Interviewed by Richard Sadler and Gene Sessions
30 May 2006
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Richard Sadler and Gene Sessions
30 May 2006
Copyright © 2011 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
The Oral History Program of the Stewart Library was created to preserve the institutional history of Weber
State University and the Davis, Ogden and Weber County communities. By conducting carefully
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Interviews are conducted with the goal of eliciting from each participant a full and accurate account of
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The Utah Construction Company/Utah International Inc. Oral History Project was created to capture the
memories of individuals associated with the company. Several of the interviewees are family and
relatives, others are personalities involved with Utah Construction Company/Utah International Inc. and
some of the company’s prominent figures.
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narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with
the goal of preserving substantive additions to the historical record. Because it is primary material, oral
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Nancy Freeman, an oral history by
Richard Sadler and Gene Sessions, 30 May
2006, WSU Stewart Library Oral History
Program, Special Collections, Stewart
Library, Weber State University, Ogden, UT.
Abstract: The following is an oral history interview with Nancy Freeman. It was
conducted by Dr. Richard Sadler and Dr. Gene Sessions of Weber State
University on May 30, 2006. Ms. Freeman worked for Utah Construction/Utah
International for over forty years, during which time she served as the
administrative assistant to Edmund Wattis Littlefield. The interview concerns her
recollections of UCUI during this time. Lisa Largent was also present during the
GS: We are grateful to you for your hospitality. Maybe you could begin by telling us a
little bit about your early life, Nancy. Where were you born and where did you
NF: I was born in Brinmore Hospital in Pennsylvania and grew up in Radner,
Pennsylvania. My mother had been attending the Brinmore and Radcliffe
Colleges, she was a blue-book type, and my father was from Kansas. He was in
advertising with Curtis Publishing. The two of them didn‟t totally agree on what
should happen with their kids. My sister and I were determined that we were
never going to have coming-out parties and be debutantes. My mother was a fox
hunter and always had her own horses. She promised that if we would go to
Brinmore and do all of this, that we could have our own horses. That didn‟t go
over very big with us. So that mainline Pennsylvania thing was very good until we
could get away from it and then, of course, we never wanted to go back.
I went to Penn State. Then, when I went to New York, my father said,
“Give it a year and if you like it, great. But be sure you don‟t just stay for the sake
of staying in New York.” Of course, I stayed for five years. I was roommates
with a friend of mine from home, and we ended up marrying two men who knew
My first husband was a teacher who had signed up to teach in the
dependent schools for the Air Force in Europe. Of course, you have to wait and
wait to do that, and meanwhile, we had gotten married. By the time he was
accepted, I was about to have a baby and we were the first married couple ever
to go teach in the dependent schools. We lived in France for a year, England for
a year, Libya for a year, and then back to France for two years. It was incredible.
My daughter was just a tiny baby so we put her in the back of the Volkswagen
and traveled all over Europe and had a ball.
GS: Did you learn French?
NF: I didn‟t study it, but I certainly learned it. The people there were so sweet. The
first two weeks there, I had my child under my arm in a diaper and a T-shirt and
the women were just horrified; they would keep trying to cover up Anna. She was
healthy as can be. We had an apartment with almost no heat and she had the
best bedroom. She would sleep cross-wise on the double bed. In the winter, we
would go in there in the morning and the laundry hanging on the line would be
GS: You were five years there? Then what?
NF: And then Buzz decided to go to graduate school at Gannon.
GS: What was he majoring in?
NF: He was into education and he was going to come back and get more. He ended
up being a principal in the last couple of years.
GS: Where did the accident occur?
NF: My parents were living out here at the time. We had called them and said, “We
are in Tahoe and we‟re coming on down.” They even said, “You know, it‟s late,
you shouldn‟t do that.” We stopped to get something to eat. Occasionally, my
husband had seizures. He hadn‟t had one in two years or something, but of
course, we were so exhausted…he was driving and had a seizure. It was just
awful, absolutely horrible. It is probably lucky that he never survived because he
would have been a vegetable and it would have been just terrible.
You make friends with all these people because you are so vulnerable I
guess, and the doctor who sewed up my face used to visit us, bring food over for
Anna and me, and sit around and talk. He said it took him an hour and a half to
sew up my face. He said, “You were speaking French the whole time,” and I said,
“Well, that‟s pretty unbelievable. I‟m sure I was repeating myself a lot.” My
French wasn‟t that good.
