San Diego within a certain period of time.
As always, lunch with Pat turned out to be a delicious learning experience. Pat is a persistent and meticulous researcher and a virtual encyclopedia of sources and techniques. After Pat and I discussed Derek and my efforts to locate the Renette, Pat suggested I call the California Room at the downtown library. The old San Diego city directories were stored there, and the library would probably furnish me with some directory information over the phone.
Thursday, July 11
In the morning, I called the California Room and was informed that, by phone, I could request city directory listings for three different people in any one year or for one person in three different years. I opted for the listings of Ethel Mortensen Taylor, and Harry Taylor in 1958, 1959, and 1960 and found my first concrete information.
In 1959, Ethel and Harry had lived at 4128 1/2 Illinois, without a listed phone number. The city directory had no listing for them in 1958 or 1960. Still, I was excited. Ethel was actually living in San Diego in 1959, though not at the Renette! When I called again to find out if the Renette Terrace Apartments were listed, the librarian suggested I search through directories that list the streets, along with the residents on those streets, in San Diego suburbs such as El Cajon. I could hardly wait to look up Renette Avenue and discover whether any of its residents bore the names of Taylor, Mortensen, Hansen (the name mentioned in the 1958 address book), and Benoit (Ethel’s remarried name). I was even visualizing interviews with other tenants who may have been privy to Irving and Ethel’s affair.
Next, I called Tom Beech, now in his late 80s, who had been my father’s real estate broker in San Diego. Tom said he’d never heard of the Renette Terrace Apartments, but he admitted that his memory was failing. He said he remembered two apartment complexes that Irving had purchased in eastern San Diego, but he could not remember any in El Cajon.
Subsequently, I called the real estate attorney who had drafted and reviewed the leases on property that Irving purchased through Tom Beech. The attorney, too, said that he had never been involved in any transaction, lease, or sale, with respect to the Renette. He asked the reason for my interest, and when I briefly but deliberately explained my quest, he did not seem surprised. I wondered why. Was he aware of Irving’s peccadilloes, or was he behaving in his usual dispassionate professional manner?
Then I called the contractor who had built my father’s apartment-home in San Diego. I left a message, as I thought he might have done some construction work on the Renette. In addition, I wanted to learn when Cecile and Irving moved into the apartment. Once there, it would have taken a cattle stampede to drive Cecile back to the ranch.
It occurred to me to call Irving’s chauffeur of many years – my father couldn’t drive – but I wasn’t sure the man was still alive. Furthermore, I doubted that Irving would risk anyone driving him to and from the Renette on a regular basis, waiting for him while he Ethelized.
Frustrated, I temporarily dropped the Renette search and called the San Diego County clerk’s office to see if Derek’s birth certificate was on file there. The telephone answering system was highly automated, and after endless minutes of pushing assorted numbers for assorted information, I finally learned that the birth certificate, if it existed, could be mailed to me in two or three weeks. That would not do. I would have to pick it up in person.
Monday, July 15
Irving’s contractor returned my call. He told me he had completed construction of my father’s San Diego apartment by December of 1959. Irving and Cecile had probably moved into their city dwelling as soon as it was furnished. This meant that from that time forward, Cecile would not have spent any time at the ranch unless it were mandatory, i.e., when Irving wanted to entertain family or friends there. In essence, Irving was free to take Ethel and the children to the ranch as often as he wished. Yet he could not have done this too frequently or Alice would have remembered them and the ranch hands might have gossiped.
With a relatively free day before me, I went first to the county clerk’s office to pick up Derek’s birth certificate. After numerous bureaucratic computerized checks and denials of the existence of Ethel Mortensen/Mortenson and Ethel Taylor and Ethel Mortensen Taylor and Harry Taylor and Derek Taylor, the clerk finally accommodated me with the file number of Derek’s birth certificate. Five minutes later, I had a copy of it in hand.
Name of child: Harry Atcheson Taylor, II. Sex: Male. This birth: Single. Date of Birth: January 5, 11960. Hour: 6:52 AM. Place of Birth: Mercy Hospital. Street Address: Hillcrest Drive. City: San Diego. County: San Diego. Maiden name of Mother – First Name: Ethel [spelled with an e]. Middle Name: Frieda. Last Name: Mortensen. Color or Race of Mother: White. Age of Mother: 36. Birthplace: Montana. Mailing address of Mother: Same Usual Residence of Mother 3656 Voltaire. City: San Diego 7. Name of Father – First: harry. Middle Name: Atcheson. Last Name: Taylor. Color or Race of Father: White. Age of Father: 39. Birthplace: New York. Present or Last Occupation: ADI. Kind of Industry or Business: U.S. Navy. Certification Signature of Parent or Other Informant: Ethel F. Taylor. Date: January 6, 1960Certification Signature of Physician: Joseph M. Bolte M.D. Address: 3939 Iowa Street. Certification of Registrar: J. B. Askew. Dated received by Registrar: January 8, 1960.
I was elated with this data, and although I had enough information to keep me busy for days, I next went to the recorder’s office to discover when Irving had purchased and sold the Renette. There, I located the microfilm for the years 1959 through 1962 and proceeded to search title via the grantor index.
Under Irving’s name, I found numerous conveyances but none to anyone named Taylor or Mortensen. I had hoped that if Irving were truly fond of Ethel, he might have transferred some property to her, perhaps the Renette. Hours later, when this search proved useless, I optimistically attempted an equally futile tract-index search. As I’d suspected, I was unable to locate the Renette without knowing its specific address.
Tuesday, July 16
When I re-examined Derek’s birth certificate, it struck me as odd that Derek, a presumed Navy baby, had been delivered at Mercy rather than at Balboa Naval Hospital. David explained that in the ‘60s, Balboa Naval Hospital had limited maternity facilities and it often referred expectant mothers to Mercy or Sharp. However, I couldn’t accept this explanation on its face. If Derek were Irving’s child, Irving might have insisted that the baby be born at Mercy, where he could honor his paternal obligation of paying the hospital and obstetric bills. If Irving had done this, the records would prove excellent evidence of his paternity.
I decided to locate the doctor’s bill first, as I wanted to avoid the likely bureaucratic maze attendant to finding and then obtaining a 1960 hospital bill. I didn’t avoid the maze entirely.
When I called Mercy’s Medical Staff Office and asked where I could reach Dr. Joseph M. Bolte, the obstetrician who had delivered Derek, the clerk referred me to Medical Records, who referred me to the San Diego Medical Association who referred me to the AMA who stated that for a fee and with a wait of several weeks, I could locate Dr. Bolte through its data service in Chicago.
Frustrated, I called my friend Dr. John Mazur, former chief of cardiology at Mercy Hospital, and asked him what office at Mercy I might contact to find Dr. Bolte. He referred me Mercy’s Medical Education Program Office’s – I certainly did need an education – where I spoke to a sympathetic lady who remembered Dr. Bolte. From her I learned that the doctor’s name was not Bolte, but Botte, pronounced Boaty, and that he had practiced at the Smith Hanna Clinic. I was overjoyed that I hadn’t decided to trace him through the Chicago AMA under the name Bolte.
I looked up the Smith Hanna Clinic in the phone book and discovered that it no longer existed. Then I looked up the name Botte, found a Dr. Michael Botte and called him. Once we connected, he said that his father had retired but that he’d arrange to have him call me. Just a few hours later, Dr. Joseph Botte called.
I told Dr. Botte that I was trying to find the billing records for Derek’s birth and asked if he recalled the delivery. He said that he’d delivered 4000 to 5000 babies at Mercy between 1954 and his retirement in 1989. Consequently, he remembered only the unusual cases, i.e., those with complications or multiple births, or cases where the parents’ names were unusual. Taylor was not a memorable name and the birth had not been unusual.
Dr. Botte also told me that the Smith Hanna Clinic had closed in 1991 but the clinic owned all the records and had probably stored them — where, he didn’t know.
Wednesday, July 17
Yesterday, Alice phoned to say she’d found Irving’s pocket calendars. She wondered if they might be useful to me. I was flabbergasted to learn that these small leather books still existed and I asked her to send me those for the years 1958 through 1961. Today, as soon as they arrived, I began charting the entries that I felt were significant, i.e., entries and the sates near Derek’s conception period. Of particular interest were addresses in Villa Park, Illinois, which I found scribbled on the back leaves of several of the calendars.
This was an exciting link, but then I came across a folded handwritten note carefully preserved in Irving’s 1959 pocket calendar. It was written on 8 by 11 yellow scratch paper and dated June 4, 1966. It read;
To Whom It May Concern,
This is to certify that my Son, Harry A. Taylor II, now six and a half years old, is not the Son or Irving Salomon, and is the natural child of Ethel Taylor (Mortensen) and Harry A. Taylor I. (signed Ethel M. Taylor).
I compared the note’s signature and the writing of “Ethel Taylor (Mortensen)” with Ethel’s signature on Derek’s birth certificate. It was an exact match. I was stunned, not at the match but at what the note could mean.
Since Ethel must have been near death when she wrote this, was she making her peace with God by legitimizing Derek and solidifying his parental relationship with Harry? Or was she releasing Irving — as a charitable act or perhaps for a sum of money? This could certainly be why the note was in Irving’s possession, but then, why was it addressed “To whom it may concern?” And how was it delivered to him?
At least the note provided one significant fact. There was a definite sexual connection between Irving and Ethel, and now the paternity of Derek was clearly in issue. Having seen this letter, I could no longer consider Derek a fraud. He had the new status of possible half sibling.
I was about to consider the legal merit of this paper when another note that had been folded inside the first attracted my attention. It had been typed by Alice on one of Irving’s four-by-six memo sheets, which bore the printing, “From the desk of – IRVING SALOMON – Rancho Lilac.” It read:
4/26/66 I. S.- My medical dictionary says, “The term of pregnancy is 280 days.” Consequently, considering a 30-day month, you would be exactly right – 9 months, 10 days. Guess you can call…
Here the message ended; the bottom half of the memo had been ripped away. Damn. I would have done anything to see the rest of it. Still, from this memo, I was able to calculate the term of pregnancy, and if Ethel’s was precisely 280 days, Derek would have been conceived on March 31, 1959.
