Evelene Brodstone Vestey has become one of the most admired and respected women of her time – the Nebraska farm girl who went on to become the highest paid female executive of her time and, who, later in life married an English Lord.
Born in 1875, Evelene graduated from high school at the age of 14 and left Superior to study stenography and accounting in Burlington Iowa. After completing her schooling, she worked as a stenographer in Chicago with the Vestey Cold Storage Company, one of the biggest conglomerates of England. She rose through the ranks to become chief auditor and troubleshooter and at the peak of her career, Evelene found herself earning $250,000 a year (comparable to $5 million a year today).
In 1924, Evelene married William Vestey, Lord of the British realm and they made their home at Kingswood, a historic castle in London. After they were wed, Lord William asked her to adopt the British spelling for her name – Evelyn.
Evelyn, always extremely modest, seldom exposed to her hometown friends the extent of her wealth and the affluence under which she lived as Lady Vestey. In the case of the Arandora Star, billed as the “world’s most delightful cruising liner”, her love and pride in this beautiful creation could not be concealed. It was strictly a pleasure ship with more space per passenger than any other liner. Luxury was evident from stem to stern. The 1,441 feet of sun and games decks included three tennis courts, four quoit pitches, a white tiled pool and a fully equipped gymnasium. Other features were the Louis XIV Restaurant, card rooms, music room, lounge, library, café, smoking rooms, green and ivory ballroom and deluxe staterooms. The liner was designed throughout with parquetry flooring; broad open stairways and scroll decorated ceilings etched in gold with Persian carpets and potted palms enhancing the lavish décor. There was a passenger list of four hundred.
After Evelyn learned many Superior friends, now living in the Los Angeles area, would like to see the ship, she sent out one hundred invitations inviting them to tour the ship the next time the Arandora Star docked in the Los Angeles harbor. No expense had been spared the day of the tour. Before departing, the quests were served a typical English tea.
This liner brought both joy and sorrow to the Vesteys. Encompassing “The American Spirit” the Vestey’s ship served nobly as a hospital ship taking wounded German and Italian prisoners of war to Canada for interment. The Arandora Star was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine on July 2, 1940. Nearly 1000 lives were lost including the captain and some of the crew.
Lord Vestey died in December of 1940 and five months later on May 23, 1941, Evelyn passed away. Her ashes were sent back to Superior for interment at Evergreen Cemetery, making her the only nobility to be buried in the state of Nebraska.