Special Reports

The Nelson Rockefeller Scenario

[This, along with the last two entries, were some of the blogs lost in the transition.]

            If you are over 45, and/or a political junkie, and/or interested in United States history (I’m all three), you know the name Rockefeller.  It was a prominent family, and a rich one.  John D. Rockefeller, who controlled Standard Oil around the turn of the 20th Century, was the richest man in America.

            If you watched old movies from the 1930’s, or Young Frankenstein, or were on campus in the early in the 1980’s, or possibly mid-2000’s, you’ve probably heard the song Puttin’ on the Ritz; the early techno version was by Taco came out in 1982 and Shiny Toy Guns in 2005.  It contains the line:

Come let's mix where Rockefellers

walk with sticks or "umberellas"

in their mitts,

Puttin' on the ritz.

It was this Rockefeller’s descendants referred to here, and he had a lot of heirs. 

One was Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, his grandson; he is the person referred to in the title.  Nelson had another grandfather who served in the US Senate from Rhode Island.  His bother, Winthrop, was the Governor of Arkansas.  His nephew, Jay, is the current junior US Senator from West Virginia.  In the political arena, Nelson was the most success.  He was Governor of New York for entire 1960’s and was the second appointed Vice President of the United States, in 1974, after Gerald Ford became President. 2 Nelson ran for President in 1964 and came very close to defeating Barry Goldwater at the most contentious GOP Convention in the 20th Century.  Nelson was to the left of the party.  If you’ve ever heard the term “Rockefeller Republican,” almost a swear word with some of us, it comes from Nelson Rockefeller’s name.  Under pressure, declined to run (he was basically forced off the ticket) in 1976 and retired for public office. 

In 1979, Nelson Rockefeller died.  He was 71 and had a heart attack.   That really is uncommon for a man that age to have one; his health was poor by that time3.  There was something not too common about this death, however.

            Nelson was originally reported to have died at his office, but he wasn’t there.  He was at his townhouse in Manhattan.  He was with an assistant.  A female assistant.  A female assistant 45 years his junior.  Nelson’s death was what one long time aide would later described as, “…undeniably intimate circumstances… .”4  I won’t mention the assistant’s name, though it has been published repeatedly, though I will note that she was a journalist (no, not for the CDT).

            I can remember coming down for school the morning it was announced.  My father told me about it across the breakfast table.  At the time he was in his mid-50’s and had been a widower for several years.  I think the look on his face was not one of disgust, but of admiration. 

            You might wonder what this has to do with the disappearance of Ray Gricar, the former District Attorney of Centre County.  It is one of those possibilities that get discussed when people discuss the case.  Could Mr. Gricar have died of natural causes while with a lover?  The lover, perhaps prominent, or perhaps with a spouse, or both, is mortified and hides the body, just to avoid a scandal?   

            Some evidence could point to it.  There were several witnesses that saw Mr. Gricar after 4/15/05, and one saw Mr. Gricar with the famous “Mystery Woman.”  Mr. Buehner, in his letter, suggested that a woman might have registered at a motel and Mr. Gricar stayed with her that night.  An occasional poster, Tokuen, who is both friendly and seems close to Mr. Gricar, said, “…had apparently courted a few women over the years.”5  The idea that Mr. Gricar might have been there with a woman is not alien.  I don’t think anyone would suggest that a twice married man, who was in living with his girlfriend, was a monk.

            There were also the reports of Mr. Gricar moving the car to different spots across from the Packwood House Museum.  It has been suggested to me that Mr. Gricar was waiting for someone.  He was seen moving his car to let someone pull in front or behind him.  I have to say that that theory makes some sense.  It is very easy to say, “Turn right after crossing the bridge,” or “Turn left just before you get to the bridge.”  It would be a good place to meet someone.

            It is possible that Mr. Gricar was spending the weekend with someone, and didn’t hear that he was reported missing.   I have pointed out that while the news of Mr. Gricar’s disappearance was reported in the Central Pennsylvania Media Market in the evening of 4/16/05, there was not too much, if any, reporting beyond that, including Lewisburg.6   If Mr. Gricar was with someone, and otherwise occupied, watching the news might have been the highest priority.

            And there are some things that point away from it.  Mr. Buehner once pointed out to me that none of Mr. Gricar’s clothes were missing, possibly not even an extra set of

underwear.  Those things argue against it, assuming that Ms. Fornicola would absolutely know each item of clothing he had.  Some things, like a toothbrush or razor, could be purchased along the way.  Several full sets of clothing are a bit more problematic. 

            The “Nelson Rockefeller scenario” remains on the list, the 

foul play list, surprisingly.  Believe it or not there is a crime in

Pennsylvania called “abuse of corpse.”7  The statute

describes the crime as treating a corpse  “in a way that he

knows would outrage ordinary family sensibilities.”  Disposing

of a body secretly might well be considered abuse of corpse. 

The crime is a misdemeanor and the statute of limitations may

have expired (I think it is two years).  The person could come

forward, privately, to the police and provide closure to

Mr. Gricar’s family, friends, and the community, and possibly

not face prosecution.

            Still, the Nelson Rockefeller scenario is one that crosses my mind.  What if it was me and prominent female office holder?  Who knows, I could panic and try to cover it up.  I think that might be human nature.

            If you want to know the reason I have not mention the name of the lady that was with Mr. Rockefeller that night, it is because of that.  I can understand how someone caught nearly in flagrante delicto (I do like Latin and I’m running out of euphemisms), with a public person, might just panic.  She declined to talk to the press, never wrote a book about it, never tried to shake down the family for money, and slipped into obscurity.  Her name has been published, in major media sources, like Time.  It is in some of the links I’ve posted; it’s on Wikipedia.  You can easily find her name.  Please, however, have the class not to post it.

            Could the explanation of Mr. Gricar’s disappearance be something as simple as one person covering up an embarrassing situation, not even necessarily a sexual one?  It is possible, but some of the evidence points away from it.  It still is one of those things that keep me up at night.

            Would it be so terrible if this was the explanation?  I’ve looked to the words of Mr. Rockefeller’s grandson, Steven Rockefeller.  He was 18 at the time, but later was asked what he would say to the lady in question.  Steven responded, “I would tell her: ‘I hope you made my grandfather happy.’”8  I hope that, if this is the explanation to Mr. Gricar’s disappearance, that this lover, did not only make him happy, would give some closure to Mr. Gricar’s loved ones.

End Notes

1  http://www.lyrics007.com/Taco%20Lyrics/Puttin%27%20On%20The%20Ritz%20Lyrics.html

2  http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/robison-rockne.html#ROCKEFELLER

3  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,920096,00.html

4  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/rockefellers/filmmore/pt.html

5 http://law.onecle.com/pennsylvania/crimes-and-offenses/

6 http://www.centredaily.com/2009/03/06/2397144/friday-thank-god-itas-friday.html

7    http://pod01.prospero.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=kr-centretm&tid=1192

8   http://www.brooklyneagle.com/archive/category.php?category_id=23&id=10905




E-mail J. J. in Phila at scorg@live.com