I left a message for Alice asking her to send me Irving’s pocket calendars for 1962 through 1966. Then I tried to make sense of a third note that fell from the 1959 calendar. It was a carefully clipped portion of a typed letter that read, “I am giving you the interesting data of King Christian the Ninth and one for the children of Frederik the Eighth.” Below, there were two lists, one for the children of King Christian the Ninth and one for the children of Frederik the Eighth, complete with their dates of birth and death and their royal titles both before and after their marriages.
Near the list of King Christian’s children, Irving had scrawled, “If father was born circa 1888, grandfather must have been born around 1857-63 – even as late as 1874.” At the bottom of the letter, Irving had written, “No Gunther, Christian or Augustus.”
What could this letter signify? Who wrote it and to whom? To which royal family did it refer? Why did Irving keep it with the letter from Ethel and the memo from Alice? How could it have anything to do with Ethel?
The encyclopedia answered my third question. The genealogical listing was that of the Danish royal families. My fourth question was not answered for nearly a month.
Suddenly, I laughed. I had just recalled the anecdote about a creative writing professor who told his class that a novel need not be long to become a best-seller, all it needed were four elements – religion, royalty, sex, and suspense. Heeding this this advice to the letter, one of his students turned in the shortest novel on record. “My God,” said the duchess, “I’m pregnant. Who did it?”
What if Ethel were a religious, yet pregnant Danish princess?
Thursday, July 18
When Alice called to say she’d sent the pocket calendars, I asked why she typed memos for Irving rather than speaking to him directly. Alice said she only typed memos when Irving was out of town. She said he often called long distance asking for information. According to his instructions, she would put the information on a small memo sheet – so he could fold it into his pocket calendar – and then either mail it to him or leave it on his desk for his return. I asked Alice if she had seen the three documents that were folded into the 1959 pocket calendar. She hadn’t. I asked if she remembered this particular memo. She didn’t, although she was certain that she must have typed it.
Now why would Irving preserve this 1966 memo, plus Ethel’s letter and the Danish genealogical chart, in his 1959 pocket calendar?
I could hardly wait to see Irving’s 1966 pocket calendar and set up a chart to interweave Ethel’s last days with Irving’s activities then. Since the calendar wouldn’t arrive for another day, I attempted to chart Irving’s engagements around the time of Derek’s conception, only drawing the conclusion that Irving had been very cautious about what he noted in his pocket calendars. Both Cecile and Alice had access to them, as I found their handwritten reminders to Irving on many of the dates.
Perhaps the most telling thing I observed in the three-by-five pocket calendars was the way in which Irving recorded his appointments. The left-hand page of the calendars allotted a small space for the first four days in the week, while the right -hand page allotted space for the last three days, providing additional room for memoranda. Despite this, Irving, with his tiny scrawl, managed to fit in every appointment on a busy day. And he did so with great specificity, listing them hour by hour through the evening, always confining them within 1 ½ inch space rationed for that date.
Consequently, Irving’s calendars were jammed with specificities when he visited New York, Chicago, or Europe, which he did frequently from 1959 through 1961. Yet, at the time of Derek’s conception — presumably between March 24 and April 7 — Irving’s pocket calendar entries were significantly different.
To be precise, on Sunday, March 15, Irving wrote, “8:15 AM LV FOR TRIP.” On March 16, he noted a meeting in N.Y. On March 17, he wrote, “GENEVA – WFUNA [World Federation of United Nations Associations] LEAVE N.Y.” On March 18 and 19, there were no entries. For March 20 through 26, the pages were torn out. Unusual. For March 27, 28 and 29, he had scrawled, “Geneva WFUNA Board” in extraordinarily large handwriting, sideways, across all three dates on that page. Very unusual. Perhaps he had entered this at some later time to conceal his tracks for those days.
The succeeding entries were equally peculiar. There were no notes on March 30. On March 31, Irving scrawled, “Back from Geneva in N.Y.” On each of April 1, 2 and 3, he wrote “NY,” again in uncharacteristically large handwriting and without scheduling a single appointment. On April 4, he underlined the words “Due Home.” And from April 5 through April 15, there were no entries at all, save a note that he had a regular board meeting on April 7. This latter notation meant little, as Irving, who served on numerous boards, normally blocked in his regularly scheduled board meeting in January, and he was not compulsive about traveling to New York or Boston or Atlanta to attend every one of them. Thus Derek’s conception between March 31 and April 7 did not seem inconceivable.
It was also intriguing to note that Irving’s 1961 pocket calendar was generally devoid of entries. Trying to determine if Irving spent much of that year in Europe with the Taylors, I went to my photo album in which I had diligently placed and labeled the photographs of all family gatherings and events, e.g., birthdays, Christmases, trips to visit my parents, or their trips to visit me – I had lived in Baltimore from 1959 through mid-1962. I was shocked to see that my photo album contained no pictures of Irving for the entire year of 1961.
Moving a step further, I called Alice, asking her to look in Cecile’s albums and note where Irving might have been in 1961. Alice has access to these albums, since she frequently works with Cecile in her San Diego apartment. Later, Alice called to report that Cecile’s 1961 album was also devoid of any pictures of Irving.
Friday, July 19
By the time the mail arrived bearing the batch of calendars for 1962 through 1966, I was nearly cross-eyed. I had charted and re-charted what I thought to be every significant entry Irving had made between 1958 and 1961. Still, I was determined to tackle the 1966 pocket calendar, which might clarify Irving’s relationship with Ethel just prior to her death. My efforts were rewarded.
In less than an hour, the dates in the 1966 calendar evolved from mere paper jottings into a living scenario. March 14: Irving has an appointment with Monte Russell. Irving jots “Money to E.” April 21: Irving appears to have a meeting in Atlanta. April 23: Irving appears to be in San Diego for a social function. April 26: Alice writes the pregnancy memo to Irving. April 27: Irving had an appointment with Monte Russell. May 12-24: Irving has meetings in Washington D.C., New York, Boston, and again in Washington. May 25: Irving appears to be in San Diego. May 26-30: There are no entries in Irving’s calendar. June 3: Irving appears to have a meeting in San Diego. June 4: There is no entry on Irving’s calendar, but on this date, Ethel writes the letter legitimizing Derek. June 5: Irving appears to have a meeting in San Diego. June 6: There is no entry on Irving’s calendar. June 9: Irving has an appointment with Monte Russell. And, on July 28, Ethel passes away.
Did Irving visit Ethel between April 21 and April 26? If so, this would explain why Alice typed the pregnancy memo for him on April 26. She would have had no reason to prepare it if Irving had been in town.
Did Irving visit Ethel between May 12 and 25 or even between June 6 and June 9? If so, this would explain how Irving obtained Ethel’s June 4 letter – with its notable lack of an addressee. Still, Ethel could have pre-dated or post-dated it, just as Irving may have back dated his calendar entries to conceal visits to Ethel.
Irving’s most intriguing calendar entry was that of April 18, “Money to E.” Who was E? Did E stand for Ella, Irving’s mother who was in her mid to late 90s, infirm, and living in a Chicago home for the elderly? Not likely. Irving might send money to the home for her care but not to her, as she would have little use for it.
It is far more likely that E stood for Ethel. But if so, did Irving give her the money personally – sometime in April — or did he mail it? If Irving did give Ethel this money, was it intended for Derek’s education or was it purely a gift for Ethel, perhaps to cover medical expenses?
Needing confirmation as to when Irving visited Ethel and what transpired, I scanned his pocket calendars for names of those who might have been present. What leapt from the back flyleaves were the two addresses in Villa Park, Illinois, one for Hanson and for someone named Penoyer. These appeared in Irving’s calendars for the years 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966.
Consequently, I called Alice to have her look up the names Hanson, Hansen, Penoyer — and Benoit — in Irving’s address books. However, all she found from 1958 to 1966 was a listing for a Kate Hansen who lived in Norway. Was he the Danish genealogist?
I then called my friend cardiologist John Mazur accepting his offer of help identifying physicians who were affiliated with the Smith Hanna Clinic. I was determined to locate Ethel’s obstetrical bills.
When I also told John that I was considering DNA testing he gave me a glimpse into this minute, yet gigantic, universe. After listening to him, I understood that all human beings receive half of their chromosomes from each parent and that DNA is embedded in paired genes, which form a child’s individual identity. To determine kinship, the genetic material must be split for analysis through the use of restriction enzymes. John’s explanation and examples were very helpful. It had been some time since I had visited the police DNA lab in San Diego, and even then, the complex processes hadn’t been easy to assimilate. I only remembered the demonstration revealing how kinship could be established if one person’s bands of genetic material significantly matched that of another’s.
When I told David about this, he said he would talk to “Woody” Clarke, a fellow deputy district attorney who is known as one of the country’s leading experts on DNA forensics and, as such, had been a principal witness for the prosecution during the O.J. Simpson trial. David said Woody could inform me about the locales of DNA labs, the costs to be incurred, and the samples I would need to produce.
Monday, July 22
Derek called to say he had arrived in San Diego. I arranged to meet him the following day at 3:00 p.m. at a casual restaurant in Pacific Beach. Time had run out. Derek was here a day early, and I still had a great deal of information to gather. I made a list of the research projects I hadn’t tackled. Then I reviewed and edited my lengthy list of questions, i.e., why did Irving pay for the Taylor family’s trip to Europe? Was he feeling magnanimous toward the Taylor’s? Guilty? One thing seemed certain: Irving would not have taken them to Europe unless he had a strong connection to Ethel and/or Derek.
With little time remaining, I decided to spend the next 24 hours identifying Irving’s attorneys in San Diego or Chicago who might have set up a trust fund for Derek. Their names would have to be in Irving’s address books or pocket calendars. After scratching several attorneys from my list, I called Monte Russell. However, when I asked if he’d set up a trust for either Ethel or Derek, he merely said he’d get back to me with good news.
