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Laura Wolcott Tuckerman Triest

Photo: Beauregard

Mrs. Willard Gustav Triest (Laura Wolcott Tuckerman) died on August 24, 2012, at her home in Annapolis, MD, of cardiac arrest.

Born in Washington on October 11, 1911, she was the eldest of five daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Rupert Tuckerman (Edith Abercrombie-Miller) of Bethesda, MD, and Southampton. Mr. Tuckerman was a real estate developer and banker for whom several streets in the Washington area are named. A champion golfer, he was a founder of the Burning Tree golf club in Bethesda. Mrs. Triest was a descendant of Mayflower passengers William and Mary Brewster and Mary Chilton, who married Edward Winslow’s brother John. Most of her ancestors had arrived in the New World by 1640. She traced descent from William Channing Gibbs, governor of Rhode Island, from Oliver Wolcott I, governor of Connecticut and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Oliver Wolcott II, also governor of Connecticut and secretary of the treasury under presidents Washington and Adams. 

Born to privilege, Mrs. Triest grew up at Tuxeden, the family estate on Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda, and summered with her family in Southampton. She attended the National Cathedral School and La Casita, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and graduated in 1929 from Oldfields School in Glencoe, MD. At 18 she was introduced to society at a debutante ball in the historic Willard Hotel in Washington. During the Depression, when the family experienced financial reverses, she held various jobs, including a stint at a dress shop that paid $5 for a six-day work week.

In 1942, Mrs. Triest joined the staff of William J. Donovan, recently appointed Coordinator of Intelligence by President Roosevelt and tasked with creating a coherent national intelligence service, which became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Employed at first in Washington in research and development, among her first duties was locating reliable maps of strategically important parts of the world, and screening female applicants for service abroad. She was herself later stationed overseas, serving in Cairo as a telegraph officer, in addition to other duties, and then following the troops through Italy, to Salzburg after the Allied victory in Europe, and finally Vienna on VJ Day, where she may have been the first American woman to enter the city during the Soviet occupation. In January 1946, after returning to Washington, she transferred to the State Department and was posted to Greece with the Allied Mission to Observe the Elections. In 1949 she joined fellow former OSS operative Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt Jr. at the CIA’s new Middle East department.

While still employed with the CIA, in 1951, she met Willard Gustav Triest. An engineer and designer who owned a New York construction company engaged in building a bridge over the Severn River in Maryland, he was recuperating at the time from an injury sustained on the bridge. They married the same year and moved to Annapolis, where Mrs. Triest was to spend the rest of her life. She continued to drive to work in Washington, one of seven commuters that made the daily trip by car, retiring from the CIA in 1953 when she lost her parking space.

Mrs. Triest traveled widely throughout her life—and not only in the line of duty during the Second World War. In the early 1930s she passed through the Panama Canal and flew over Central America in Stinson and Sikorski airplanes; drove cross-country through the United States during the Depression; paid a visit to Jerusalem during the war; and undertook a solo trip through South America in 1946.  She continued her travels for decades afterwards, her last expedition taking her to the Baltic when she was 89. For many years she also enjoyed sailing with her husband, on the Chesapeake, in the Caribbean, and off the Bahamas, the British Isles and Italy.

A charter member of Historic Annapolis, she served on its first board of directors, and was also a founder and member of the first board of the Annapolis Symphony. She was the first president of the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County and sergeant at arms of the Federation of Republican Women of Maryland. Joining the Women’s Committee of the Smithsonian at its inception, she served on it for 16 years. In Southampton, she was a member of the Garden Club of America, the Bathing Corporation and the Meadow Club.  She was also a member of the Colonial Dames of America, the Annapolis Yacht Club, Chevy Chase Club and the Sulgrave Club.

Predeceased by her husband in 1989, Mrs. Triest leaves a daughter, Mrs. Joseph L. Wood III (Laura Wolcott Triest) of Annapolis and Middlesex Beach, DE; a granddaughter, Natalie Wolcott de Raismes Wood; two step-grandsons, Joseph L. Wood IV and Timothy G. Wood; four great-grandchildren; and a sister, Mrs. Robert Hugh Williams (Alice N. Tuckerman) of Sykesville, MD.

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