GS: Now, you moved home with your folks. Where did they live?
NF: They lived out in Park Merced, here in San Francisco, but I didn‟t stay there long.
The first thing I did was drive around and find a school that had child care and
then I found the first apartment that had a place for rent which was right on the
GS: Was this 1964?
NF: This was 1964. We had the accident right around Labor Day and he died October
fifth. Then it was a matter of getting my act together and trying to get through all
GS: If you don‟t mind repeating, tell us about how you went to Utah and began to be
interviewed and all of that.
NF: Some employment agency sent me on various interviews, and one of them was
at Utah. I got the bus down, got off the bus, walked into the building, and had this
feeling: “This is where I‟m going to be,” which has happened to me any number
of times with other situations.
GS: Like with this house.
NF: Yes, with this house. I went in and met Mack Chamblis. It turned out he had lost
one of his parents—I forget if it was his mother or his father—when he was eight
years old, so he totally understood my situation and was so gracious. Charlie
Traverse kept calling me back saying, “Now this isn‟t going to work,” and Mac
said, “It‟s going to work with me.” He and his wife befriended us and they would
steal Anna from me on the weekends to give me a break once in awhile.
GS: How old was she?
NF: She was just turning five when this happened, so it was very tough.
GS: Was she injured at all?
NF: She was in the back seat sound asleep and got thrown against the back of the
front seat, but no, thank goodness. We had a tough adjustment but she and I
were so bonded. We look a lot alike. We act alike. We think alike. Here she is
3,000 miles away and three different times we have done exactly the same thing
like bought the same thing. Twice we have done that—bought identical clothing
at the same store. Things like this we do all the time. We will both say the same
thing at the same instant just out of the blue. Of course, we know each other so
well, we still do it. Her husband is Austrian. She met him in Austria. He wouldn‟t
let us sit next to each other if he was across from us because it would just drive
him crazy and he couldn‟t stand it.
GS: So you started with Utah Construction in November of 1964.
NF: Do you remember hearing about Mannis Cannon? He was in the personnel
department, and was the one who hired all of the construction guys. He never
had anything written down anywhere. It was all in his head. He was unbelievable.
This went on for years and years. He knew exactly where everyone was, where
to find them. Then he started to have a heart attack at work and he was out for a
while. Everyone went into a panic because it was all in his head.
GS: How long did you work for Utah?
NF: Forever. After I started, they moved me upstairs to work for Bob Wheaton, who,
I‟m sure you know, was the administrative assistant at that point. Then I worked
for Albert Reeves, which was lovely. Very interesting fellow. I worked for him…I
guess for five years or so. I started with Littlefield at the end of 1970.
GS: You were with Reeves just before that?
GS: What was working for Albert Reeves like?
NF: He had a lively ego and always wanted to be center stage. He was very bright.
His enunciation was perfect and so was everything that he wrote. He always
wanted to be in control of the situation and be the center of attention. When we
had board meetings, he would ask me to come in and I said, “I won‟t do it.” I had
a tendency to do things my way.
GS: What was his job title?
NF: He was the senior vice president. He was a lawyer. He and Orville Dykstra were
an interesting combination. They had many differences, but it was great because
they were constantly challenging each other.
GS: Now, you are strong willed and he was strong willed. You got along for five years.
How did you do that?
NF: He could be very difficult. When I went in there to work, I had no goal of making a
career of this job. I did it because I had to survive. I had to work. I had to bring up
my daughter. I think my whole attitude was a lot different from other people.
When the day was finished, I went home to take care of my daughter. I was
never trying to climb up. I wasn‟t competitive with anyone because I let everyone
do what they want. I think that took people aback a little bit because I wasn‟t
trying to get anywhere. This worked for me because I wasn‟t pushing anybody‟s
buttons and they thought, “Well, Nancy is easy to get along with, we‟ll just…”
GS: You arrived in San Francisco in 1964. What was San Francisco like in the „60s?
NF: Oh, much different. It was the beginning of the Haight-Ashbury and all of that, but
there was nowhere near the congestion and traffic. As you can probably see
while you are here, you can‟t get anywhere and you can‟t park anywhere, but I
love it. Then it was much simpler, although I have always felt that San Francisco
is such a friendly place to live. I have no desire to live anywhere else. Jack
wouldn‟t mind leaving, but then I say, “Well, where would you go? There is no
place like here.”
