STEUBENVILLE - Nyna Giles came to Steubenville to learn more about her mother's roots and the life Carolyn Shaffner Reybold lived as a young girl growing up on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Giles left the city with a copy of her mother's baby photo and her high school yearbook photo as well as a photo from Carolyn Shaffner's reign as the city's Sesquicentennial Queen.
"I never saw a photo of my mom as a baby or when she was in high school. And, the later photo before she left Steubenville is amazing. She looks so happy and carefree," Giles remarked during a recent visit to the Jefferson County Historical Association Museum.
RESEARCHING MOTHER — Nyna Giles looks at a framed photo of her mother, Carolyn Shaffner Reybold, from the late 1940s. Shaffner Reybold served as Steubenville’s Sesquitennial Queen in 1947 before traveling to New York for an international modeling career and a longtime friendship with Grace Kelly. Giles visited Steubenville to research her mother’s younger years and to meet her mother’s relatives and friends. — Dave Gossett
"I remember coming to Steubenville when I was about 11 years old to visit family. But that was it. I moved to New York City from Long Island when I was 15 years old to attend private school. Later on I would do occasional research into my mother's past and every time I would learn a little more," Giles said.
Her latest efforts unveiled a 2008 Herald-Star article about the late Carolyn Shaffner Reybold and efforts to organize a dinner to honor the city native who went from serving as the 1947 Sesquitennial Queen to the Ford Modeling agency in New York and a friendship with Grace Kelly.
Shaffner Reybold would serve as a member of Kelly's bridal party when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco.
Schaffner Reybold died June 16, 2007, of cancer at the Medford Multicare Home in Long Island, N.Y.
Her career as an internationally known magazine cover model and friend to the famous was long past when Schaffner Reybold died at 77 years old.
"I saw the Herald-Star article online a couple of years ago and I am sad I didn't know about the dinner at the time. I have been seeking my mother's family members since then and have talked to cousins here in Steubenville and am traveling to Lebanon, Ohio, to see a couple of more cousins who knew my mother when she was younger," explained Giles.
The youngest of three daughters, Giles has researched her father's relatives but never did a lot of work on her mother's family.
"We came to Steubenville to see if we can connect with the people mentioned in the newspaper article. Her younger life in Steubenville was very different than when I was growing up. She was a very complex person who had led a very glamorous life as a young woman and then became a young mother with three daughters. It has been wonderful connecting with my mom's cousins. Every time I connect with one person they send me to someone else. I am trying to know the mother I never knew later in my life. I am fascinated by my mom's life as a child," said Giles.
Giles said she has bought Seventeen magazines that featured her mother on the cover and continues to look for examples of her mother's modeling career.
"They have an amazing collection of her photos here at the museum. I have read Eileen Ford called my mother a 'Golden Girl' because she was such a successful model. As a child I can remember movie stars knocking on the door of our Long Island home. I thought that was normal," recalled Giles.
In her later life Shaffner Reybold suffered from mental depression, an issue that is now important to Giles.
"I am an advocate for early intervention for mental illness. My mother had too many struggles in her life. But I believe my trip to Steubenville will give me a better understanding of my mother and her history. It gives me a better understanding of mental health issues and what can happen to someone like my mother. On the personal level it is very moving. Today her life would have been very different. There is more support, better programs and earlier intervention," remarked Giles.
Giles plans to travel later this year to Florida to meet more of her mother's cousins.
"It has been fascinating to see my mother as such an incredibly beautiful young woman and I am sad I didn't know her at that time in her life. I would like to have known that young woman who left Steubenville on the train and became a top model. When you lose someone you always wish you had more time to ask questions. I would have loved to talk to my mother about growing up in Steubenville. I wish I had come here a long time ago," said Giles.
Giles is open to anyone with information about her mother's life as a young woman growing up in Steubenville contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It could be someone who grew up with my mother or maybe a son or daughter of someone who knew my mother. I am looking for those memories that I can put together," Giles noted.
Two people Giles hopes to talk to about her mother's younger life are Dottie Bossert and Jane McHugh Noltemeyer.
"We lived in the Fernwood area and would ride the school bus together. I remember she was somewhat shy but so beautiful. And some people would shy away from her because she was so beautiful and that bothered her. And we were at that awkward age as teenagers. She didn't talk a lot. She was a shy person. But she opened up to me and we would talk when we rode the school bus," recalled Bossert in the 2008 interview.
Schaffner's family moved to Steubenville and she began attending Steubenville High School and working at the Hub department store.
"I worked on the second floor in lingerie and she worked on the second floor in the children's department. She was even more beautiful then and always wore her hair in such a nice way to add to her beauty. At that time we knew she would be going to New York to pursue her modeling career. We always knew she was going to go far. She was someone a couple years younger than me but I admired her very much," said Bossert.
"We were close friends. We spent a lot of time together. And she worked a little at my father's store, MacNulty's Confectionery on the corner of Pennsylvania and Carnegie avenues. She used the $500 prize from the Sesquitennial Queen award to go to New York to pursue a career as a fashion model. Her mother and I drove her to the railroad depot downtown and she got on that train by her self and went to New York," Noltemeyer said.
"If I could have one more chance to talk with my mother I would tell her I miss her," said Giles.