Famous Last Words: The Passing of a Renaissance Man
It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Frank Vos, 90, president of the agency that guided me in bringing the Better Homes & Gardens book clubs from the brink of ruin to profitability. I first met him over lunch, right after I took over the book clubs, and mentioned I had a Sunfish that I sailed many afternoons and weekends on Manhasset (Long Island) Bay.
Shortly thereafter, he invited me to crew for him on his sailboat in a race at the Stamford Yacht Club. No one crossed the finish line. It was a hot summer afternoon, the wind quit dead and the entire fleet of racers was forced to anchor, lest the tide pushed us back to the starting line. There was nothing to do but talk for several hours until the race was called off and we motored home.
Frank was in his late 40s with rugged good looks and a cultured New York accent. I quickly discovered he had one of the finest minds I had ever encountered and his range of interests—and expertise—was seemingly limitless. Yet he never wore his erudition on his sleeve; it snuck up on you.
For example, that day I learned he was not only an accomplished sailor, but also an instrument-rated pilot and licensed to fly twin-engine planes. He mentioned it had always nettled him that he had not finished college and said that when he retired, he would get his degree. Fifteen years later, he sold his company to Interpublic and got a BA and an MA in American history at Columbia University and acquired a Phi Beta Kappa key in the process.
Because I had written a novel about New York City politics—which was his major at Columbia—Frank invited me to lunch at the Lotos Club with Mary Hemingway, Ernest's widow, where they planned to discuss her upcoming talk at the club. In no time, the subject of the author's estate came up and the fate of his beloved 40-foot sport fisherman, Pilar, which inspired "The Old Man and the Sea" that had secured Hemingway the Nobel Prize in Literature. Frank and Mary immediately launched into an animated discussion of deep-sea fishing, which evolved into a kind of "Can You Top This" of skiing adventures. Two more arrows in his quiver.