Past Sailings: Stories from Queen Mary

Stories from crew members, passengers and World War II personnel and veterans.

Helen Fry - First Class Queen Mary Passenger - July of 1956

According to her granddaughter Donna Palmer Keen, Helen E. Fry was quite the adventurous woman.  Originally from Pennsylvania, Ms. Fry decided to voyage on the seas after her beloved second husband passed away.  In 1956, she first traveled on the RMS Queen Elizabeth and sailed from New York City to Cherbourg and finally landed at Southampton.  While on this voyage, she was also lucky to visit iconic destinations, such as the Netherlands, Portugal and Venice.  However, it was not the Queen Elizabeth that Helen always talked about:  it was the Queen Mary that struck her fancy.

Helen boarded the luxurious RMS Queen Mary in July of 1956.  Donna shared with me that her grandmother felt quite drawn to the Mary the minute she walked up the gangway and onto its premises.  In fact, when Helen was walking up the gangway, she managed to trip and fall.  She recalled that a gentleman grabbed her arm and graciously helped her back up.  This wasn’t the first time she encountered a hospitable staff member.  Despite of this incident, she knew that her maiden voyage on the Queen of the Seas was going to be safe and secure.

As a first class passenger, she enjoyed the many amenities and talked about how beautiful her stateroom was.  She boarded the Mary with trunk loads of personal items, mostly clothes.  When talking about her grandmother’s Queen Mary voyage on the phone, Donna told me that she has a set of pearls that Helen bought on the ship.  Ms. Fry enjoyed buying various items and when she was in Germany, she also purchased a car and had it shipped to the United States.  Among the friendly Cunard employees, she also mentioned that the food was excellent, especially when she had breakfast in bed.

Dancing was one of the activities that Helen enjoyed immensely while traveling on the Queen Mary.  She spent many nights on the dance floor.  Additionally, Helen enjoyed playing Shuffleboard on the Sports Deck.  Donna also shared with me that her grandmother enjoyed swimming in the former first and third class pool.  She described the pool as a “pleasing” place and one area that she spent a lot of time in.  She remembered having a comradery with other voyagers, especially with a gentleman by the name of Fritz.

One of Helen’s strong memories on the Mary occurred one night when she was sitting in one of the hallways.  A member of the concierge personnel greeted her, sat down next to her and talked with her for a long while.  She remembered this young man as good-looking with brown hair and green eyes.  After their chat, Helen thanked him and sadly, they never saw each other again.

According to Donna, Helen Fry talked about the Queen Mary until the day she passed away in 1983.  She even relayed that if she had to travel aboard another ship, it wouldn’t be the same.  Once she arrived in Manhattan, Ms. Fry did not want to part with the ship.  She said, “Donna, I never wanted to leave it because I am a part of it.”  The Mary is the one place she felt very happy.