Frances Kroll Ring, F. Scott Fitzgerald's secretary and aide for the last year and a half of his life, has died at age 99. As a 22-year-old Bronx native whose father had moved to Los Angeles to begin a furrier business catering to the film industry, she answered a call from Rusty's Employment Agency to take the job with the prematurely aged writer.
Obituaries in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and elsewhere say that the alcoholic Fitzgerald was then living in Encino, Calif., in the estate of the actor Edward Everett Horton, noted scene stealer in supporting roles in Fred Astaire films. The young Frances, who had the same name as the writer and his daughter, "Scottie," found Fitzgerald in bed. When Fitzgerald bade her to open a dresser drawer, she found empty gin bottles.
Despite his alcoholism, and the loss of his literary reputation, Fitzgerald returned to work, with the steady support of the young Frances Kroll, who typed his handwritten pages of "The Last Tycoon," along with his underrated Pat Hobby stories, which portray the movie business with masterly black humor. A bookkeeper, she also paid bills and sent money back east to his daughter, then at Vasser, and his wife, Zelda, housed in a mental institution. She also discussed with him books and world events, and cooked meals.
The young woman also handled Fitzgerald's funeral arrangements, when his mistress, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, was too grief-stricken to do so. Fitgerald was only 40 years old when he died at Graham's Los Angeles apartment, little realizing that his work eventually would rise to the top of American literature..
After her husband, a Cadillac dealer, passed away, Frances Kroll Ring enjoyed a successful literary career in her own right as the editor of Westways, the magazine of the Automobile Club of Southern California, in which she published a number of significant writers. She also wrote book reviews for the Los Angeles Times. The author of a small memoir of her experience with Fitzgerald, "Against the Current: F. Scott Fitzgerald as I Knew Him." she later in life frequently appeared at Fitzgerald seminars and gave her recollections to Fitzgerald biographers and authors such as Stewart O'Nan, who based a novel on Fitzgerald's final days.
She also played a significant role in the posthumous publication of "The Last Tycoon," giving Fitzgerald's pal Edmund Wilson the author's aims for the unfinished chapters of the novel. According to reports, she prevailed when Wilson sought to veer from Fitzgerald's conception.
For her steadfast support of Fitzgerald and the comfort she gave in his melancholy final months, Frances Kroll Ring holds an honored place in literary history.