In the evening, David and I, convinced there was a connection between Irving and Ethel, decided that the best way of turning all of this random evidence into proof positive was to have DNA testing. Neither of us was certain Derek would agree to this. Still, we made the assumption that if Derek refused, he probably didn’t believe that he was Irving’s child.
Tuesday, July 23
D-Day! This was the day Derek and I were to meet, and I was jumping with excitement. I’m not certain what I was expecting, but David was prepared for the worst. He had decided to arrive at the restaurant at 2:45, about 15 minutes before the appointed hours, and seat himself within hearing range of Derek and Julie. When I arrived at 3:00, I was to ignore his presence and proceed to do what came naturally. I knew I could do that, since I was not in the least concerned about my safety.
It’s peculiar how molehills distract those about to climb mountains. I was distracted by what I should wear for this significant meeting. Finally, I decided on black slacks with a matching overshirt, both patterned sparsely with large yellow Japanese letters. Black would neither be too frivolous nor too austere, due to the pattern. The open collar on the shirt would connote that I was receptive to information rather than uptight. And the slacks would indicate that the occasion was not to be considered strictly business.
Having made that decision, I located a copy of a book I planned to give Derek. It was titled Incidents and Coincidences, and though Cecile had commissioned it after Irving’s death, she had attributed authorship to him.
Irving, a well-organized and excellent journalist, would have been appalled to find himself dubbed the author of this choppy, ill-written book. Nonetheless, it had been culled from Irving’s notes and I wanted Derek to have it, since it contained many photos of Irving with world leaders and prominent people. In my inscription for Derek, I explained that the book had been written posthumously but I hoped he’d enjoy the anecdotes Irving had collected during his term as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
My next task was to amass photographs of my family and, of course, pictures of Irving. I selected a variety — those depicting his childhood, his youth, his military stints in WWI and WWII, plus others portraying his face at various angles. I knew we would both want to compare Irving’s likeness to Derek’s.
Once I completed this task, I loaded my camera — just as I sensed Derek was loading his — and fretted away the hours until 3:00.
At 3:00, I entered the restaurant, noted that the dining room was closed, and walked into the empty bar where only David, clad in shorts and polo shirt, lounged on a barstool. As planned, I looked right past him and spotted the only two people seated on the patio. On first glance, it was apparent that Derek and Julie had not worried about dressing for this occasion. They looked like typical San Diego tourists, clad in khaki shorts, skirt and T-shirts. I took this as a good omen.
When I moved toward the patio, Derek stood up, called my name quizzically — just as I called his — and walked forward to greet me. We smiled, shook hands warmly, and then, after Derek introduced me to his wife, Julie, we began to stare at each other. We did so throughout the afternoon, occasionally apologizing for it. No apologies were really necessary.
Once we were seated on the patio and had ordered coffee and carrot cake, I lost no time giving Derek the book about Irving. Derek was overwhelmed by the gift, which proved to be an excellent icebreaker. Within minutes, we were engrossed in its photographs, trying to detect any resemblance between Derek and Irving.
At first glance, Derek did not look like my father. Derek had short, reddish hair — yes, red — and his eyes were closer together than anyone’s in my family. These two characteristics stunned me, and for a time I could not concentrate on any other features. However, after prolonged staring, I noted that Derek was about 5’7”, Irving’s height, and that his complexion was fairer than mine, but freckled in a pattern similar to the summer-tanned Irving. Derek’s build, too, was generally like Irving’s but without Irving’s stoutness around the mid-section.
Derek said that his nose was his mother’s, but on close inspection, it resembled Irving’s from the tip up; Irving’s nostrils were large while Derek’s were not. Julie commented on how much Derek’s ears looked like Irving’s; they were similar, but Irving’s were considerably larger. When we analyzed Derek’s eyes and mouth, we decided there was no similarity, but we agreed to reserve judgment on Derek’s chin, since most of the photos of Irving had been taken in his rather jowly 60s and 70s.
Then I remembered to bring out the photographs of Irving. When we looked at one of him as a young Marine in WWI, a rather striking likeness appeared. His chin and jawline were comparable to Derek’s.
Most interesting of all was the fact that Irving’s eyes seemed much closer together than I had ever noted. Of course, I hadn’t seen them when Irving was 20 – I wasn’t born until he was 41 – and I never saw Irving without his thickly lensed glasses. He even wore them while swimming.
When I mentioned this, Derek commented that his eyesight was also poor, that he had worn glasses at an early age, and that for this reason, he had been denied the privilege of serving as a military pilot. Oddly enough, this was precisely Irving’s story.
Nearly an hour went by before I made an astonishing discovery. Derek’s forehead and hairlines were an exact replica of Irving’s. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I felt as though I were again sitting at a table with my father. And it was probably at that moment that I decided upon DNA testing.
For the balance of the afternoon, Derek and I asked questions of one another and exchanged answers. We did not get to know each other as the individuals that we are today, but we did bond in probing our family histories in search of a common parent.
At the end of the day, we agreed we would seriously consider DNA testing. I told Derek that a test of our blood would have only a 70 to 80 percent accuracy rate and that the cost would be about $600 per sample. Derek said he wanted to pay all costs incurred, since it might turn out we were not related. I said this would be fair only if he allowed me to pay half the costs should it turn out we were related. Derek accepted my offer and philosophized that no one should place a price on truth.
We concluded the afternoon with the decision to meet again on Thursday – same place, different time – and then embarked on a photo session. Julie served as a two-camera photographer so that both Derek and I could have pictures of us posed together, jointly attempting to create the same facial expressions.
When our meeting ended, I could hardly wait to answer the questions on the lengthy questionnaire I had prepared. Driving home, I felt like a saturated sponge, afraid to spill a single drop of information anywhere but on that questionnaire. It took me hours to fill in the answers, but I was grateful I had it to prompt me:
Q: How did Derek locate Abbe? Why did he wait so many years to contact her?
A: IN 1978, when Derek first learned that Irving might be his father, he was told that Irving was probably dead. Consequently, he did not attempt to contact him. In 1986, while in San Diego. Derek was unable to find any listing for Irving, as he assumed that Salomon was spelled Solomon. It was by sheer chance that in 1995 he found a 1978 edition of Who’s Who which revealed that Irving had a daughter. With this discovery and with Julie’s urging, Derek decided to investigate his biological heritage.
Once Derek contacted the DMV in San Diego, Irving’s last known county and state of residence, Derek was able to obtain Irving’s death certificate and, ultimately, his obituary, which indicated my married name. From there, I was but a phone call away.
Q: Why did Derek write Louis instead of Abbe?
A: Derek didn’t know that Louis and I had been separated for 14 years. When Derek called Louis’s office and asked for me, he was told by a secretary that I didn’t work at the firm. Therefore, Derek wrote Louis.
Q: Why does Derek call himself Derek instead of Harry?
A: Derek changed his name at the age of 26 because he’d always disliked the name Harry. At that time, he was also resolving a personal identity crisis and was seeking to establish his own identity.
Q: When and where did Irving and Ethel meet?
A: They probably met in San Diego around 1957. Ethel had been living in San Diego for some time, possibly since the 1940s, as her husband, Harry, whom she married in 1942, was in the Navy and stationed here. According to Frieda, Ethel and Irving met at a Goldwater fundraiser. Ethel attended this function with one purpose only – to provide music. She played and taught piano and organ. Ethel was completely apolitical and didn’t vote. In addition, she was a member of the Baha’i faith, which requires political neutrality. According to Frieda, Ethel and Irving may have bonded because Irving was sympathetic to the Baha’i faith, which, centered in Israel, endured continual Muslim oppression since its split from Islam. The Baha’i advocate world peace and consider the UN essential for the establishment of this ideal.
Q: What was Ethel like, and why was she attractive to Irving?
A: Ethel was a long-limbed blonde of Danish extraction. Her father had even told her she was a descendant of the royal Danish family. Ethel’s appearance. Her alleged royal connections, and her interest in men may well have attracted Irving. However, Ethel seemed to have a conflict between her need to serve as a pious Baha’i missionary and her need to surround herself with men. Apparently, Ethel does provide the essential ingredients for a novel: royalty, religion, suspense and sex!
Q: Did Ethel really spell her name E-t-h-y-l, as in gasoline?
A: No, Derek made typographical error in his letter to Louis.
Q: What was Harry doing while Irving and Ethel were trysting?
A: Harry was an in-patient at Balboa Naval Hospital from January or February of 1959 to December of 1959. He had contracted TB when shipped abroad and was committed to the hospital for treatment and surgery related to his TB.
Q: When did Harry learn of the affair and how did he react?
A: Derek believes that Harry knew of the affair and accepted it. After all, he and Irving, Ethel, Derek, and Frieda sailed to Europe together on the S.S. United States in 1961. In later years, Harry even referred to Irving as “Grandpa” — Irving had asked Frieda and Derek to call him by this name.
Q: Did Cecile know of Ethel?
A: After Ethel’s death, Frieda spoke with Cecile when she, Frieda, was trying to get in touch with Irving. Frieda had called Irving for financial assistance, but he had refused her. If Cecile were privy to this conversation, she might have become suspicious.
Q: Did Irving believe that Derek was his son?
A: Assumption: Irving probably believed that Derek was his child. Why else would he have taken the family to Europe, employed Ethel as the manager of the Renette, and visited the Renette frequently to play with Derek.
Derek also says that according to Frieda, when Ethel was ill in the spring of 1966, Irving handed her a check for $10,000, which she turned over to her brother Ray. According to Frieda, the check was intended for Derek’s care, but Derek says he did not receive this money. He said he thought Ethel had a trust account for him, but to his knowledge, Irving had provided no funds for his education.
