ANARGYROS, Nedra F. Harrison — Model, entertainer, spy, and retired cytologist, passed away September 20, 2004, age 88. Nedra was born in New York, NY, on December 3, 1915.
Preceded in death by parents, Leverette Roland and Florence Martha (Pickard) Harrison, and grandmother Florence Willingham Pickard. Survived by half-brother, Roland “Butch” Harrison of Live Oaks, FL. She marred sculptor Spero Drosos Anargyros October 21, 1940, and they divorced in 1969.
Nedra attended public schools in Delray Beach, Fl. and graduated from Tifton High School in Georgia. She also attended Emerson College in Boston from 1934-1936 and UC San Francisco in 1949. Nedra worked as a Power’s model in 1938, was the original model for The Dragon Lady of Milton Canoff’s Terry & the Pirates in 1939, and posed for Salvador Dali for his painting “Madonna of the Sea.” She rode the Quadrille on horseback for the first year of the New York World’s Fair in the Wild West and Rodeo. Nedra had a small role in Albert Johnson’s “The American Jubilee,” 1939-1940. Nedra was a licensed pilot, graduating from a pilot training program at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, TX, in 1942.
Nedra, who was fluent in seven or eight languages, served the Allied cause during World War Two as an undercover agent with the OSS in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. She often was able to obtain valuable secrets by becoming the mistress of enemy officers and diplomats. She once escaped capture by shooting a Nazi officer whose mistress she had become as part of her spying mission.
Following the war, Nedra studied biology. She supervised the cytology lab at UCSF and San Francisco General Hospital and retired in 1988. She was a member of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, American Society of Cytotechonology, Women Flyers of America, Daughters of the American Revolution, (nat. 1st v. regent 1970), DAR of SF/LA Puerta de Oro chapter (regent 1990), Colonial Dames of America, Huguenot Society of California, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Phi Mu Gamma, President’s Club of Mercer University (Macon, Georgia), and a Christian Scientist. Nedra was a worldwide traveler and loved to scuba dive. Memorial donations may be made to First Church of Christ, Scientist, San Francisco, California or to the SPCA of San Francisco.
NEPTUNE SOCIETY OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA 415-771-0717
Nedra Harrison Anargyros — model for cartoon Dragon Lady
Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published 4:00 am, Tuesday, October 5, 2004
Nedra Florence Harrison Anargyros, a woman of eclectic pursuits — she was the model for the Dragon Lady in Milton Caniff‘s cartoon “Terry and the Pirates” and later became a pilot, a scuba diver and a cytologist — died Sept. 20 in San Francisco. She was 88. Ms. Anargyros was married for nearly 30 years to sculptor Spero Drosos Anargyros, who died Sept. 10. The couple divorced in 1969.
Ms. Anargyros was a woman who largely kept her personal life to herself. Both her San Francisco attorney and her half brother in Florida mused aloud Monday how they wished they’d taken the time to learn more about her life.
Graced with a kind of exotic beauty, she grew up in the rural South and graduated from high school, in Tifton, Ga., where she was “Miss Tifton High School.” From 1934 to 1936, she studied at Emerson College in Boston and then moved to Florida and acted at the Sarasota Playhouse. That was followed by a move to New York, where she became a model.
In 1939, according to a 1980 article about Ms. Anargyros in the Tifton Gazette, Caniff was casting about for a character for his comic strip, and he had sent to a modeling agency a sketch of what he was looking for — something along the lines of the actress Joan Crawford. At the time, Ms. Anargyros was trying to become an actress and was modeling to pay the rent.
“Unfortunately,” she told the Gazette, “there weren’t many modeling jobs in the late 1930s for those with my looks — I had dark hair and a French- Oriental look.” Then her agent called and told her to go see Caniff.
“I went to see him and, when I walked in, he was looking at a big photo of me,” she told the Georgia newspaper. “He looked up as I came in and said, ‘There she is. That’s my Dragon Lady. She even has the dimple in her chin.’ “
At about the same time, she obtained a pilot’s license and became a member of Women Flyers of America.
In 1949, she came to San Francisco and eventually studied cytology, that part of biology that entails the study of cells. According to her attorney and longtime friend, William Holsman, she eventually supervised the cytology laboratory at UC San Francisco.
Two years after her divorce, she became a certified scuba diver. For a brief period in the 1970s, she was married to Chauncey Street Conger, but that marriage, too, ended in divorce, Holsman said. For many years she lived in a historical landmark-registered 1871 Victorian house in the 2500 block of Clay Street, and she worked at the lab until her retirement in 1988.
Despite her adventures in modeling and her worldwide image as the Dragon Lady in Caniff’s famed comic strip, Ms. Anargyros was not much given to brag about herself or aggrandize her various achievements.
“I was her friend and her attorney for many years,” Holsman said, “and she wasn’t given to talking about her personal history.”
But she did have an acute interest in American history — her family goes back generations — and particularly in the history of south Georgia. According to the Tifton Gazette, her grandfather, William Pickard, was once president of Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and Holsman said the bulk of her estate, some $3 million, most of which will come from the sale of her house, will go to Mercer.
In reminiscing about her Monday, Holsman said, as he described what he knew of her life, “I was thinking, why didn’t I do some oral history or something.” And from Live Oak, Fla., her half brother, Leverette Roland Harrison Jr., said, when discussing Ms. Anargyros’ life, that he wished he’d “taken the time” to ask his sister more questions about her life.
Holsman said Ms. Anargyros preferred memorial donations be sent to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1700 Franklin St., San Francisco, CA 94109 or to the San Francisco SPCA, 2500 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94103.