Who WAS Artist Thuryle Kretzer?
Budding artist Thuryle Kretzer contributed illustrations and occasionally poetry, to Motion Picture Magazine between 1915-1917.
One of the Eugene V. Brewster Publications monthly movie fan magazines, Motion Picture Magazine featured the work of different photographers, artists and illustrators throughout the magazine, although artists such as A.M. Hopfmuller were not always credited within the pages.
Thuryle Kretzer’s style was very similar to that of Dorothy Hughes, another contributor to Motion Picture Magazine during the same timeframe.
I’m not sure exactly what mix of drawing styles both Thuryle and Dorothy used, but I believe these were pen and ink drawings using contour, stippling, and hatching techniques. Is it ok to just make up a name for the style? Because in my mind, Kretzer’s drawings are “romantic doodles”.
But who was this talented artist/illustrator? You’d think that with her unique first name, it would make it easy to locate some mention of her. However, I couldn’t find a Thuryle Kretzer in my usual general or art-specific reference sources, until I started digging deeper. The problem with trying to trace a woman’s history. is that wives usually take their husband’s last name when they get married.
At one point I was headed in the wrong direction (quite possibly a cousin of some kind in Maryland), until I found “my” Thuryle Kretzer in California.
Thuryle Kretzer Family
Both Jessie Spong and John Kretzer were originally from Maryland, but had long been residents of Woodland, California by the time they married there on March 10, 1897.
Immediately after their wedding, Jessie and John G. Kretzer lived in San Francisco, where he worked at the St. Nicholas Hotel. There is mention of John Kretzer providing music for various social events, and of his orchestra, as early as 1893, through 1908.
“The Band Makes a Hit – Woodland Is in the Swim at Bartlett Springs This Week – At the concert in the evening Mead Everhart and Johnnie Kretzer were the bright and shining stars of the first magnitude. Mr. Kretzer first played a baritone solo that was very highly complimented; afterwards he and Mr. Everhart, solo cornetist, gave a duet that was so exquisitely rendered that when it was over there wasn’t anything in the village too good for them.” – Woodland Daily Democrat, July 27, 1893
Thuryle Kretzer appears to have been an only child. She attended primary school at Woodland, California’s Holy Rosary Academy, where she earned an honorable mention in general class work (Sacramento Daily Union, June 17, 1906). That same month, Mr J. G. Kretzer, Mrs. J.G. Kretzer and daughter, of San Francisco, are mentioned in an account of a social event on Grand Island, in the Woodland Daily Democrat, June 11, 1906.
Thuryle Kretzer was announced as one of that week’s many arrivals at the Bartlett Springs health resort in The Sacramento Bee, June 25, 1910:
“Superior Californians and Sacramentans on Their Vacation Trips – The following from Sacramento and Superior California are registered at the Summer Resorts – Bartlett Springs – Miss Thuryle Kretzer, Woodland.”
Thuryle’s maternal grandfather John Spong died in 1912. Her mother Jessie Kretzer was identified as then living in Lakeview, Oregon (possibly with a married sister); while an aunt – Julia Spong – was living in Woodland.
“Died – Spong – In Woodland, Yolo County, July 2, 1912, John Spong, aged 80, a native of Maryland; father of Mrs. Ella Boyer of Lakeview, Ore; C. Boyer of Grand Island, Mrs. Jessie Kretzer of Lakeview, Ore., and Miss Julia Spong of Woodland.” – The Sacramento Bee, July 4, 1912
No mention is made of Thuryle’s artistic talent, other than an 1913 note that at the 8th grade graduation of San Mateo Public Schools Peninsular Avenue School, Thuryle Kretzer performed a piano solo.(San Jose Mercury News December 18, 1913)
Thuryle Kretzer of 7 Tenth Avenue, was listed as having 5,240 votes in a San Mateo, California contest to win a car. Entrants had to receive votes from their friends / subscribers.
“Here Are The Entrants In Race For Automobiles – Fair Femininity From All Parts of County Lined Up Awaiting Starter’s Signal – Get Early Start” – The Daily News Leader, San Mateo, California May 27, 1915
During World War One, beginning in 1917, Thuryle worked for the Red Cross Society.