If Irving had set aside no funds whatsoever for Derek’s education, this could mean that Irving believed that Harry, not he, was Derek’s father. On the other hand, if Irving were fond of Derek – and he was, according to Frieda – there would be no reason for Irving to neglect Derek’s education, even if he were Harry’s child.
Q: What did Ethel tell Harry about her pregnancy?
A: According to Frieda, when Harry was in Balboa Naval Hospital, Ethel told Harry she wanted another child and asked him to donate his sperm. She later told Harry she was pregnant. However, Ethel may have been pregnant when she asked Harry to donate the sperm.
Q: What was Harry’s reaction to Ethel’s pregnancy?
A: Because Harry’s case of adolescent mumps went untreated, he wasn’t certain that Derek — or even Frieda — was his child. Harry, an amateur photographer, displayed many photos of friends on his walls, yet he never hung one of Frieda or Derek, the children he clearly and dearly loves as his own.
Q: When and how did the Taylor family go to Europe with Irving? When did they return? What did they do in Europe?
A: According to Frieda, the Taylor family sailed to Europe aboard the S.S. United States. They left in 1961 and returned in 1962. While in Europe, they resided for nine or ten months in St. Gallen, which is located in eastern Switzerland. There, they performed obligatory missionary work for the Baha’i faith. Switzerland had been targeted by the church as an important place to “pioneer” or proselytize and raise funds.
Q: What happened when the Taylor family returned from Europe?
A: Upon their return, the Taylors went directly to Illinois to visit Aunt Katherine Penoyer. While there, Ethel called Irving, whereupon Irving informed her that he had a position for her as manager of an El Cajon apartment complex. Ethel accepted the position, and the Taylors returned to San Diego. Installed at the Renette, Ethel frequently prepared meals for Irving while Irving played with Derek.
Speculation: It may have been difficult for Ethel and Irving to maintain their sexual relationship. Harry was no longer incarcerated in the hospital, and it is unlikely that he returned to military service. On the other hand, if Harry were employed and Frieda in school, the affair may have continued unnoticed and unimpeded. Irving’s appearances at the Renette would scarcely raise eyebrows. What would be remarkable about a landlord paying frequent visits to his resident manager?
Q: When and why did the liaison between Ethel and Irving end?
A: In 1962 or 1963, Ethel became involved with Renette tenant John Benoit and divorced Harry. She and Benoit married in 1963 or 1964, but their marriage was short-lived. When Ethel was diagnosed with cancer, she and the children flew back to Illinois to be near Aunt Katherine. Speculation: Ethel and Irving’s relationship probably ended when Ethel married John Benoit.
Q: When and where did Ethel pass away?
A: Ethel, who was born on June 28, 1923, died in Chicago on July 28, 1966. At the time, she was residing in Villa Park, Illinois. Ethel died from uterine cancer, notably not lung cancer despite the fact that she, like Cecile, smoked three packs a day.
Q: Where did Derek attend school and college?
A: Derek went to school in Seattle and then earned an AA degree at a community college. Ironically, Irving’s alleged son didn’t have the financial wherewithal to continue with his education.
Q: How has Derek been employed during the past 18 years?
A: Derek has been flying since he has 18. Although he was unable to become a naval aviator because of his poor eyesight, he nevertheless became a pilot, a flight instructor, and a land surveyor, designing several roads and bridges. Keenly interested in this field, Derek began to save in order to finance his engineering studies.
Q: How and when did Derek learn that Irving might be his father?
A: When Derek was 18, Frieda had a bitter quarrel with Harry. Frieda said something to the effect that she didn’t have to obey or listen to him since he was not her natural father. She simultaneously told Derek that he too, needn’t listen to Harry; Harry was not his father either.
When Derek asked Harry whether this were true, Harry wept. When Derek then asked who his biological father was, Harry said he didn’t know but that Irving was a candidate. Later, Derek’s Aunt Katherine and Uncle Ray both stated that Irving might be Derek’s father.
Q: Where is Frieda living now? What does she do? How does she feel about Derek’s quest?
A: Frieda is living in Seattle and is an active member of the Baha’i faith. Her relationship with Derek is strained because she has been unable to convert him. Derek has no formal religion.
Derek notes that Frieda has habitually tries to disrupt his relationships with women, including that with his wife, Julie. He believes that Frieda may be annoyed that he is seeking another half-sister. On the one hand, he thinks all three of us should meet, as this might put Frieda at ease. On the other hand, he’s reluctant even to tell Frieda he’s seen me.
Thursday, July 25
At our second meeting, Derek brought me a gracious note, thanking me for the book and for meeting with him. He closed with the comment, “Let’s both aim to find the truth.”
When our second meeting ended, I was again eager to spill all I’d absorbed onto the waiting questionnaire. However, little of what I learned fit neatly within its confines. I had asked few questions; Derek’s information had emanated naturally in a fascinating narrative.
My sole regret was that Derek and I were far too occupied with the past to become acquainted as people of the present, people with common and diverse interests to share with each other. Still, there will be time for this should we discover that we are half siblings.
In the evening, I undertook a brief but rewarding research project. During the day, Derek and I had exchanged information about our respective blood types. Mine was type B, while his was type A. Certain that I’d seen Irving’s dog tags some years ago in a box of his military memorabilia, and aware that this box was somewhere in my newly reorganized catch-all closet, it did not take long to find the dog tags.
They indicated that Irving was also type A. This was interesting but not exciting. It merely meant that Irving could be included within the large blood group of those who might be Derek’s father. By the same token, it did not exclude Irving from being my father as well.
Friday, July 26
Although Louis supposedly called to discuss a minor business matter, it was obvious that he wanted to know if I’d met with Derek and what had transpired. I told him that we’d met, that Derek seemed to be an honorable young man, and that he resembled Irving in several ways. I concluded by saying that Derek might well be Irving’s son. Louis seemed to find the situation amusing, indulgently chuckling at it. Why would he react this way?
A theory evolved in my mind based on the few facts I’d learned.
Suppose that in 1973, when Frieda, a new mother, was divorcing and financially distressed, she called Irving to ask for money. Suppose that Irving, having refused her, feared scandal and contacted Monte Russell and Louis to set up a plan for concealing Derek’s existence. Isn’t it likely that such a plan was executed successfully? Derek’s existence hadn’t surfaced until now.
Derek’s theory parallels mine. He believes that Aunt Katherine and Uncle Ray were not above tapping Irving for money, or even attempting blackmail. Consequently, it’s possible that both Monte Russell and Louis have been in contact with Frieda, Katherine, or Ray at various times, in 1973 or earlier or later.
Waiting an hour, I called Monte Russell and opened my conversation with the question, “Did Louis just call you?” His initial response was dead silence, followed by a hesitant “Yes.” From this, I inferred that Monte and Louis were in collaboration and that both were anxious regarding their joint administration of Irving’s estate.
As if to confirm my theory, the next sentence out of Monte’s mouth was that Irving’s estate had already been probated and that the statute of limitations provided full protection from any attack. I didn’t care, but it was clear that Monte and Louis did. Employed as Cecile’s financial advisors and managers, they seem to be projecting their worries onto me.
I told Monte I was not concerned with estate matters. What interested me was whether or not I had a half brother. I said I had a strong reason to believe that Monte had assisted Irving in establishing a trust for Derek’s education, although Derek had never received it. Once again, there was an interval of dead silence, and more importantly, no denial.
Forging ahead, I told Monte that the sequence of events preceding Ethel’s death clearly pointed to his role in setting up a trust. I reminded him that he had met with Irving on March 14, 1966, and then, after Irving had delivered a check for $10,000 to Ethel, Irving had met with him twice, once on April 27 and once on June 9. Again, Monte’s response was a pregnant silence without a whisper of denial. Following his lead, I also stopped talking.
Finally, Monte said he had to check the Canons of Ethics to determine what he could tell me, but he assured me that I’d be pleased with what he had to say. He repeated this again and again with growing discomfort, and then he promised to call me the next day or on Monday.
Monday, July 29
Monte Russell called to reiterate the fact that Irving’s estate had been probated and that there could be no issue of a pretermitted heir. Not to be deterred, I again asked about the trust fund that he and my father had established for Derek.
In response, Monte claimed an attorney-client privilege, stating that he was not at liberty to discuss this with me. I reminded him that this privilege ceases on the client’s death and that the privilege can only be invoked during the course of a lawsuit.
Monte then argued that he could not discuss this matter, as he had a duty of confidentiality toward his client under the Canons of Ethics. I replied that the Canons of Ethics also governed behavior for attorneys who simultaneously represent an estate, a widow, a daughter, a son-in-law, and a likely beneficiary of a secret trust.
I commented that I was very angry at his deception and thoroughly disappointed in him. Monte’s only response was that I shouldn’t be mad at my father’s attorney.
Moments later, I put in a call to the state bar’s ethics hotline.
Tuesday, July 30
An attorney from the ethics committee returned my call. As I’d served on the local committee, I knew I’d obtain better information if I phrased my question in hypothetical form. After presenting the supposedly hypothetical facts to the attorney, I asked whether a lawyer had a duty to maintain confidentiality in such a situation. The attorney told me that under the Business and Professions Code, no time limit could be placed on confidentiality. However, he also said that while confidentiality may be claimed, there is no duty to claim it under the law.
I subsequently asked another attorney how Monte might be compelled to disclose what he knew about any trust fund for Ethel and/or Derek. He answered that Derek would have to send a certified letter to Monte requesting this information. He added that where financial interests are at stake, this information is not privileged. Before writing to Monte, Derek will need proof, via DNA testing that he is in fact, Irving’s son.
Wednesday, July 31
This morning, it struck me that Irving’s passports would be a prime source of information. I had no idea where they might be, but I called Alice to inquire if she knew anything about them. To my ecstasy, she told me they were in Irving’s chest of drawers at the ranch and she could mail them to me immediately. I requested those covering the years 1956 through 1962.