GS: Now, you started working for Ed Littlefield in 1970. How long did you work for
NF: In 1992, Utah had an opportunity for people who were of certain ages and who
had been there for a certain period of time to take early retirement and still keep
all their retirement plan, health benefits, and everything else, and I felt that this
was the time for me. Of course, I adored him, so when I said, “You know, this
might be a good idea for me because Heaven knows if they are ever going to
offer it again.” He absolutely had a fit. He said, “You can‟t do this.” So I said, “I
will move my office to my house. I will set up an office at home. We will have the
fax machine, the computer, the phone, everything else. I can come into the
company as often as you want me to, but not every day.” So finally I convinced
him that this would be great because I was a big rower at the time and I always
have to be doing something physical. I just had to do it. He was furious for a few
weeks. Then he realized how easy this was. I always worked much better under
pressure and could just never fail to get the work done, which was good with him,
believe me. He was so fair. He ended up loving it because then he could have
me go down to the house and meet him or I could just go into the office and we
would go to lunch and in some ways it was a lot simpler then. I did that from 1992
until after he died, and then I worked with the family. Finally, in 2002, I said this is
enough, so it was just under forty years.
GS: That is a great contribution. If someone were to say to you, “We don‟t know
anything about Utah Construction,” how would you describe the company to
NF: I found it an amazing place to work, mainly because the same people kept
coming back, and in the construction industry that is unusual. They were so well
taken care of. Everyone who knew Ed Littlefield loved him so much that they had
to do everything they could to keep him in their basket.
GS: How would you describe Ed Littlefield? I mean, you worked with him for nearly
four decades. What kind of a person was he?
NF: When I first moved upstairs to work for Bob Wheaton, Mr. Littlefield interviewed
me. I went in and he did most of the talking, which I found fascinating. He was
just talking about the company and this, that, and the other thing, and I hardly
had to say a word. Of course, he had heard, I‟m sure, from other people what I
was all about. He was always so fair.
I was talking to Leo yesterday—I hadn‟t talked to him in ages and we had
a hysterical conversation. He used the word, “He had so much grace.” I said,
“Well, that is interesting that you say that because my immediate reaction to Ed
Littlefield is the way he could listen.” He would sit and let whoever it was say
what was on their mind. He never interrupted. He let them go through the whole
thing, which for a man of his stature, I find fabulous. He just had patience for
things like that. Now, if you send him to a doctor‟s appointment or somewhere
else and he had to wait, that was a whole different story. He had no patience at
all. He hated it. But he was incredible with people. He was so fair, and I think
having the land division, the construction and the mining—those three different
elements—that was very intentional because each of those departments had to
come up and prove themselves. Even though he was the overseer of it all, he
loved delegating. He loved to have whatever the contingencies were among
those groups. He found that worthwhile for the company and it sure paid off, it
GS: What kind of an opportunity did you have to meet Marriner Eccles?
NF: Oh, I knew him very well because Albert Reeves‟ office— which I sat outside of—
was right off the entrance to Marriner‟s area—his office—and so Marriner would
come by back and forth all the time, and we would always have these wonderful
conversations. He loved to talk, so you could just go into his office when you
knew that he was all by himself and he wanted to talk, and you would hear these
stories that were just marvelous.
GS: What kinds of stories did he tell?
NF: Oh the historical stuff. Things about the Federal Reserve. He was delightful. And
then, of course, he and Ed would have long discussions on “where do we go
from here,” because they didn‟t think totally alike but they always ended up
GS: How would you characterize their relationship?
NF: Oh, they were very fond of each other. They had so much respect for each other.
When Marriner got older, it was hard to keep up the momentum with him
because he would kind of lose track.
GS: What kind of time frame was that? You began to see him a lot in the late „60s.
How long was he pretty vital?
NF: He kept that office for quite awhile, and certainly after I moved down the hall with
Ed he was still there, but I don‟t remember what year he stopped coming in.
RS: He began to fade out of the picture in the early „70s.
NF: That could be.
GS: It probably would have been more when you were with Mr. Reeves.
NF: I certainly saw more of him then.
