Mary Elizabeth Lee Fleming & the Rusts

 a portrait of Mary Elizabeth Lee Fleming c1904?

Mary E. L. Fleming as remembered by Mike Harris, January 11, 2015

To put anything I may contribute into perspective for future readers; although I am in your parents generation I am much closer in age to Bertie than to WFRJr. Also, I was rarely around Green Mont/ Homewood with any Rusts until I was in my thirties or forties.
So I probably look at all of this through a different lens.

The Rusts

I never knew your grandfather, my Uncle Will , not withstanding that we were both in the famous picture on Green Mont front steps . Betsy spent a college semester at our house in Brookline, MA, and I think Jane( my Godmother) came to Green Mont for weekends when I was quite young, but I don’t recall meeting WFRJr until sometime later- probably after WWII .

That being said, however, a very early memory is Betsy’s wedding reception at Yeocomico. This was a very big deal for me since I was allowed to go – it was a night wedding – and Aunt Harriot poked around in the wedding cake to extract all the little favors hidden therein.

This gala reinforced everything that my young mind had absorbed through years among the Aunts at Green Mont; the Rusts were quite well fixed, and the fortune had been made in Pittsburgh. As foreign as Xanadu where great factories belched smoke and every thing worth having was manufactured .

Now this whole concept was somewhat akin to time travel to a parallel universe ! Had I not always been taught that Green Mont, The Plains , upper Fauquier County, Virginia was indeed the very center of the Universe ! And the senior Rusts had left the Steel City to settle in Loudoun County ! Now this was pretty damn special !

IMG_2259 MELF, The Plains RR Station, 1912?
Mary Fleming on the platform of the earlier “wooden” train depot in The Plains, Va  c1908

“Aunt Molly”

Mary Rust , ‘Aunt Molly ‘ to me, probably the tallest of the seven Fleming siblings, was majestic. At one time she used a cane , somewhat crippled by an arthritis she cured by giving up nuts – pecans I think. She was generous , and especially kind to her youngest nephew .

One New Year’s Eve I drove from Richmond to Leesburg to see an older woman ( I was still in high school ; she was in college). By about 10:00 it became clear this was going nowhere, so I gathered as much of my badly battered ego as possible,and retreated to Aunt Molly’s. I was met as a cavalier , battered but unbroken , with a toddy to welcome in the New Year and , as usual , a soft warm bed in the guest room .

Jane and Betsy

Jane Rust , my Godmother , and Betsy Brundage were always very special to me .
I think because they , like their mother, actually were interested in what was going on in my life . Both lived exciting and romantic lives , Jane in the Far East, and Betsy in and out of South America .

In my eyes Jane was either an American Intelligence Agent , or Aide to Gen. Chiang Kai Shek . Betsy was always tanned, spoke fluent Spanish , had a South American nanny for my cousins . I think she smuggled a parrot and a pet cheetah across the border by letting them loose , knowing they would follow her. For the details I defer to Robin Brundage .

Betsy and her group seemed to be at Wirt St fairly often during the fifties ; Bob was still in and out of South America building railroads and other Indiana Jones activities . About this time, or maybe in the sixties Jane started fishing with Billy Cox , a wonderful man ; sometime thereafter they quietly married. She left this earth far too soon .

One of Billy’s nephews , Phillip Reynolds , ran the Investment Department at The Travelers where I worked. Billy put in a kind word for me , Phil invited me to dinner, my boss made a mental note of this, and my career seemed to ratchet up thereafter. In a political corporate environment a little nepotism – perceived or real – goes a long way.


Bill Rust (WFRJr) , Margaret and I became friends – more than simply cousins – over time. I wish I had known them better. Of course there was a 20 year difference in age, and usually an equally great geographic span , but these become less important with age. However there was more to it than that : the fading agrarian culture of Green Mont vis a vis the new electronic – communications age immediately following WWII .

Bill , in my eyes , was on the cutting edge of a totally different paradigm than the Green Mont model. The Green Mont model required a boy to learn about all things relating to the ‘country life’ (read upper Fauquier). Bill , on the other hand made radios that worked, and could fit inside a match box .

He  was a radio genius who had gone to Lehigh ( not UVA) , and worked on super secret stuff in the Navy. He flew his own airplane. He built  – literally -radio stations .
In short, he fit the Rust model as developed by the Aunts around the Green Mont dinner table. One of these ladies summed it all up: “The Rusts are different”. As if The Flemings were not !? Holy Mackerel !!

Margaret (Dole)

Margaret was very much her own person. By the time they came back to Green Mont / Yeocomico the Fleming family had aged. Although she had her own interests , friends , activities, not to mention children, she kept an eye on Clarissa and Harriot at Homewood as well, I am sure, of Molly and Roberta in Leesburg. Margaret had the grace to care for and help without smothering. She carried this with her to the end.

The Fleming women owe Margaret, Bill, and their children, a huge amount of thanks.
I was around them all rather constantly toward the end; it was they who stepped up to take care of those grand old ladies.

Henry Rust: I want to thank Mike Harris for joining in. The last time I heard someone use the expression “Holy Mackerel!” was probably the last time I saw Mike Harris.

Marloe Woollett: Once I had the happy experience of driving with Aunt Molly, Bertie to Maine (Alec Green at the wheel). All along the trip, she would pull out that little tin of some sort of foil wrapped lozenges she always seemed to have!

If any one has anything they would like to add  about Mary, a story or maybe just a memory, please email it to me and I’ll post it. It would be so appreciated. Thanks


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