Thursday, August 1
When three of the passports arrived, I could not tear myself away from them. I listed the date and place of each visa and entry and exit stamp, from the first page to the last. Then, because the stamps were placed helter-skelter within the passport pages, I began listing them chronologically. Hours passed before I had a chart enabling me to reconcile the dated passport stamps with the dates and places noted in Irving’s pocket calendars.
Passport #1 had been issued by the State Department on March 24, 1959. It was to expire in two years, on March 23, 1961, if it were not renewed for another two-year period. The peculiar thing about passport #1 was that it had barely been used. There were only one and a half uncluttered pages of stamps in it. I was amazed, since Irving had traveled extensively from 1959 through 1961 and he could have renewed this passport, validating it to encompass his equally extensive travels from 1961 through 1963. Had Irving mislaid it, securing another?
Passport #2 seemed to answer that question. It had been issued by the State Department on August 25, 1959, just six months after passport #1. It, too, was to expire in two years if not renewed. But in contrast, it had been renewed, with a dozen new pages added, and it was crammed full of entry and exit stamps through May of 1963. Few of the pages remained unstamped.
Passport #3 was not State Department green but United Nations burgundy. Although it was valid for travel from July 19, 1962 through July 18, 1964, it was less than half full. Irving had used it only during 1962 for his travels in Central America, South America, and Africa. However, the strange thing about this passport was why it had been issued in 1962 when Irving was no longer traveling officially on behalf of the U.N. Most of his U.N. missions were carried on between 1959 and 1961. Where was his U.N. passport for these years?
After I reconciled the passport stamps with the traveling dates marked in Irving’s pocket calendars, it became clear that two passports were missing, one issued by the State Department and one issued by the U.N.! And, there was no passport evidencing Irving’s whereabouts at the time of Derek’s conception nor one documenting Irving’s travels with Derek’s family in 1961. Where were they? In a fireplace or landfill?
Two months later, on October 12, I discovered four additional State Department passports at the ranch. Three had been issued to Irving and one to Cecile. While Cecile’s passport corroborated Irving’s whereabouts for one period of time, it was passport #4 – crammed with stamps – that proved the most important.
At first glance, passport #4 appeared to expire in 1957, but on closer examination, it became evident that Irving had renewed it, extending its validity to March 7, 1959. While this passport was no substitute for the missing passports that tracked Irving’s travels from March 1959 through March 1961, it ultimately proved helpful.
Together with the supplementary materials I’d gathered, Irving’s passports and calendars pinpointed his whereabouts on or near the time of Derek’s conception – between March 24 and April 7:
March 13, 1959: Irving writes a long letter to his old friend Lucy in Chicago. He says he’ll be going to Europe in May and hopes Cecile will travel with him. This letter is curious. Irving doesn’t mention the trip abroad he plans to take two days later, and he retains a carbon copy of this innocuous letter.
March 15, 1959: Irving’s calendar indicates that he will be leaving for a WFUNA conference in Geneva, that the conference will be held from March 17 through April 4, but that he will nevertheless arrive in New York on March 31. This entry is puzzling for two reasons. First, Irving’s pocket calendar also notes that he is due home on April 4. So when did Irving actually return? March 31 or April 4? Isolating his date of return is critical.
Second, supplementary materials indicate that the WFUNA conference was scheduled for February 7 through February 11, and passport #4 proves that Irving did arrive in Geneva on February 7 and did return to Los Angeles on February 12. Was another WFUNA conference held in Geneva just a month later, and if so, where is the passport with evidence of Irving’s trip to Geneva?
I must keep in mind that in March of 1959, Ethel was residing at 4128 ½ Illinois Street in San Diego. Harry was incarcerated in Balboa Naval Hospital, and Irving and Cecile were living at the ranch. Their apartment in San Diego was still under construction.
Other dates in 1959 proved equally intriguing:
August 28, 1959: Irving’s calendar and his passport indicate that he flies to Paris and Geneva, returning to New York on September 6 and to California, September 11. This is puzzling because Irving subsequently writes his friend Lucy in Chicago that he had a heart attack on August 29, 1959. Impossible. If this were true, I would have known about it and he would not have stayed in Europe through September 6.
November 27 through December 4, 1959: The pages for these dates are torn out of Irving’s calendar, and the succeeding pages of the year are completely blank. At this time, Ethel, beginning her ninth month of pregnancy, is residing at 3656 Voltaire; Harry has been released from Balboa Naval Hospital; and Irving and Cecile have moved from the ranch to San Diego.
My chart for the year 1960 lent little insight into Irving’s relationship with Ethel or Derek. His available demonstrated that he made no trips abroad but one, and this was a flight to Paris and Geneva on May 25 and a return flight to the United States on June 1. For this he had used passport #1.
In conflict with these barren passports was Irving’s calendar. It featured itinerary planning on August 22 through August 28, a note about a WFUNA meeting from September 5 through September 11, and the note on September 13 that read “Sail home.” If he’d made this journey, he did so using the missing UN passport or the missing State Department passport.
The 1960 calendar was peculiar in only one aspect. The pages were equally blank on the dates surrounding the birth of my daughter – his first grandchild – on March 1. Perhaps becoming a father and a grandfather within two months was an experience too astounding to annotate.
Nineteen sixty-one, the year the Taylors sojourned in Switzerland, initially seemed less remarkable than 1960. However, the omissions in Irving’s calendar and passports were red flags, signaling that there were suppositions to be made.
February 17 through February 23, 1961: Irving makes no notes in his calendar for the first four days. Then, on February 21, he writes “Balto” – for Baltimore; on February 22, he writes “Fly to Paris”; and on February 23, the calendar reads, “Geneva – WFUNA conference.”
Indeed, passport #1 affirms Irving’s entry at Geneva on February 23 and at Ferney — a small airport in France near Geneva — on February 28, but when I scrutinized all three calendar notes, something seemed amiss.
First, Irving did not visit me on February 21. Of this, I’m certain, as I have no photographs memorializing his visit nor any photographs of him with my daughter commemorating her first birthday. Had he planned to be in Baltimore on February 21, I would have scheduled her birthday party a week in advance.
Second, the WFUNA conference takes place in February of each year, not in March.
Third, the remaining note seemed to be a sham. Irving did not “Fly to Paris.” at least with passport #1 or #2. His whereabouts for these dates cannot be validated.
This meant that Irving could have been anywhere at all from February 17 through February 23. He could have sailed from New York with the Taylor’s on February 17, arriving in Le Havre, France on the 23rd of February, and then flown into Geneva.
I considered this a distinct possibility when I read Irving’s calendar note for March 2, 1961. It read, “S.S. U.S. arrives a.m.” By itself, this notation made no sense. Why would Irving, supposedly in Europe, care about a ship arriving in New York? He wouldn’t. But he would care if the ship were arriving in Europe, especially if he and/or the Taylors were on board. On the other hand, had Irving sailed with the Taylor’s on February 17 on the S.S. U.S., one of the speediest ships afloat, he would have arrived no more than six days later, on February 23.
March 3, 1961: Passport #1 marks Irving’s entry at New York. It also marks the last date on which Irving ever used this passport. Assumption: Irving sailed to Europe with the Taylor’s on February 17 using one of the missing passports. He used passport #1 to mark his entry into Geneva on February 23. He also used it at Ferney on February 28 and on March 3 when he flew to New York. It would have been absurd for Irving to fly to Geneva on February 23, meet the Taylors in France as they disembarked on March 2, and then fly back to New York on March 3, one day later.
Concluding that Irving probably sailed to Europe with the Taylors in February, I proceeded to investigate Irving’s whereabouts in May and in late summer.
May 25, 1961: Irving’s calendar reads, “Paris, Geneva.” Despite this, passport #2 marks Irving’s entry into Zurich on this date – not Paris or Geneva. It is notable that, as the crow flies, Zurich is about 120 miles from Geneva while only 30 miles from St. Gallen – and the Taylor residence.
May 30, 31, June 1: Per passport # 2, these dates mark Irving’s consecutive entry into France, Switzerland, and France.
July 26 – September 7: Cecile’s passport coupled with passport #2 and a travel agency itinerary indicate that Irving, Cecile, and three dear friends sailed for Europe on July 26 and sailed home on September 7.
While it would seem difficult for Irving to visit Ethel and Derek under these circumstances, there is evidence that he did. The travel agency itinerary specifies that Cecile and the others were to leave Geneva for Paris on August 29 but that Irving was to leave on September 3. With this arrangement, Irving may have been able to travel to or with Ethel from August 29 through September 3.
The absence of specific entry stamps in passport #2 tends to support this. Irving did use this passport for entry in Cannes on August 3, Zurich on August 25, London on September 7, and New York on September 13 – in the company of Cecile and their three friends. But none of Irving’s other ports of call, including Italy, Israel, and Turkey, which he was also scheduled to visit with this group, were marked in passport #2. Either Irving had carried one of the missing passports with him and used it to enter and exit these countries, or he did not visit the countries with Cecile and her friends as planned. If Irving didn’t visit these countries, where did he go? If he did visit them, why didn’t he use passport #2?
The passport mystery made David and me speculate as to whether Irving were living a triple life, the first as a public figure/family man, the second as a quasi-husband and father to Ethel and Derek, and third as an agent for the CIA. Who but an agent would have been issued so many overlapping passports? Who but the CIA and the FBI would have boxes of passports available for instant issue – without the need for State Department authorization?
Friday, August 2
Today I received several California code sections from Monte Russell. He is attempting to justify his alleged right to withhold information from me. This makes me believe he has far more to conceal than I had imagined.
Wednesday, August 21
My friend Elizabeth called to say that she’d attend my son’s wedding on September 15. Elizabeth, her late husband Gustav, and their two children were displaced persons who relocated to the United States after the Communist takeover in Hungary. They lived and worked at the ranch for about five years, where Elizabeth virtually saw me through my teens.
During our conversation, I asked Elizabeth if her husband had ever mentioned the Renette Terrace Apartments. Since Irving didn’t drive and counted on Gustav to take him everywhere, I thought that Gustav might have driven Irving to the Renette from time to time.
