Zoe Dell Lantis Nutter - Golden Gate International Exposition "Theme Girl" and Aviation Pioneer: 1915-2020

Zoe Dell Lantis Nutter, the "Theme Girl" of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition responsible for promoting the GGIE from coast-to-coast, passed away peacefully at her Ohio home on April 22, 2020.  She was 104 years old. 

Picture of Zoe Dell Lantis 'Theme Girl' at the Golden Gate International Exposition with grapes

A private funeral service will be held, and a public memorial will be scheduled for a later date. Memorial gifts may be made to the Dayton Engineers Club, 110 E Monument Ave, Dayton, OH 45402, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, 1100 Spaatz St, Dayton, OH 45433, or the charity of your choice. 

From the San Francisco Chronicle article "Zoe Dell Lantis, ‘theme girl’ of 1939 Treasure Island expo, dies at 104"

Whiting, S. (2020, April 26) Zoe Dell Lantis, 'theme girl' of 1939 Treasure Island expo, dies at 104. San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved from http://www.SFChronicle.com

"According to an interview that appeared in “The San Francisco Fair,” a book published on the fair’s 50th anniversary, Lantis described how she came to San Francisco at age 18 to pursue her dream of joining the San Francisco Ballet. She was working at a nightclub when she auditioned to be a “theme girl” for the exposition and spent two years on the road doing advance publicity.

She was not the only theme girl. There were several, “but Zoe Dell rose to the top because of her talent and personality,” said Schnoebelen. “She was strong, she was brave, she had a beautiful smile and people just loved her.”

In her skimpy pirate suit, Lantis skied, handled jumping frogs, rode a horse in a rodeo, and rode an elephant in the circus at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“It was supposed to look like glamour,” she later recalled. “I’d almost freeze to death sometimes. In sleet and snow. I never wore a coat.”

While in New York, she visited Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to talk him into leaving his own world’s fair for the exposition in San Francisco. When she arrived in her usual outfit, La Guardia demanded she be covered in a fur coat. She did not get La Guardia to visit, but she got a lot of publicity for her efforts. She had better luck with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom she met during her barnstorming tour. He was unable to attend but sent first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Zoe Dell was terrific because she became a symbol of a youthful quality and beauty and, oh my God, what energy,” said historian Richard Reinhardt, author of “Treasure Island: San Francisco’s Exposition Years.”

The Golden Gate International Exposition opened on Feb. 18, 1939, and had two seasons. In all, it was open for 372 days before closing for good on Sept. 29, 1940. Lantis traveled throughout the run. When she wasn’t on the road, she was at the fair, as a dancer and emcee. She introduced big bands, including Benny Goodman and the Dorsey Brothers.

“The fair was a development ahead of its time. They had colored lights, colored photography, aviation, the atom smasher from Berkeley, and the first microwave ovens and televisions,” she would recall later. “I’ve seen a lot of World’s Fairs. I’m invited to every one as an official visitor, and I’d say ours was one of the most wonderful I could ever imagine.”

Cup-bearers Doris Hillers and Aileen Poole balancing Zoe Dell Lantis atop a huge wine glass Image of Zoe Dell Lantis 'Theme Girl' at the Golden Gate International Exposition posing in front of the Seal of the Great State of California

From the Dayton Daily News article "Actress, pilot and philanthropist Zoe Dell Nutter dies peacefully at home"

Stewart, C. (2020, April 22) Actress, pilot and philanthropist Zoe Dell Nutter dies. Dayton Daily News retrieved from http://www.DaytonDailyNews.com

"She had a brief acting career and was part of the USO during World War II. 

Nutter and her first husband became pilots after her dancing career ended, and she became a spokesperson for Piper Aviation in the 1960s. 

She received her commercial, multi-engine instrument rating at Chicago’s Midway Airport. 

“I figured if you could get your instrument rating in Chicago with the weather they have, you could fly anywhere,”she recalled in 2015. 

She was also California’s representative at the World’s Fair in Brussels, which led to her becoming the “Flying Ambassador” to the Century 21 Exposition at Seattle and the New York World’s Fair. 

She met Ervin Nutter, the owner of Elano Corporation — an aerospace industry company — during a business trip to Dayton. The couple married in 1965. 

At Elano, she headed the Small Aircraft Division and became one of the company’s pilots. The development of a new manifold came when she urged more performance to power planes over mountains, according to her Dayton Walk of Fame biography."

From the WDTN.com online article "Zoe Dell Nutter, widow of Ervin J. Nutter, dies at 104" 

Zoe Dell Nutter, Widow Of Ervin J. Nutter, Dies At 104
WDTN.com Staff - https://www.wdtn.com/news/local-news/zoe-dell-nutter-widow-of-ervin-j-nu...

"She was an icon through her life, and as First Lady Laura Bush presented Zoe Dell with the Ford’s Theater Lincoln Medal at the White House in 2006, she said, “Few women can claim to be a dancer, a model, a huntress, an aviator, a philanthropist and a pirate…Zoe Dell Lantis Nutter is one of them.”