A belated farewell

by Bernard McCormick Friday, October 04, 2019 No Comment(s)


Lori Ziebart, Jacquelyn Laird, Russel Landis, President Donald Trump, Jennifer Rahel Conover and Sally Jo Morris

One of the petty rewards of choosing a journalism career is that you usually get a free obituary. Those don’t come easily these days with newspapers scraping for every penny they can make. But newspaper and magazine writers, even undistinguished ones, usually have friends who take the trouble to note their passing, often exaggerating their contributions to the profession. We recall reading about a fellow we worked with at a small paper in Pennsylvania more than 50 years ago, who died while working for an even smaller paper. It took a few weeks, but eventually a flattering obit appeared in one of the major Philadelphia papers.

Thus it is that we belatedly announce with sadness that the author of our recent article on a young girl spending summers at Mar-a-Lago, as a family member when Marjorie Merriweather Post owned it, may never have seen her story in print. It ran in the August issue of our Palm Beach County magazines. We did not know at the time that Jennifer Rahel Conover, whose story was autobiographical, had died of a heart attack just as the magazine came out. She was 76.

Strangely, we did not learn of her death until the beginning of October, and only then because a relative cancelled the subscription in her name. There had been considerable communication between Jennifer and our editors in preparing the story. She submitted it late last year, but there were delays getting the pieces together. It took some editing (most of her stuff did), and she needed to find old pictures. When they were lost in the email system, she had to find them again and resend. But it finally ran, with an attractive presentation. The subject matter, including knowing President Trump, went beyond her childhood memories to include the story of that great estate’s seriously over budget architectural design. The piece will likely be submitted in one of the regional magazine contests, in one of the historical categories.  

In view of all the work that went into it, it seemed odd that we did not hear from her after it appeared, especially after it ran again in September in our Gold Coast magazine in Fort Lauderdale. Writers usually want additional copies of their work. We were out of town for a while, but nobody contacted us and apparently there was nothing in the paper in Fort Lauderdale, where she lived. We knew her for at least 30 years and she contributed to our magazines every so often, but everyone we can think of who knew her and might have called was already gone. It’s one of the problems that come with age, although today 76 is not that old.

Her death did not go totally unnoticed, however. There was a detailed obit in the Washington Post, but we found that only after checking the internet to confirm her death. The reason it ran in Washington was Jennifer’s unusual political family history. Her father, with whom she was not close (he liked women he wasn’t married to) was a general on the staff of Gen. John J. Pershing in World War I, and later served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

The connection to Mar-a-Lago was through her grandfather, Joseph E. Davies, of whom she was very fond. He has been described as Marjorie Merriweather Post’s “favorite husband” of the four credit worthy men in that contest. He was an important man—ambassador to Russia during World War II and close to President Franklin Roosevelt.  But she also had an uncle, Sen. Millard Tydings, and a cousin, Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, both from Maryland.

Locally, she was active in the yachting community and considered an able sailor. Writing was not her first calling. As a young woman she was a model, and later worked for the Fort Lauderdale interior design firm Rablen Shelton. The Post reported that she decorated the Nixon San Clemente and D.C. residences.

Her first two marriages ended in divorce, but she was married to Ted Conover for the last 36 years. They traveled widely, and she published travel pieces in newspapers and magazines. She also wrote a book, “Toasts for Every Occasion.” All in all, it was quite a life and deserving of at least a modest sendoff. And Jennifer, please accept our apologies for the delay.

Photo courtesy Jennifer Rahel Conover

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