GS: Did Mr. Eccles talk at all about his early background in Utah growing up, that you
NF: It was wonderful because we would have certain days, well Marriner didn‟t do a
lot of this, but people would have Christmas parties and things. Everyone was
there from the top all the way down to the mail people, and you would have these
wonderful parties and people would sit around and talk and communicate, and it
went on year after year. A lot of times a bunch of us would go across the street to
the bar to have a drink. Ed or some of these people would come and join us,
which was unheard of in other situations, but they did it.
GS: Everyone was a family.
NF: It was definitely a family. And they all looked out for each other. It was amazing. I
had déjà vu in 1982. When my daughter was graduating from high school, she
didn‟t feel like going right to college and she worked in a boutique. Finally I said,
“Alright, you are going to go to Vienna,”—where my aunt had lived since before
the war, “—and stay with Tottie for a while.” So she went over there and it
worked. She studied German and went through all this stuff and then she came
back. During one of her stays over there, she was in a horrible car accident. The
whole thing was déjà vu. Absolutely dreadful. So, somehow, I had to go over
there and deal with that. Ed was unbelievable. Everybody there was just
unbelievable. They were so fair and constantly calling to check. It was definitely
GS: I‟m not sure we have on the tape the description you made about when you
started to work for Utah and shortly thereafter they donated blood to the hospital.
Would you mind telling us that again?
NF: Buzz had been in the hospital for a month, and when I started that job and told
them what had happened, I found out that they had donated like twelve pints of
blood to the hospital to make up for what he had received.
GS: Here you were just a brand new employee.
NF: They had never heard of me before, except that when I went in for the interview, I
gave them a reference of a man for whom I had worked in New York and they
called Norman, who said, “No, you can‟t hire her. You send her right back here.”
GS: You had great references.
RS: You mentioned, just a little bit about going to social affairs. As a person who was
very close to Ed, did you get involved in much of the social aspect of the
company? I mean, you said that the administrators would come over and have a
drink and this and that, but talk about that a little bit. We have heard a little bit
about the picnics.
NF: Oh, the picnics were great. They went on year after year and you would all
compete together, you would dance together.
GS: Very egalitarian.
NF: Oh very. They had bridge, so some of the bridge players wouldn‟t show up for
awhile, but then even they would all join in with the group. There were a lot of just
sit-around sessions at the office. Well, with the General Electric merger, of
course, I was working all the time with that, and everybody was very secretive
about everything, but the comradery among all the people was just incredible.
There was so much that went on in the company. We would have meetings and
things that always ended up having social aspects to them. It really seemed to
GS: Did the merger change things?
NF: Yes, it was very hard for a lot of people because the company had such an
incredible reputation. And, of course, as Ed said, “We have got to take care of
the shareholders. They have to come first.” He was right. Heaven knows what
would have happened if Australia had just suddenly said, “Well, we‟re going to
nationalize everything, and that‟s it.” So it was a brilliant move, but it was very
hard for a lot of people to take.
GS: What was the size of the staff before the merger and then after the merger?
What did the merger do?
NF: It didn‟t really change much because they left Utah as its own entity in many
ways. Of course, Ed was on the board at GE, so he had a close association, but
for the rest of it, very few people from GE came to San Francisco and got totally
involved in what was going on because they knew we had a lot more expertise in
that field than they did, which is, again, why they ended up selling us, because it
wasn‟t their field.
GS: When they sold to BHP, what kind of changes were there?
NF: That was worse. None of us were really very happy about all that. The
Australians—who I feel really wanted us because the company had been doing
so well in Australia—they had all this experience and had made lots of good
money. Of course, they kept pulling more and more of our people over to
Australia, but then kept trying to take over, so it was just like something moving in
on you. I think if they had left Utah to its own devices, in many ways, it would
have been much better off for both of us, because they didn‟t commingle very
well. And then BHP never really wanted to communicate with San Francisco,
they didn‟t want to get involved in anything here, politically or in any other way.
They came in with this company and didn‟t do a lot. They never did anything on a
charitable basis or for the community, so they weren‟t the best loved around.
GS: And they eliminated the Utah name.
NF: We were just heart-broken when all of this happened. Luckily, I was getting near
the end of things, because for me to see these people being moved out and then
away…a lot of good stuff went with all of that.
GS: They show very little interest, now, in Utah with regard to the collection and
getting cooperation from them.
NF: They wouldn‟t do anything when we were trying to collect all that stuff; they were
just shrugging their shoulders.