To my surprise, Elizabeth remembered the Renette well. She said that in mid-1957, Irving had asked Gustav to deliver a load of furniture to the complex. Irving had explained that the furniture was for an unwed mother whose baby was to be adopted by Irving’s real estate broker, Tom Beech. The baby, she said was born in 1957 or 1958.
The delivery – of the furniture, not the baby – made no sense. Why, I asked Elizabeth, would the Beeches, who were well off and lived much closer to the Renette than Irving, ask Irving to supply furniture for the mother of their adoptive baby? Neither Elizabeth nor I could unearth any reason for this. Was Irving merely fulfilling his landlordly obligation of furnishing an apartment he owned? Or was Irving renting and furnishing one of the Renette units for himself and Ethel>
Thursday, August 22
I telephoned Tom Beech once again, asking if he’d recalled anything about the Renette since our last chat. I had begun to tell him of my conversation with Elizabeth when he explained that he didn’t hear well and suggested that I mail him my questions.
I was about to do this when the mail arrived, bringing a long letter from Derek written on August 20. When I opened it, a number of intriguing photos spilled out, and of course, I peeked at them before reading the letter.
I have read most of the book that you gave me. Mr. Salomon was quite an interesting and accomplished man. I think that your father’s ability to rise from humble beginnings to become a self-made man of some prominence speaks well for him. It certainly demonstrates his intelligence and resourcefulness. Related or not, I wish I could have known him…
As of yet, I have not discussed our meeting with my sister Frieda. I’m not quite sure how she will react. I will wait until we are armed with more facts before disclosing the news to her. As of now, she knows only of your existence. After returning to Seattle, however, I did attempt to get more specific details about places and events surrounding my mother and your father prior to 1960.
Apparently, I misunderstood Frieda on two matters. Contrary to what I had told you before, Frieda says that Mr. Salomon did not actually accompany my mother on board the S.S. United States to France on February 25th, 1961. However, she does maintain that Mr. Salomon did help subsidize the trip. Both Frieda and my father, Harry, did confirm that the apartment management position given to my mother by your father was in fact the “Renette Terrace” apartments in El Cajon.
I also misunderstood Frieda regarding where my mother and your father first met. She says that they met in San Diego in 1956 or ’57, most likely at a celebration commemorating the 10th anniversary of the United Nations. This changes my earlier belief that their meeting first occurred at a political fundraiser for Barry Goldwater…
I’ve enclosed some color prints that I had made from some old slides. I have numbered the back of the prints one through seven. If you are still interested in investigating this matter (or will be), perhaps they will be of some help…
You should receive a larger package in the mail in a few days. It contains all of the information and records that I was able to gather about Mr. Salomon. Since I have already established contact with you, I no longer require that information. Besides, I believe the material belongs to you…
Abbe, I hope that, as I am, you are still interested in pursuing the matter of possible kinship. After meeting you and seeing early photographs of your father, Julie is 100% convinced that I am your father’s son. I am almost convinced myself. But, like you, I am most interested in facts and evidence.
At this point, I feel it is proper that you decide what course of action to take in this matter. I have offered to subsidize any medical tests necessary to determine if we are in fact brother and sister. But I suggest this only if you are comfortable in having such tests done. Also, if I can be of further assistance in your inquiries, I will do whatever is possible…
One paragraph in Derek’s letter stunned me. “Contrary to what I had told you before, Frieda says that Mr. Salomon did not actually accompany my mother on board the S.S. United States TO FRANCE ON FEBRUARY 25, 1961.”
Prior to this moment, I’d had no idea when the Taylors had sailed to Europe or where they had landed. For all I knew, they could have sailed in June and landed in England. Now I had a definitive date of departure and point of disembarkation -- one that fit snugly within the range of dates I’d highlighted on my chart. If the Taylors had sailed on February 25, 1961, the S.S. United States would have arrived on the morning of March 2, just as Irving’s calendar had indicated.
I was gratified to find corroboration for my deductions, but I was disturbed that Frieda had retracted – or clarified – her earlier recollection that Irving had sailed with the Taylors. And I was equally disturbed at Frieda’s amendment of her previous statement that Irving had first met Ethel at a Goldwater fundraiser. She now recalled that they’d met in 1956 or 1957 at a UN anniversary party. Although this seemed more reasonable, I wasn’t sure what to believe – other than the fact that I couldn’t rely on Frieda’s childhood memories. She was only 11 when she sailed to Europe and only 6 or 7 when Irving and Ethel met.
After reading Derek’s letter, I turned my attention to the photos and the comments he’d written on the backs:
Photograph #1 is of a swimming pool. Frieda is shown floating on her back with her arms out. Perhaps it is the pool that was part of the Renette Terrace units. If not, then it have been a pool in another apartment in Phoenix. Have you seen the Renette Terrace Apts. yet? Does this picture look familiar?
Photo #2 is a picture of my mother wearing a cowgirl outfit. Frieda says that my mother often dressed in these clothes when going to Ranch Lilac to visit with Mr. Salomon.
Photo #3 is of my mother while pregnant with me. The brunette with her is Roberta Sevic, then daughter-in-law of wealthy San Diego businessman James Sevic. According to Frieda, Roberta was very close friends with my mother and shared secrets. Frieda believes that Roberta was aware that Irving Salomon was my biological father. I do not know is she is still among the living, or, if so, is she still resides in San Diego. If so, she might be a good source of information.
Picture#4 Roberta Sevic and my father, Harry.
Photos #5, #6, and #7 are of my mother. Two of them are in a San Diego storefront window where she gave piano lessons. The other is a close-up of her. I meant to leave the close-up with you during our last visit, but I forgot. I thought that her face might help recall some memories in people that you may come across in your investigations.
Picture # 1’s pool looked much too Olympian to fit within an apartment courtyard – not that I knew that the Renette even had a courtyard. In addition, the poolside furniture seemed to reminiscent of a swimming club or semi-public facility to be an adjunct to an apartment complex.
Picture #2’s background was clearly that of a ranch with several bunkhouses. It was not Rancho Lilac, but Ethel looked dashing in her western shirt, neckerchief, and cowgirl hat.
Picture #3 did not depict Ethel at her best. With her head in a turban and her hand on what would soon be Derek, she was uncomfortably ensconced on a sofa with Roberta Sevic. I was delighted to have this snapshot, as I intended to find Roberta and jog her memory with it.
Picture #4 portrayed Roberta and Harry posed before a low brick wall. On the back of this photo, Derek had noted that it was taken when Ethel and Roberta had visited Harry during his stay at Balboa Naval Hospital between November 1958 and January 1960.
Pictures #5 and #6 placed Ethel in a store with a very large plate glass window that reflected an enormous parking lot crammed with automobiles. The store had to be in a downtown location of a large city, and if it were a music store, it would most likely be Thearle’s.
Picture #7 was a close-up of Ethel talking on the phone, Derek had shown it to me when he visited and I was pleased to have a copy of it. There she was – blonde, blue eyed, long limbed, and the possessor of a sensational complexion. I wasn’t certain when this photograph might prove useful in learning about Ether and Irving – I couldn’t imagine asking Irving’s friends whether they recognized her. Still, it was gratifying to gaze at Derek’s mother, Irving’s mistress, and the catalyst of this chronicle.
Friday, August 23 — Irving’s 99th Birthday
I called Derek, eager to discuss just when the Taylors actually sailed to Europe. I said I was dismayed to learn that Frieda now believes that Irving did not sail to France on the S.S. United States on February 25, 1961. I said that until I’d received his letter, I’d had no idea when the Taylors sailed or where they landed but that, based on Irving’s passports, I was fairly certain Irving had sailed to Europe with the Taylors on February 17, landed in France, trained to Paris on February 22, flown to Geneva on February 23, and returned to New York on March 3.
Derek, however quashed my educated guess. Since our last phone conversation, he had asked Harry when the Taylors had sailed for Europe and Harry had promptly answered “February 25, 1961.” Derek said Harry had perfect recall when it came to important dates in his life.
In response, I commented that if the family had sailed on February 25 on a large ship like the S.S. United States, they definitely would have arrived on March 2, just six days later. And this would mean Irving had not been on board.
I asked Derek where the family had disembarked and he said somewhere in France but that he’d forgotten its name. I asked, “Le Havre?” and he replied, “Yes. That’s the place Harry mentioned.” I then asked Derek if Harry recalled when the family returned from Europe, and Derek said Harry marked the date as four or five days before Thanksgiving.
Derek elaborated on the photographs he’d sent. He thought both the close-up of Ethel and the photo of her in the cowboy hat were taken in 1956 or 1957. He didn’t know the name of the store in which Ethel is shown playing the organ, but he thought that this photo, too, had been taken around 1956 or 1957. David had made the same comment, drawing his conclusion from the reflections of cars in the storefront window. He said they were 1956 and 1957 models.
As to the photos of Ethel and Harry with Roberta Sevic, Derek said they must have been snapped shortly before Harry was released from Balboa Naval Hospital. It was only then that he was at liberty to walk around the grounds. Derek therefore dated these photos as being taken two to three weeks before Christmas 1959.
Derek had also checked on the name Hanson, which I had told him appeared with Ethel’s name and Illinois address in Irving’s 1958 address book. He said that Ethel had been married previously to someone named Hanson, and in addition, Hanson became his grandmother’s surname when she remarried. Grandmother was indeed the Katherine Hanson that lived in Villa Park, Illinois, and Aunt Katherine Penoyer was her daughter who lived nearby. In what Derek entitled “Another According to Frieda Story,” Irving had visited both Grandma Katherine and Aunt Katherine in Villa Park.
I asked if Derek could contact these relatives and obtain Ethel’s papers and, perhaps, her passports. Derek said Aunt Katherine was elderly and ill, and though she had five children, it was unlikely that any of her family possessed anything of Ethel’s. He said when Ethel passed away, her family had taken all her effects, giving nothing to Derek or Frieda. Uncle Ray had even withheld all five of Ethel’s own paintings.
