“I remember her mother carrying her into first grade, crying in her arms, at Potomac Elementary School,” Margaret Ann Nichols Markham recalled. “She won’t know who I am,” she surmised.
Kristie Miller, Potomac native who was back in her home town for a book signing at The Surrey last week, did know Markham, although it had been 50 years since they had seen each other.
“I read in The Potomac Almanac she was going to be here and I just had to come,” Markham said.
That pretty well summed up the way it went throughout the 4-7 p.m. reception/signing for the authoress whose award-winning book, “Isabella Greenway,” is in its second printing.
Growing up on her mother Bazy Tankersley’s Al Marah Arabian Horse Farm, (before the Washington beltway invaded the area) Miller was delighted with the turnout of old family friends who came to get a copy of her book.
Her second biography, (the first, was about her grandmother, Ruth Hanna McCormick, a congresswoman [1929-31] from Illinois) Miller was asked if her third would be about her mother. “I feel strongly daughters should not write about their mothers,” she responded. But, she added, “My daughter, Ellen Twaddell, can do that. She has her master's in fine arts with emphasis on writing.”
As a steady stream of admirers congregated in The Surrey, it was inevitable old Potomac stories would unfold. Ninety-two-year-young Ada DeFranceaux, whose daughter Diane, now a California resident, rode horses with Miller when they both lived on River Road and horseback was a normal mode of transportation for kids growing up in “the country.”
“I want two copies, one for me and one to send to Diane,” she told the authoress. Now living in Bethesda, Mrs. deFranceaux convinced her son, Don, and his wife, Peggy, to drive her to the event. “I just couldn’t miss it,” she said as she greeted former Potomac neighbors, Sara Lee Greenhalgh and Helen and Brownie Stupar.
There were others in the crowd who came, not only for Miller’s book, but seeking advice from her for their own endeavors. “I’m writing a biography about Adm. Winfield Scott Schley. His naval career ran from the Civil to Spanish American Wars,” Potomac resident Bob Jones related. Miller gave him information about a group of biographers that would be helpful.
Melynda Wilcox was also interested in getting published. She was among the first to arrive, accompanied by Dino DeConcini, a Tankersley family friend. Wilcox, from Alexandria, hearing Del. Jean Cryor was in the gathering, remarked, “I know her daughter, Allison, and worked on her campaign when she ran for city council in Alexandria.” Connections abounded.
Another scribe, Mary Ann Kephart, said she was writing, “a small book” on Whites Ferry. “It’s nothing creative. I am putting together the facts,” she explained. She and daughter, Perry Kratsch, are active in the upper county’s Historic Medley District Inc., a historic preservation group. Kratsch and Miller were high school friends at Holton Arms School.
Jean Findlay, a Dickerson resident, knew Miller’s relatives in Albuquerque. “I’m from there,” Findlay said, bringing forth a deluge of memories for both.
Isabella Greenway would have loved this crowd. Her life was a picture of inter- connections. From her debutante days in New York, to homesteading on a New Mexico ranch, running an airline, founder of the renowned Arizona Inn, and Arizona congresswoman (1933-37) no grass grew beneath her feet.
She out-lived three husbands (two of them were members of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “Rough Riders”), was a close friend of T.R., and Eleanor and FDR , and she later challenged the latter for not being progressive enough. She also, somehow along the way, raised three successful children.
When questioned as why she chose Greenway for research, Miller responded with yet another connection. “When mother moved from Maryland to Arizona I flew out to visit the ranch. One of the first things I noticed in the house was a framed photograph of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” she recalled. “Knowing Mother’s life-long dedication to the Republican party I was shocked,” she said.
“Take a close look,” Bazy Tankersley advised her daughter. “He is sitting on this front porch.’” The ranch Miller’s mother bought was the ranch owned by Isabella Greenway where Eleanor and FDR visited.
“I knew then, I had to learn more about this woman,” Miller said.