Frances Kroll Ring, 99, the personal secretary to F. Scott Fitzgerald for the last 20 months of his life and a longtime source of information for biographers, documentary filmmakers, students and fans, died on Thursday at her home in Los Angeles.
Her daughter, Jennifer Ring, confirmed the death Tuesday. She said her mother had broken her hip in a fall in early June and had had dementia for more than a year.
Frances Kroll Ring, who wrote about her experience in a 1985 memoir, “Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald,” began working for Fitzgerald in spring 1939. In her early 20s at the time, she had recently moved to Los Angeles from New York City with her parents and younger brother and learned about the job at Rusty’s Employment Agency on Hollywood Boulevard.
Immediately dispatched for an interview, she drove to Encino, where Fitzgerald was living alone in a bungalow on the estate of actor Edward Everett Horton. She was admitted to the house by a maid and found Fitzgerald in bed, awake but suffering from what he called a fever. Unaware of his reputation as a drinker, she did not question his diagnosis.
“He was only in his 40s, but he was fragile,” Ring said in 2009. “The kind you wanted to help. He was very pale and had very blue eyes, and he was a charmer.”
Fitzgerald told her that he was looking for a secretary who had no ties to the studios; he was planning a novel about Hollywood, he said, and needed an assistant who would not gossip with movie people.
She began working for him right away, and while she learned about his drinking problem soon enough, she also discovered that he was an orderly, hardworking writer motivated not only by a desire to revive his literary career after the early success of “This Side of Paradise” and “The Great Gatsby,” but also by a need to make money. He was supporting his wife, Zelda, who was in a sanitarium in Asheville, N.C., and his daughter, Scottie, a student at Vassar.
The novel Fitzgerald was starting was “The Last Tycoon,” a story informed by his years as a screenwriter at MGM and based on the life of producer Irving G. Thalberg, Hollywood’s idealistic “boy wonder,” who died in 1936 at age 37.
As Fitzgerald’s secretary, Ring typed drafts of the novel and served as a sounding board as he built the story, tore it apart, then put it back together again. She did the same for two other projects he was working on. Fitzgerald was 44 when he died of a heart attack on Dec. 21, 1940. It was left to Ring to make all the mortuary arrangements and to put his affairs in order.
Sister Nirmala Joshi, 81, the Indian nun who replaced Mother Teresa as head of the Missionaries of Charity died Tuesday, the organization said.
Her health had been declining in recent days, the charity said. She was selected to lead the Roman Catholic charity six months before the death of its founder, Mother Teresa, in 1997. She remained its leader, or superior general, until stepping down in 2009. That year, she also received India’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, in honor of her service to the nation.
She was born to Hindu parents in 1934 in Ranchi, now the capital of the state of Jharkhand, before India gained independence from the British Empire. She reportedly converted to Roman Catholicism after being educated by Christian missionaries and learning of Mother Teresa’s work.
Indian politicians including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi praised her work for the poor in the eastern city of Kolkata.