Derek’s last memory of Ethel was of waving goodbye to her from the grass below her hospital room window. When she died, her family told him she had gone away. It was only four to six months later that he learned of her death, and by then, he was living with Harry in Seattle.
Derek then commented that neither he nor Frieda cared for Ethel’s lifestyle. He reported that during her marriage, Ethel had engaged in three or four known affairs and that Frieda was born of one of them. He said that while Frieda loved Ethel, she also felt Ethel had done her children a disservice, placing her own interests first, moving the children from place to place, and changing their schools so they couldn’t establish roots. In contrast, Frieda had great respect for Irving. She was pleased that he was so affectionate toward Derek – “so connected.”
I asked Derek if Irving had provided for his education. Derek replied that to his knowledge Irving hadn’t. I then asked if he thought Irving had set up a secret trust through Ethel. Derek responded, “Why would he? He couldn’t trust her. After all, she was deceiving her own husband.” Then he added, “Frieda thinks Ethel may have been blackmailing Irving.”
I pondered this. Was Ethel blackmailing Irving? Or was Uncle Ray, or Aunt Katherine, or Grandma Katherine, or perhaps, all of them? It seemed logical, for why else would he have all of their names, addresses, and phone numbers on the back flyleaves of his pocket calendars – even after Ethel’s remarriage to John Benoit?
Monday, August 26
Since Frieda now recalled that Ethel and Irving had met at a UN function, I called the UN Association to find out when the UN might have staged a major anniversary bash in San Diego. I learned that the UN was founded in 1946 – its tenth anniversary was celebrated in October of 1956 – and that San Diego’s UN Association was founded in 1949 – its tenth anniversary was celebrated in October 1959. It was unclear where Irving and Ethel had met as early as 1956, but by 1959, Ethel was already carrying Derek. Still, the UN had numerous functions – fund raisers and UNICEF Halloween kick-offs – at which Irving and Ethel might have met.
After many phone calls, I tracked down Roberta Sevic. I told her of my quest and said I had two photographs of her at Balboa Naval Hospital, one with Ethel and the other with Harry. Roberta said that she’d accompanied Ethel to the hospital that day because Ethel, who was very pregnant, hadn’t wanted to drive there alone. But, said Roberta, it wasn’t she was friendly with Ethel; it was her mother-in-law, Billy.
Roberta said Ethel and she had met when her in-laws had given a reception for King Peter of Yugoslavia. The senior Sevics wanted background music for the reception and had called Thearle Music Company, San Diego’s major music store, for its recommendations. As it happened, Ethel was employed there, offering piano lessons and demonstrating organs for Thearle’s in its large front window.
I was astonished when Roberta described Ethel just as she appeared in photos #5 and #6. I wondered if Roberta had recently seen or even taken these photos. However, I was more astonished when Roberta said that Thearle’s had hired Ethel because she claimed to be Frederika of Denmark, Princess Frederika. Naturally, Ethel was recommended to play at King Peter’s reception.
I asked Roberta if she believed that Ethel was a princess, and Roberta said no. As if to prove that Ethel was not of royal lineage, Roberta commented that Ethel’s brother, Ray Mortensen, was a bail bondsman in Arizona and that Ethel’s main interest lay in serving the Baha’i faith.
I asked Roberta if Ethel ever said that Irving was Derek’s father. She said no, but that Ethel had claimed that three other men were the bay’s father. Ethel had certainly not named Irving: this she would have remembered. Then, prefacing her next comment with “I shouldn’t really say this<” Roberta said that on the day she and Ethel visited the hospital, Ethel and Harry had sex in the elevator. This she definitely remembered.
As soon as I finished talking with Roberta, the phone rang. It was Monte Russell, who called to say, “I didn’t draft any document,” concerning Ethel Taylor or Derek Taylor, and “I never heard of them until this came up.” He repeated this several times. Did this mean that one of his interns drafted the document and that he hadn’t heard of Derek or Ethel until Irving mentioned them?
I was indignant at his carefully phrased gobbledygook. Above and beyond Monte’s studied choice of words was the peculiar fact that for two months he had consistently refused to disclose what he knew and had even sent me code sections to justify his claims of privilege and confidentiality. Now, he had suddenly decided to deny knowledge of the whole affair further denying that he had played any role in concealing it.
Subsequently, I wrote Irving’s real estate broker, Tom Beech who had asked me to send him my questions in writing. I explained only that I wanted to trace an Ethel and Harry Taylor who once lived at the Renette in El Cajon. I asked if he remembered any of its managers or tenants, and particularly Ethel Mortensen Taylor. I also asked if he knew the address of the Renette, if he had assisted Irving in buying, selling or managing these units, and if so, whether he had any documents or rent receipts. I added that Elizabeth, who lived at the ranch, thought that his biological mother might have lived at the Renette, and I asked if this were so. I didn’t hesitate to ask this, as the Beeches were elated over the adoption and never hesitated to discuss it.
Wednesday, August 28
Tom Beech called to say he’d never heard of Ethel Mortensen Taylor or the Renette. He cited the names of the units he’d brokered for Irving and recalled that Irving looked at some units, possibly in the El Cajon area, about 35 years before. He thought Irving was interested in them as a tax shelter, but he remembered warning Irving against purchasing them. They were, Tom said, a bad deal. Despite his advice, he believed that Irving had purchased them anyway, but without his assistance.
While I still had no address for the Renette, I considered Tom’s information valuable. First, it revealed that Irving had not sent furniture to the Renette for use by the natural mother of the Beech baby. Second, if Irving had purchased the Renette as a tax shelter, he must have done so with the advice of some attorney. Possibly Monte.
The mail brought the packet of research materials that Derek had mentioned in his letter. Once I’d scanned them, I realized he’d sent far more than data; he’d also sent the names of information sources I hadn’t thought of tapping.
I was fascinated with a list of newspaper photographs compiled by the San Diego Historical Society. It revealed that Irving had been photographed with Cecile on three significant dates. The first photo was taken on April 3, 1959 – a date clearly within Derek’s conception period. The second one, taken on October 22, 1959, highlighted the tenth anniversary of the UN Association – a date when Ethel was already eight months pregnant. The third was taken on March 16, 1961 – indicating that, on this date, Irving had not been in Europe with Ethel. I also noted that Irving had been photographed alone on April 4, 1966, and on May 30, 1966 – dates when he could have been in Chicago with Ethel. I was now eager to visit the San Diego Historical Society and the library to check both the straight news and the social columns.
Derek’s packet also contained copies of numerous military documents but astonishingly few copies of Irving’s passport applications – only those for the years 1928, 1963, and 1969. The gap between these dates was both monumental and telling. It was obvious that the State Department had, for some reason, refused to send Derek any number of Irving’s passport applications.
Certainly, the State Department could exercise its authority to censor or withhold documents that, if released, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of another person. But to add injury to its insult, it had also blacked out all data about Cecile on both the 1963 and 1969 applications and it had even refused to send applications on which I was named as the minor accompanying Irving.
Why would the State Department withhold all passport applications between 1928 and 1963? Was Irving engaged in secret missions for the State Department as early as 1930?
After examining the military documents that Derek sent – most of them decrying Irving’s poor eyesight and flat feet – David and I developed an appetite to explore the old box that contained Irving’s dog tags. The war memorabilia within it, read in conjunction with the materials Derek had sent, clearly revealed Irving’s patriotism and his insatiable interest in serving the United States.
During WWI, Irving, a 20 year-old Marine private, would stop at nothing to be sent to the front. Stationed at the Naval Munition Station in New London, Connecticut, Irving badgered everyone he could to send him into battle. He wrote letters to newspapers. He wrote letters to congressmen. Marine commandants, and even the Connecticut State Council of Defense. We wrote letters to anyone who could influence those in command. In one instance, he even sent out both an editorial and a poem.
The editorial entitled “France” read as follows:
That we wanted to go to France is proven in the fact that we enlisted in the Marine Corps. Yet today, we are no nearer this promised land than the day we enlisted.
We do not speak about it much anymore — we are discouraged. Our medicine has been portioned out to us and we swallow it, though not with a light heart. Some of us have been here nearly a year and it surely seems as if we are forgotten by somebody somewhere.
Is it that we are not fit to go? We believe we are and we can prove it!
First: The Marine Corps is a volunteer organization and every one of us when we signed the dotted line were under the impression we would see action and were willing to see action. We have the spirit of volunteers and that spirit is bound to crown our efforts with success.
Second: We are trained! The records in Washington show that we have been quite thoroughly trained. What additional military education are we getting through the new bayonet drill we are having will make us even better equipped in struggle over there.
Third: That we are physically fit is witnessed in the fact that we passed the same rigid entrance examination as those valorous Marines did over there.
We have done our bit here and we have done it well – everyone knows. Would it not be possible for recruits to take over our simple duties and give us what we have long hoped for and sought – the opportunity to fight for our country, that we may really do our share toward bringing this war to a speedy American victory.
The poem that accompanied this editorial was written by Irving while standing guard duty. The first and last of its seven stanzas - which bare his desire for a son – read:
Through mirrors of time a vision I see
A fair child sits upon its father’s knee.
“Daddy, dear,” he sighs. “Will you tell me
What you did in the War for Liberty?”…
The father chokes with mental agony
How can he tell this boy upon his knee
That all he nobly did was guard duty
In the righteous war for Humanity.
Thursday, August 29
It required several days to locate the Smith Hanna medical records. No matter, I was determined to learn if Irving had paid any of Ethel’s obstetric bills — good circumstantial evidence that he might be Derek’s father. This tedious search proved fruitless. However, I did learn that it was standard policy to purge the records of adult patients who hadn’t been treated in seven years and of patients under 21 who hadn’t been treated in ten years.