“Cotopaxia Haynie and Thuryle Kretzer, two popular society girls of Palo Alto, have been accepted by the Red Cross Society for service and will leave within a few days for their posts. Miss Haynie, Stanford student, will nurse on one of the naval ships while Miss Kretzer has been selected for the army division service. – San Jose Mercury News, April 12, 1917
Marriage to Fred Kempff
Post-WWI, Thuryle lived with her parents Jessie & John Kretzer in Palo, Alto, California. Her engagement to Frederick Kempff (aka Fritz Kempff) was announced on January 20, 1920. She was described as an attractive, fashionable young woman with an artistic talent and a large group of friends.
“Former Local Girl Announces Her Betrothal – The engagement is announced of Miss Helen Thuryle Kretzer and Frederick Kempff of Atherton…The promised bride-to-be now makes her home in Palo Alto, having attended the San Mateo grammar and high schools several years ago and has a host of friends who are rejoicing with her in her new happiness. She is a girl of pleasing features and possesses an unusual gift for gowning herself most attractively a style quite original and interesting. Miss Kretzer has a decided talent for drawing, and at one time considered studying art, but now has determined to give that up for home life. Kempff is a brother of Admiral Kempff and is a man well known in the business world. His family is prominent both socially and financially, and he is planning to build a lovely home near Atherton for his bride.” – Daily News Leader, San Mateo California, January 20, 1920
(Gentle Reader / O Girl of the Screen 1916: Thuryle Kretzer [colorized])
Frederick Kempff (born Apr. 1, 1880), was almost 20 years older than his bride-to-be, and came from a wealthy and socially well-connected California family. He was living with his sister Cornelia Kempff and their father, Retired Rear Admiral Louis Kempff Sr., in Palo Alto, while Fred’s brother Clarence Kempff lived in Philadelphia with his wife Alice (nee Brigham).
Frederick’s mother Cornelia Reese Selby Kempff (b. 1850 – d. 1902) was the daughter of former San Francisco Mayor Thomas H. Selby (founder of Selby Smelting Works). His wife, Henrietta I. Selby (Frederick’s maternal grandmother) had inherited a ranch with approximately 450-480 acres in the Menlo Park area of California upon her husband’s death in 1876. The estate was valued at around $500,000 – $600,000 in 1920, based on real estate prices at the time (between $1,000 to $3000 per acre). Upon Henrietta’s death in 1917, the Selby estate went into probate while the lawyers worked out the distribution of land etc. amongst her 12 heirs – which included Frederick, his sister Cornelia, and their brother Clarence.
Helen Thuryle Kretzer married Frederick Kempff on January 30, 1920.
“S.F. Marriage Licenses – The following marriage licenses were issued in San Francisco yesterday:…Frederick R. Kempff, 39, Atherton, and H. Thuryle Kretzer, 21, Palo Alto.”. – San Francisco Call, January 31, 1920
In March of 1920, Henrietta and Thomas Selby’s estate was finally settled, with the heirs receiving their portion. Thuryle and Frederick had been living in a cottage near San Mateo, California, right after their wedding, but by March of 1920 they had moved to the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco. Fred was having a house built for them in the Selby tract (the land owned by his grandmother), that was to be been completed by July 1920 at an estimated cost of $10,000.
Immediately after Thuryle & Fred’s wedding, his father and sister moved to a home they bought in Santa Barbara. Rear Admiral Louis Kempff died July 29, 1920. Although his oldest son was to receive all of his inheritance immediately, both Cornelia and Frederick (then almost 40 years of age) would have to wait another 10 years.
“$100,000 Estate to Be Divided Among Three – The will of the late Admiral Kempff was filed for probate in the superior court at Santa Barbara County recently. The estate is valued at $100,000. It is divided in equal shares to the three children of the deceased, Frederick, Cornelia and Capt. Kempff. The captain will receive his share when the estate is settled, but the other two children will not collect until a period of ten years has elapsed. They are to receive an income in the meantime.” – Daily News Leader, San Mateo California, August 21, 1920
Consider that with inflation, $100,000 in 1920 is roughly equivalent to $1.5 million in 2023.
Almost immediately, and ongoing for the next several years, newspapers reported property transactions in the name of Frederick Kemp, or Frederick and Mrs. Kempff, as Frederick sold off lots from his share of the Selby estate.