GS: Would you talk a little bit about the collection? Do you remember when I came
down and you helped us do all the research, and then Sterling began to work
with Ed to get the collection sent to Ogden?
NF: I wasn‟t as involved in that. Chris Grey worked for Bud Wilson. She had a lot to
do with it. She is from Utah, so she loved having it go there. I think the Utah
people had a little archive where a lot of it came from. Of course, reams of stuff
came from Littlefield‟s files and the photographs were incredible. Absolutely
GS: Somewhere in the neighborhood of a million photographs. So, you didn‟t have a
lot to do with it?
NF: I didn‟t have a lot to do with that, no. I was the secretary of the Executive
Committee. I was his administrative assistant, so I always had to do the
Executive Committee minutes and that type of thing. Of course, a lot of this thing
with the archives came much later, while I was working at home in 1992.
GS: What was a typical day like for Mr. Littlefield? About what time did he arrive and
what was he like?
NF: Thank goodness he didn‟t come in before 8:15 because I was rowing three days
a week. We would row in the bay and I would come into the office with my
clothes for the day, take a shower, and get all ready for work before he came. It
was terrific, because otherwise I never would have made it. He came in around
8:15. This is earlier, before he really started to retire. But he kept himself busy all
the time. He always had an agenda. He kept voracious notes—all those
notebooks that were in the closet outside the boardroom. He used to take lengthy
notes on everything that happened. Of course, he stopped doing that later. He
was on a number of boards when I first went to work for him. He was on all sorts
of boards of directors and, of course, our own board with meetings here and
there. He was constantly asked to give speeches. They were just marvelous.
When he dictated speeches, you hardly ever changed anything. Of course, he
would go back over them, but they were incredible, really good. He never got
bored in the office. He wouldn‟t just sit there. He kept things going. With these
administrative assistants, he was constantly pushing them to make something of
themselves. Leo commented on the phone yesterday, he said, “I‟ll never forget
him telling me „Move up from the bottom. Don‟t ever let me come from the top
and get you somewhere.‟” That sort of wording, but not exactly, and he took that
seriously, because he knew he had to move up on his own.
GS: What did he do for lunch everyday?
NF: When I worked there, we ate in or we would go to lunch or he would have
meetings. Of course, the Pacific Union Club was up the street and he would go
up there. He would have to play golf occasionally. He belonged to a lot of golf
courses so he had to make use of them. He traveled a lot, of course, in the
business end of things, a lot of trips to Japan and Australia in the earlier years.
When he got older, then he was president of the business council for a couple of
years, which was great for me because I would get to go back with him or get to
go to New York, occasionally, when he was going to meetings. He was busy. He
tried to find enough time for his family, which is hard to do when you are at the
top. There were so many people who just adored him. People in government
would have loved to have Ed come to D.C., and whatever he wanted to do they
would have put him in there. People like George Shultz and Kissinger, all those
people, called him about various things off and on, either soliciting information or
help. You have got to have a lot of respect for the guy. He was so straight-forward
with them. He wasn‟t ever dealing with anyone for his own end. If they
came to him with a question, he answered it in a way that was going to be good
for them. It had nothing to do with him. He was so fair that way. You didn‟t find
that with a lot of the other men that you met in business. You really didn‟t. It was
GS: They are in it for themselves sometimes.
NF: Yes. He was so proud of what he had been able to do. Of course, imagine
ending up being the biggest shareholder of General Electric, and all through your
RS: Look at what he did for all the other Utah shareholders.
GS: The Utah shareholders just did beautifully. Other than what you‟ve told us, what
do you think were the keys to his success as an executive in a big business?
NF: I think his childhood made a huge difference. I used to hear a lot about his
childhood with his parents being very strong…and, of course, his grandfather, the
Wattises and those people. He had to do a lot of learning on his own. He was a
very shy kid, as I understand. Well, actually, he was very shy as an adult if he
was in any kind of a situation with which he wasn‟t familiar. We would be going to
a meeting and would get into an elevator. I always talked to everybody in the
elevator and he couldn‟t believe that I could do this. He was very shy that way,
which I found fascinating because he could get up in front of a crowd of people
and just knock them over. They just loved him.
GS: So, his youth and heritage?