After several doctors confirmed this fact, I decided to end my search for the Smith Hanna medical records and resume my search for those at Mercy Hospital. These records might be the only evidence of Irving’s paternity I’d ever find – if I couldn’t locate a secret trust for Derek, or the Renette accounts indicating child-care payments to Ethel, or barring that, eyewitnesses to Derek’s conception.
Wednesday, September 4
Determined to locate the Renette and its account books, I armed myself with David’s list of residential addresses on Renette Avenue and set out for El Cajon.
There, I drove up and down the 16 blocks, trying to determine if new homes, schools and churches stood where old apartments used to be. I looked at vacant lots and I interviewed elderly people who might have lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. But no one remembered the Renette.
At the corner of Magnolia, the only area on Renette Avenue where apartment buildings now stood, I spoke with the managers of each of the four apartment complexes, all which featured mid-‘50s California architecture. None of the managers had ever heard of the Renette Terrace Apartments, but the three complexes that fronted Renette all had pools, and Derek remembered being pushed into a pool while living at the Renette.
At this point, I decided to narrow my search further. Since there were no more apartments on Renette and since I would have no way of knowing, without a document search, whether others had been demolished and replaced with homes, I decided to concentrate on the 100, 200 and 300 blocks, plus the 400 block, which included several vacant lots. By making a short drive, I also determined that Renette Way was a paper street.
I then headed for El Cajon’s City Hall and its third floor, home of the city’s eerily empty departments of building, zoning and planning. To my dismay, the Building Division hadn’t retained construction plans for the 1950s or 1960s, and the Planning Division hadn’t retained old land-use maps.
In the city clerk’s office on the first floor, I made serendipitous progress. One of the clerks reintroduced herself and reminisced about the Christmas party she’d attended in my house several years before. A delightful person, she offered to check on any names and locations that interested me. I supplied her with the usual –the Renette, Irving, Ethel Taylor a.k.a. Hanson or Mortensen, Harry Taylor, and John Benoit. These she promised to research while I visited the all-purpose licensing bureau upstairs.
On the sixth floor, I explained that I’d attempted a telephone search for Ethel and John Benoit’s marriage license but that a thorough search had proved impossible. The county’s automated telephone system had given me about 30 seconds to spell Ethel, 3 seconds to spell Mortensen, and no extra time to present alternative surnames or spellings. The clerk nodded sympathetically and proceeded to make a countywide search for the marriage license. However, she found nothing. Ethel and John Benoit were simply not married in San Diego County, at least not in 1963 or 1964.
When I returned to the first floor, my friend had wonderful news. While she couldn’t find anything in the files about Ethel, Harry or John Benoit, she handed me just what I wanted to know about the Renette. On a slip of recycled paper, she had jotted the addresses of two older Renette Avenue apartments, plus the names and addresses of their current owners. Both were in the 100 block.
Delighted that my search had now been narrowed from 16 blocks to 2 buildings, I thanked her profusely and headed for the Polk Directories in the El Cajon Library.
The Polk city directories list city residents by name, while the Polk suburban directories list street addresses coupled with the names of tenants or owners, should they care to be listed. The library did not have a complete set of directories, but after plodding through every available volume from 1956 through 1964, I was exhilarated by what I’d found:
1957 City Directory: An Ethel Taylor resides at 1425 C., Apt. 20, and a Harry Taylor resides at both 1830 3rd and North Island’s Naval Air Station. This Harry Taylor was undoubtedly “the” Harry Taylor, but why wasn’t any Ethel Taylor listed as living with him?
1959 City Directory: Eureka! “The” Ethel M. Taylor is listed as a saleswoman for the Southern California Music Institute. Both “the” Harry A. and “the” Ethel M. Taylor now reside at 4128 ½ Illinois.
1959 Suburban Directory: There is no listing for the Renette on West Renette Avenue. How is this possible? Why would all 20 to 30 tenants refuse to list their addresses and telephone numbers? It may be that the landlord failed or refused to give this information to the Polk Directory when solicited for it.
1960 City Directory: “The” Ethel M. Taylor and “the” Harry A. Taylor are no longer listed.
1960 Suburban Directory: There is no listing for the Renette on West Renette Avenue. Was the complex not yet built? If not, how could Irving send furniture there in 1957?
1961, 1962 Suburban Directory. Eureka again! The Renette is listed at 150-152 West Renette Avenue in El Cajon. All tenants in apartments A though T – there appear to be 20 units – are listed by name, unit number, and telephone number. The complex, however, has no tenants using the name Taylor, Mortensen, or Benoit. If Ethel was living there, what name was she using?
1962 City and Suburban Directories: Mysteriously, there is no longer a listing for the Renette nor for “the” Harry Taylor. A John Benoit Sr. and a John Benoit Jr. – a student – are listed at a Pacific Beach address. There is also a listing for an Ethel Taylor who lives at 954 22nd Street. Who was this Ethel Taylor, and where was Harry?
1963-1964 City and Suburban Directories: There are no listings for the Renette, Ethel Taylor, or Harry Taylor. John Benoit Jr. remains listed as a student.
1964 Suburban Directory: There are no listings for an Ethel Taylor, or Harry Taylor. The Renette Terrace Apartments are now called the Jay Non Palm Apartments. Does this name change evidence a change in ownership? Did a new owner cut down some palm trees? At least I know that the Renette still physically exists at 150-152 West Renette, even though its name today is the Solano Apartments.
Exhausted, but content with my discoveries, I drove home pondering a new question. Why did the Renette, Ethel and Harry appear and disappear so rapidly and randomly?
Friday, September 13
When my cousins Renee and Dan flew in for my son’s wedding on September 15, we spent hours pondering the unholy trinity of Irving, Ethel and Cecile. We also theorized about Irving’s multiple passports, whether he’d served in the CIA, and if so, when he began this career.
Dan said he thought it might have been around November of 1956. He marked this because in 1955, Irving established a West Coast sales office, opened two metal-furniture manufacturing plants in the East, expanded his operations in Canada, offered Dan the position of CEO, and then, suddenly, speedily sold the business. Dan couldn’t fathom why Irving would do this when business had never been better.
Something clicked. During WWI Irving had begged the government to send him to the front lines. He wrote that he was willing to give up everything he had to serve his country in battle. History then repeated itself. During WWII, he begged the Marines, the Navy, and the Army to let him re-enlist, despite his age, his poor eyesight, and his flat feet. He would not take no for an answer, and again he offered to relinquish everything, including his thriving business, just to serve his country. Eventually, and surprisingly, the Army relented, placing him in the Pentagon.
Wasn’t it logical then for Irving to seek another government assignment during the Cold War? Wasn’t he willing to give up his business for this? Of course he was. Irving was first and foremost a patriot.
David and I have decided to request Irving’s FBI file. It may help us determine if Irving was a government agent, with passports to spare. The greater the FBI censorship – and we anticipate a great deal of it – the greater the possibility that Irving had a special assignment.
Monday, September 16
Renee and Dan had been very enthusiastic about my research and had called several times with good suggestions. Since they were eager to help and had planned to visit Cecile while in San Diego, I asked them to obtain some hair from a comb and brush for DNA testing. They enthusiastically agreed, so we were all disappointed when Cecile declined to have them visit.
Dan, however, had a suggestion. He mentioned that Gil Sayers, my father’s CPA, might be privy to information about the Renette. Indeed, someone had to prepare tax returns for the entity. I called Gil’s Chicago office and cheered inwardly when the receptionist recognized my name and promptly divulged Gil’s home phone number.
It was fortuitous that Gil wasn’t home when I called because David subsequently proposed the focal point for my conversation with Gil. Aware that I’d been thwarted in my efforts to locate the Renette books, David offered the suggestion that the Renette was not an entity in itself but that Irving had concealed it within a corporation or partnership. Of course he had! David had to be correct, since Irving religiously paid every penny of taxes he owed. He always mailed his checks to the IRS proclaiming how proud he was to be an American and how happy he was to support the finest country in the world. Indubitably, Irving paid the taxes on the Renette through some other entity. But what? A partnership? The XYZ Corporation? A California corporation or a Delaware corporation? Perhaps Gil would know the answer.
Wednesday, September 18
When Gil returned my call, he said he’d never filed a tax return for the Renette, but he promised to check his files for the name of another entity that might have held the Renette as an asset.
I took this opportunity to explore Gil’s recall on other matters. As a result, I learned the name of Irving’s former tax attorney from Chicago for whom Gil once worked. It may be that this attorney or his partners did the accounting for the Renette or even managed a trust for Derek’s benefit. When I called the law firm, one of the partners offered to check the legal and accounting files for Irving, the Renette, all Taylors, Penoyer, and Hanson — with and without an e. Weeks later, both he and Gil reported that their searches had been futile.
Woody Clarke and I had been playing telephone tag for nearly a week, and today we made contact. Woody, as I mentioned previously, is a colleague of David’s in the DA’s office and one of the leading experts on collecting, preserving and presenting DNA evidence. Consequently, he is extremely busy and I was very grateful for his detailed advice.
Woody began by explaining the odds of determining whether or not Derek was my half brother. He said that every gene in a child is inherited from either his mother or his father. Derek and I have a one-in-two chance that we both inherited a particular paternal gene from Irving.
Woody said that if the lab were to analyze ten markers – genes or DNA fragments that can be compared – and none of these markers matched, this would indicate that Derek was not my half brother. If, however, five of them matched, it would be a fairly good indication that we were half siblings. He added that if Derek’s paternity remained in question, we could consider analyzing DNA from other close relatives, even a first cousin. This, of course, gave me the idea that we could use Frieda’s DNA and match it with Derek’s to isolate Ethel’s genetic material from Irving’s.
Woody went on to tell me that if I were collecting Cecile’s hair samples, the root ends would have to be attached and the samples could be preserved in a plastic bag. However, he said, if I were collecting blood or saliva from a handkerchief, cigarette, envelope, or stamp, these were to be placed in an air permeable paper bag so the samples could breathe. Someone should have told that to the LAPD.
Part one of two.
Read Part 2 of The Derek, Frieda, and Abbe Chronicles