By the fall of 1921, less than 18 months after their wedding, Thuryle and Frederick Kempff were separated. Frederick moved to Texas, and Helen filed for maintenance support payments in California.
“Admiral’s Son Sued – Mrs. Thuryle Kempff has a suit on file in Redwood City today against Frederick Rodgers Kempff, son of the late Admiral Louis Kempff, in which she asks for $100 a month separate maintenance. She asks the court to enjoin her husband from disposing of community property pending the trial of her action. She charges Kempff deserted her and has refused to support her.” – San Francisco Call, Sept. 24, 1921
Meanwhile, Frederick continued to sell off portions of his inheritance from his grandmother.
“Real Estate Firm Reports Many Sales and Prospects Up and Down the Peninsula – The Redwood City office reports that they have sold for the account of Frederick R. Kempff a home on Atherton avenue, Atherton, which acreage, to Fred W. Butler of San Frandisco. Kempff has departed for Texas to manage his ranch.” – Daily News Leader, San Mateo California October 24, 1921
In June 1922 Thuryle Kempff filed for divorce in California; and Frederick filed for divorce in Texas.
“Wealthy Land Owner of Atherton Failed to Provide for Wife, Is Claim – Alleging failure to provide, Mrs. Thuryle Kempff filed suit for divorce at Redwood City yesterday against Frederick Rodgers Kempff, said to be a wealthy land owner of Atherton. The complaint alleges that Mrs. Kempff was forced to depend on the ‘charity of relatives and friends’ for some time prior to her separation from Kempff last August. A suit for separate maintenance, based on similar allegations, was filed by Mrs. Kempff in the Superior Court at Redwood City, Sept. 23, 1921. At that time a restraining order was granted by Superior Judge Buck, to prevent the sale by Kempff of property in Atherton. The order was later amended, and the suit is now pending…The couple were married at San Francisco, Jan. 30, 1920, and have no children, according to the petition. Mrs. Kempff asks for alimony of $100 per month and restoration of her maiden name, Thuryle Kretzer.” – Daily News Leader, San Mateo, California, June 21, 1922
Frederick Kempff’s divorce suit was granted on December 16, 1922, in Texas.
“Divorce Decree Awarded to Frederick Kempff in Tex., Court Record Shows – Frederick Rogers Kempff, well known in San Mateo county and defendant in two suits brought by his wife, in the Superior Court at Redwood City, was granted a divorce from Mrs. Thuryl Kempff in the District Court of Harris County, Texas, December 16 last,…Kempff, who is the owner of valuable lands in Atherton and Menlo Park, and said to be one of the principal heirs of the Selby estate, was sued for separate maintenance on Sept. 23, 1921. While this suit was pending, Mrs. Kempff sued for divorce in June, 1922…” – Daily News Leader, San Mateo California, Jan. 24, 1923
(My Movie Film Maid 1916: Thuryle Kretzer [colorized])
Thuryle returned to her maiden name of Kretzer upon her divorce being finalized in California in March 1923.
“Mrs. Thuryle Kempff Is Granted Divorce Decree – Mrs. Thuryle Kempff has been awarded an interlocutory decree of divorce from Frederick Rodgers Kempff, by Superior Judge Geo. H. Buck, on her complaint charging wilfull neglect and failure to provide. Kempff allowed the case to go by default, Mrs. Kempff being represented by Attorney Eugene F. Conlin of San Francisco. She was granted permission to resume her maiden name of Thuryle Kretzer.” – Daily News Leader, San Mateo California, March 22, 1923
Frederick Rodgers Kempff married Frances Harris Etheredge on February 3, 1923 in Harris, Texas, shortly after his divorce from Thuryle was granted in Texas. He died September 19, 1959 in Texas, at the age of 79.
Frederick’s brother Clarence Kempff, a veteran of the Spanish-American war and World War I, went on to become commanding officer of the USS Seattle, and the battleship Nevada, before becoming chief hydrographer of the Navy in 1929. He then was commander of the Pacific Fleet battleships in 1936. He retired as a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral in 1938, and died February 10, 1959 at the age of 84. He and his wife Alice had several children.
