Today we remember Princess Diana, who was just 36 years old when she died on this day 20 years ago following a car crash. Three years prior to her death, Lady Diana visited Martha's Vineyard and spent some time at The Charlotte Inn in Edgartown. WGBH News' Marilyn Schairer spoke with the inn's owner, Gery Conover, about Lady Di's visit.
Gery Conover: It first started on on my yacht, a 1923 classic yacht. And we were asked to take her on a little cruise in Edgartown, in the outer harbor, so we arranged to have a nice private place for her to board the yacht and we were cruising around for maybe a little over an hour just had a very, very pleasant, nice time. The weather was great. It was just a nice experience chatting with her. I was up on the bridge most of the time, where she was. And so we had a lot of conversation. Then, unfortunately, somebody did tip off a reporter at the Gazette and got a long-range photo of she and I sitting on the bridge, and that photo that ended up in magazines, mostly in Europe.
Marilyn Schairer: What do you remember most?
Gery Conover: [She was] just really nice in every way. Just very natural, and not at all pretentious ... And then, as I mentioned, my youngest son, Tim, was basically in charge of her daytime activities, like going to the beach, and water skiing, and jet skiing, and things of that nature. Just the two of them.
He took her to some really nice private beaches where she would not be seen. I guess the most significant thing is that ... she told Tim she had never had such a vacation, where the paparazzi was not always there, and wanted to do a little kind of a thank you party for him at the Inn, which was also very nice.
Marilyn Schairer: You had said your son was very good at keeping the paparazzi at bay. How so?
Gery Conover: Well, he's pretty smart and he had a couple of cars and looked exactly alike,so a couple of times they thought she was in one car, but she was really in another, and one time he let air out of the tires, so they couldn't follow them.
Marilyn Schairer: When you saw her at that time, she was trying to escape the paparazzi. And at the time of her death, that's really what was happening as well. Does it make you feel good that you were able to give her that escape from the paparazzi for that little bit of time that you were with her?
Gery Conover: Yes, but it was more my son, you know, that did that, because he spent much more time with her than I did.
Marilyn Schairer: Your inn is very well known, and you do cater to those people perhaps that maybe want their privacy a little more than others. How did it come about that she came to your Inn?
Gery Conover: Well, I'm not positive. ... I think, having this nice old classic yacht, that probably has something to do with it. And my oldest son is in the real estate business, so I think that also might have had something but I can't be certain of either one of those.
Marilyn Schairer: I do appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. You said that it really was a very memorable moment in your life and one that I would imagine you'll always hold dear.
Gery Conover: Yes, for sure.