NF: Yes, and being switched back and forth from one parent to the other, I think,
made a big difference. He was constantly trying to please on either side. That
took a lot of adjusting. The whole time I knew him, he was ready to listen. He
would pay so much attention to what other people‟s needs were. I think he
learned from that, too, because he would utilize that in dealing with people. A few
times with friends of mine who were trying to make a switch in their life I would
say, “Ed, could you possibly talk to so and so?” He would be so delighted to do it.
They would be just blown away because they had so much respect for him. “He
listened to me.” I think that really helped to make him—he was constantly aware
of what was here and what was going to happen and that sort of thing, because
he was never taken too much by surprise at all. He didn‟t like surprises. You
couldn‟t give him a surprise party because he didn‟t like those.
GS: How did he run meetings? Did he set the agenda, or did you set the agenda?
NF: When Reeves was the corporate secretary, he would try to do all the agendas,
but Littlefield had the last word and they would always look to him to run the
meetings. Well, even when Marriner was chairman, Ed did more of the running of
it. Of course, he picked fabulous directors, as you well know: Arjay Miller and
Arbuckle, and all of those people were just incredible. They did so much.
RS: What do you see as your greatest help to him during all those years? What did
you do that made you the most proud?
NF: I don‟t know, but we adored each other. I think just because I never changed. I
was always, and always have been, just myself. I am just kind of out there. I am
always the same, no matter what circumstance I am in, which drives some
people crazy, I guess. I don‟t sit there and think what I‟m going to say. So he
knew me pretty well because he knew exactly what to expect, although he didn‟t
always expect to hear what he heard from me. We would have incredible
conversations about bringing up kids and that sort of thing; and, of course, I was
coming from a totally different direction, obviously, than he. On some points he
would end up agreeing with me. “I think you are doing the right thing.” But we
were able to sit down and talk, knowing it would never go anywhere else. Ed had
told me things that I‟m sure nobody else in the world had ever heard, you know,
of the insecure stuff or some of this sort of thing, that no one would want to hear
or expect to hear, but that he needed to relate to people. I think he and I did a
good job of that, and in confidence, you know. Which gave me a great feeling
because I think he had a lot of respect for the fact that he could totally trust me,
and I had so much respect for him.
RS: If you had to list three things that happened while you worked for Ed that are
memorable and exciting, bad or good, what would they be?
NF: There were so many. I used to have to do these intricate financial reports for him,
every month, and of course, you can imagine Ed. When I went to work there, I
didn‟t know a thing about finances or accounting, nothing. I would go in and say,
“I can‟t do this.” He would just say, “You can do it.” So I would go back and I
would struggle and I would end up figuring it out. Well anyway, over the years, I
will never forget the day that he walked by the desk and I said, “Ed, I want you to
know, you are now a billionaire.” He was like, “Wow.” That was so great.
There were just so many wonderful stories with him. Of course, each of
his kids got married and there was the grandfather thing. Although he couldn‟t be
with them all the time, he was thrilled with the family. Jeannik was so great for
him because she handled all of the household stuff and the various properties.
GS: Do you remember when the company went public? That was before you worked
NF: Yes, but I certainly remember it. That was incredible. It was a big moment in his
life, too. He was so proud of that.
GS: In the early „70s, he began to worry about the company focusing too much on
Australia, and then the Marcona stuff. Did you witness him worrying? Did he talk
with you about that?
NF: He was constantly concerned. He would look at me and he would say, “We have
way too many of our assets over there and we have got to diversify.”
GS: Either diversify or merge.
NF: Yes, or merge. Of course, he relied on the geologists and the rest of those
people. He was wonderful about using people to make the company better and
he was so good at that. Well, you could see him struggling with it, and yet he was
always on top of it. I think it must have been in the back of his mind for a long
time, that he knew exactly what he was going to do because he had to do it; he
just had to do it. Luckily, he had Ray Jones and some of that.
GS: Well, his concern for the shareholders was obvious in the book.
NF: That was most important.
GS: I was just amazed. It would have been easy for a CEO to say, “Well I‟ve got my
billion,” but he couldn‟t do that.
NF: Oh, he never could have done that.
RS: Where do you think that loyalty to the shareholders came from? The fact that a
lot of them were family?
NF: I don‟t think it was just that. He had the right kind of discipline for something like
that. When they made him the chairman of the business council, that was an
incredible time, but he knew that people had faith in him, that they trusted in him,
and that they were relying on him. It was obvious he had to do the right thing for
the shareholders. He wouldn‟t have had it any other way. He never would have
walked off and said, “I‟m happy, good-bye.” A lot of people would do that, which
GS: Were there two or three people that he had a lot of confidence in, that he had a
lot of trust in, that advised him more than others?
