Evelyn Throsby Kiernan Lewis Petit Mumper wasn’t the sort of woman who needed a man at her side to be happy. As a two-time widow and divorcee, she was well acquainted with the ups and downs of love and marriage. But isn’t it always the way that when you’re not looking for love, you’re most likely to find it?
Evelyn was content living on her own, but who doesn’t want someone to share special moments with? In 1950, Evelyn met and married her fifth husband. Robert Leonard Ewing Scott.
Ewing came into the marriage without a job and no money to speak of. The couple was fortunate that Evelyn’s previous husbands had left her well provided for. She owned property in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that gave her a monthly income of $1400, which is equivalent to $14,400 a month in today’s dollars. Evelyn owned a home in Bel-Air, an exclusive suburb of Los Angeles. She was known to be a sharp investor. Over the years she had managed to grow her nest egg to over $400k dollars (equivalent to $4.4M today).
Nothing in Ewing’s past suggested that he was as good with money, but that didn’t stop him from offering his opinion on her finances. In fact, shortly after they were married he convinced Evelyn that she didn’t need to pay a financial adviser anymore – she had his expertise to rely on. Ewing assumed complete control over her money. He convinced her to liquidate a few of her brokerage accounts and convert them to cash. Why? Ewing claimed he feared the atomic bomb and wanted cash on hand to flee the fallout if necessary.
Evelyn had no reason to distrust her husband, and it wasn’t unusual for a woman during that time for a wife to acquiesce to her husband’s wishes. Maybe Evelyn felt that if she denied Ewing the opportunity to manage her wealth it would hurt his pride. Or perhaps she was relieved to be able to relinquish control and have more free time to spend with her friends.
Evelyn’s intelligence, warmth, generosity and loyalty drew people to her. She had known most of the people in her immediate circle for many years. Her social life was rich and rewarding – so much so that Evelyn was often heard to say that she would never want to move away or be gone for any length of time because she would miss her friends too much.
Evelyn and Ewing socialized with her friends on a regular basis and all seemed to be well. None of Evelyn’s friends noticed anything amiss in the Scott’s marriage and Evelyn appeared to be happy and healthy.
There was one person, however, who had intimate knowledge of the Scott’s relationship, and her opinion of the marriage was different from that of Evelyn’s friends. Evelyn’s live-in cook, Vera Landry.
One night shortly after Evelyn and Ewing had returned from their honeymoon Vera was awakened by a loud crash. It sounded to her like something had fallen in the master bedroom. The next day a curious Vera asked Ewing about the noise. Without hesitation he answered: “Well, I just slapped the wind out of her.”
Vera got a far different explanation from Evelyn, who said she had tripped and fallen. Too frequently women, even those in ritzy Bel-Air, had secrets they were embarrassed or ashamed to reveal.
Vera was painfully aware of problems in the Scott’s marriage, but she was powerless to interfere. As an employee Vera could only observe if she wanted to keep her place. In fairness to Vera, it wouldn’t have mattered if she was a friend or not. Even Evelyn’s nearest and dearest would likely have accepted her explanation of an accidental fall rather than do any unseemly prying into her marriage.
Vera’s discomfort became acute when out of the blue Ewing announced to her that he wasn’t in love with Evelyn and their marriage was “just one of those things.” The revelation was more than Vera wanted to know, and she was further appalled when Ewing began to pressure her to spy on Evelyn. He demonstrated how simple it would be to eavesdrop on Evelyn’s telephone calls undetected and threatened to fire her if she didn’t comply.
Rather than betray Evelyn, Vera quit.
Whenever Ewing was out of earshot of Evelyn, he told her friends that she was ill and he was “having trouble with her.” He hinted that she was drinking heavily and was impossible to deal with. When her worried friends asked Evelyn if she was feeling well she always responded in the affirmative. They had no reason to doubt her word – she seemed the same as always.
For the first several months of 1955, Ewing persisted with his complaints about Evelyn and her alleged ill-health and bad behavior. Was Evelyn suffering from alcoholism and/or cancer as Ewing intimated? Was she trying to keep the painful truth from the people she loved; or was Ewing constructing an elaborate foundation on which to build a plot against his wife?
On May 16, 1955, Ewing ran out to the store to purchase a can of tooth powder for Evelyn. When he returned, she was gone.
NEXT TIME: The lady vanishes.