Marriage to Clyde Vincent Stouffer
After her divorce from Frederick Kempff, Thuryle reverted to using her maiden name, and began to go by her first name Helen instead of her middle name Thuryle. She was living in Los Angeles when her divorce was granted in California.
A month later, Helen Thuryle Kretzer married Clyde Vincent Stouffer, on April 20, 1923. Her second husband was much closer to her in age.
“Marriages – Stouffer-Kretzer – in Modesto, April 20, Clyde Vincent Stouffer, 25, Fresno, and Helen Kretzer, 24, Los Angeles” – Modesto Morning Herald, April 21, 1923
The couple lived in Corcoran, California in 1924.
“Fresno Man Appointed Secretary of Corcoran Chamber of Commerce – Corcoran, July 24 – C.V. Stouffer of Fresno has been appointed secretary of the Corcoran Chamber of Commerce…Stouffer was formerly associated with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company in Fresno. He and Mrs. Stouffer will make their home in Corcoran.” – The Fresno Morning Republican, July 25, 1924
Not sure what happened to Clyde Stouffer, his family, or when or how when his marriage to Helen Kretzer ended (his death? divorce?). I couldn’t find any mention of a Helen or Thuryle Kretzer-Kempff-Stouffer after 1924, but Helen Thuryle Kretzer DID marry again.
Marriage to Louis Di Nola
Thurlye Kretzer’s father John G. Kretzer died May 28, 1938, and her mother Jessie M. Kretzer died December 12, 1961.
“Kretzer – Dec. 12, 1961, Jessie M. Kretzer, devoted wife of the late John G. Kretzer, beloved mother of Mrs. Louis di Nola, Sacramento. Private services were held.” – The San Francisco Examiner, December 14, 1961
Louis di Nola graduated from Sacred Heart College elementary school in 1912. According to a San Francisco Call article in 1917, Louis’ father Leon di Nola had enlisted in the US Navy in 1867 and served 5 years as a surgeon. At the time of his death, Leon was one of the oldest pharmacists in San Francisco and owned a drug store at 598 Haight street. Louis had 5 brothers and sisters – Rosario, Leon Jr., Vincent, Antoinette (Mrs. Anson Morgan), and Leonilda (Mrs. Edward Duffy).
Like Helen’s father John Kretzer, Louis had musical leanings. A 1911 San Francisco social gathering column noted he was a flute player, and his sister Leonilda and brother Vincent also played instruments.
“The Art Club orchestra, whose members are Miss Leonilda di Nola, conductor and pianist; Miss Alyce Levy, Irving Cohn and George Wale, violins; Miss Claire Herold, cornet; Vincent di Nola, clarinet; Louis di Nola, flute, and Montague Barton, drum. – The San Francisco Call, December 31, 1911
Louis’ sister Antoinette di Nola was perhaps the most talented musically of all his siblings. She became a lawyer and clerked for federal judges before being made an Assistant United States Attorney in 1949.
“Mrs. Antoinette Morgan Funeral in S.F. Monday – …an assistant United States attorney…Mrs. Morgan is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Arthur Spencer of San Lorenzo, and Miss Rose di Nola of Fresno, and a brother, Dr. Louis di Nola, San Francisco dentist.” – Oakland Tribune, May 24, 1952
Dentist Louis Di Nola divorced his first wife in 1925. At some point after that and before 1961, he married Helen Thuryle Kretzer-Kempff-Stouffer.
(Louis di Nola – Ship Watcher in the Sky, The San Francisco Examiner, Nov. 24, 1966)
Helen Thuryle Kretzer (Kempff-Stouffer-Di Nola) died in 1988. She may have given up her artistic ambitions when she married, but her art lives on.
San Francisco Deaths – Kretzer, John G. – Oakland Tribune, May 28, 1938.
Fritz Kempff, Son of Retired Admiral, to Wed Miss Helen T. Kretzer (Helen Thuryle Kretzer of Palo Alto)” – San Francisco Call, January 8 1920
Social – At the St. Francis – Daily News Leader, San Mateo California, March 15, 1920
Kempff, Former Mare Is. Head, Dies – San Francisco Call, July 29, 1920
Estate of Admiral Kempff Appraised – San Francisco Call, November 3, 1920
The Recorder, June 3, 1925