NF: Well, it all depended on what it was about, you know. With the mining end:
Wilson. Jim Curry was his protégé; he adored Jim, and Jim did a lot for him over
the years. That is interesting because Jim and Leo were very competitive with
each other. You better not tell Jim I talked to Leo. But he had a lot of faith in him.
And Reeves, he knew he had him there for the right reason because of the legal
background. Of course, Orville Dykstra, as well. He had a lot of faith in each of
them for different reasons. Keith Wallace and all those mining people were so
valuable. Wes Berret. In construction, what was his name? Starts with a C. Oh,
Sparry was one of them, but there was another one. Chamberlain? He would
regularly bring these people in for whatever purpose they were named to take
care of, and he never avoided working with any of them. He would have them in
separately or in groups. He wanted the satisfaction of what each of them had to
offer, which I found wonderful. And then, of course, the administrative assistants
he had over the years brought him all sorts of different facets. That worked, too.
They could also communicate with some of the division people and then get back
GS: He had hired most of these people, right?
NF: They were mostly from Stanford and had gotten their MBAs. He would interview
them and decide whether or not he wanted them. That really worked for him. He
loved that because they, of course, could do all the research and then come to
him with, “My feeling is you should go here or here.” He would weigh it and
make his decision.
RS: Now, you witnessed him dealing with the board of directors. Talk about that a bit
because that is a little different.
NF: Yes, but he wasn‟t all that formal. Of course, some of them were family—the
Brownings, and the Dees, and all that. He had known all those people for so
many years. If it had to do with banking, George Eccles would come in. A lot of
them had a lot to offer, but not as much, by a long shot, as people like Arjay
Miller and Arbuckle, those people on whom he relied a lot because they were
outside the company and he got that wonderful pump from people outside.
RS: I guess what I‟m asking is: a lot of CEOs deal really easily with the vice
presidents, but when they deal with the board, they have a real problem.
NF: No, he wasn‟t like that at all. Of course, they would debate things and come up
with an answer on which everyone agreed, but he was never in a really
vulnerable position with the board of directors. They just adored him. They might
disagree, which was wonderful because then they could all work out the right
solution; he was amazing that way.
GS: What time of day did he usually go home, on the average?
NF: Early on, he would stay till six or something, so that he didn‟t have to drive with
the traffic, I think was a lot of that. Towards the end, of course, he would just
come and go as he pleased. Then he had a driver, too.
GS: Did he drive most of the time?
NF: Yes. He loved to drive. I still have his 1990 BMW downstairs which he gave me
in 2001. I love it. They had a number of cars. They had like three BMWs, two
jeeps. The duck hunts and things—he had to have a jeep up there. Then they
had to have a jeep in the desert. So there were a number of cars around, but he
loved to drive, and he felt much better driving than having someone drive him,
until he got older. Of course, he was always on time to get everywhere, except
for once that I remember. My daughter and son-in-law and their two kids were
here and we invited Jeannik and Ed to dinner. They were supposed to be here at
six-thirty or something. They were never late for anything, ever. Well, he had this
driver who wasn‟t the regular driver, and of course, you get two men in a car, and
they absolutely refused to ask for directions. They got totally lost. I‟m sure he
must have had a cell phone and he was too embarrassed to call, so they kept
driving. Finally, we were calling the house and talking to the maid, who said,
“Well, gosh, they left ages ago.” They finally arrived totally mortified. I mean,
absolutely. I said, “Well, why didn‟t you call?” And Jeannik is saying, “Well, of
course, they can‟t call.” They were so sure they were right. But usually he drove
GS: He loved to hunt, too.
NF: He loved to hunt, but not animals so much. He would go on the Hewlett Packard
deer hunt and he would make sure that he didn‟t shoot one. Down in Florida he
would go on these wonderful quail shoots with a bunch of people. He loved that,
and golf he adored. He loved to fish.
GS: Where did he go fishing?
NF: I know he went to Sun Valley a lot. One of the Dumkes had a place there and
they would go fishing a lot. He would go up to Northern California with people. He
belonged to the California Fishing something-or-other, and they would go on
trips. He loved to fish.
RS: Mrs. Littlefield told us that they loved to entertain.
NF: She would set it all up with the caterers and arrange all of it. She wouldn‟t cook. It
could be at the apartment, it could be at the house, it could be down in the
desert, because they had a number of homes.
GS: Did he keep an apartment in the city?
NF: Yes. His mother moved here from Salt Lake or wherever, and he found her an
apartment on Knob Hill, right across from the Pacific Union Club on Sacramento
Street. It was on the thirteenth floor with a gorgeous view of the whole city. We
used to run up there and watch the Blue Angels fly. They would come right in
front of our noses. That was where she lived until she died. They kept the
apartment so that if they were going to the opera or something, they could just
stay there in the city. They had that and they had the house in Burlingame. Then
they bought the house behind them, which was on Pepper Street, in order to
have control over it because there was a bridge that went over a stream. Then he
had two Duck Club houses, and then, of course, in the El Dorado Country Club
they had one of the houses that was part of that country club. When they joined
Indian Wells, they built a gorgeous home that is just beautiful. She, of course,
kept that. She has sold most of the others. She sold the house in Burlingame and
she sold the one behind them and the apartment was sold. She kept the Indian
Wells, which she loved. She loves it down there. Then she lives in that beautiful
apartment where you were today, and you met Roman?
GS: We did.
NF: He takes very good care of her.
RS: Does he stay there all the time?
NF: No, he has an apartment in the desert. Maybe now he stays at the house. I‟m not
sure. That is where she found him—down in the desert and he had his own
place. I‟m not sure on the details. He has been very faithful to her.
RS: He seems like a great guy.
NF: He is. He only ever leaves her alone for any period of time when he does the
bike ride from here to L.A. for the AIDS fundraiser. He does that every year.
RS: He‟s been with her almost since Ed died.
NF: Well, the first fellow that he had, Kevin, used to live across the street from me.
He used to chauffeur on an on-call basis. When Ed was looking for someone, I
thought, “Gee, this might just work.” Kevin was with him for quite a long time and
it was great because he really took good care of him, too. Kevin would get very
involved in, “What‟s this with the medications you‟re taking?” It all got very
confusing. He is the one that went into the doctor with him and said, “I think he‟s
taking too many. We‟ve got to figure all of this out.” He was very good that way
and took very good care of them, but then he died. He had cancer. So then they
found Roman and it‟s been a few years now.
GS: You keep pretty good touch with a lot of Utah people. Is there kind of a family
NF: Sort of. A lot of us women get together for lunches and things. Jim Curry has a
few of us for a Christmas lunch with him and Barbara once a year, which is nice.
I should do more. I feel so guilty. I should really do more of it, but I‟m too busy
GS: You stopped rowing?
NF: I stopped rowing. I did it for twelve years. I loved stationary seat rowing where
you have eight rowers sitting two by two. I did it for twelve years and we had a
fabulous team. The company had a boat which I hadn‟t even heard of. I was
playing racquetball all the time and wanted to find somebody at the company to
play racquetball with so we could drive to work. I started asking around. This one
gal said, “Well, I‟ll come and try racquetball if you‟ll come and get in the boat and
try the rowing.” Well, I had no idea. They stuck me in the boat and she never
ended up playing racquetball except once, but it was so great. Did you ever hear
of the TriReme that they built? The English built this ancient, ancient TriReme
and kept it in Greece. The first year they tried to make it work, they used all
sliding-seat rowers from Great Britain. Well, it wouldn‟t move because they
needed stationary seat rowers. So they heard about us, and about twenty-five of
us went to Greece. I was by far the oldest woman there, and except for one the
oldest of anybody there. They had 172 rowers sitting on three levels rowing
totally synchronized. It was unbelievable. I have videos of it.
RS: I remember reading about that. When was that?
NF: It was 1988 that we went.
GS: Ed must have been very supportive of all your outside activities.
NF: He was great. I would say, “Okay, I‟m out of here. I‟ve got a boat race.” He would
even come to some of the races. He was terrific that way.
GS: That is terrific. What have we not asked you about Utah Construction that we
NF: I wish I knew more of this. You‟ve got to get to Jim Curry and people like that
who know more of the detail.
GS: Why don‟t we end now and we can be thinking about some things, if you wouldn‟t
mind. If we have some other things we can come back and chat with you and get
some other names. Does that sound alright?
GS: We very much appreciate it.
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