An amazing life comes to an end

| 30 Sep 2011 | 08:19

Wife to an assassinated king, falsely imprisoned mother, lover of life, By David Hulse PORT JERVIS, N.Y. — Two days short of her 73rd birthday, Port Jervis artist, Genevieve Arnault succumbed to pancreatic cancer on June 20, 2010. A short obituary hinted of a story that few of those who knew her locally had ever heard. A Parisian native, Genevieve Arnault had been married to a Middle Eastern king, was convicted and imprisoned for three years on sexual abuse charges filed by her children. Eric Hedick, the man she lived with says those claims were eventually recanted. Hedick said he met “Gen” through a mutual friend Marcel Schneider, and through him both of them came to Port Jervis. She lived there since 1984 and eventually purchased Schneider’s home upon his death in the mid-1990s. “We were lovers. She felt unprotected and I was her protector,” he said Hedick said of Arnault. He recounted some of the adventure and tragedy of Arnault’s life. Her mother was the German silent-flim actress, Lony Ness, who met and married French Chemist Henri Arnault in Europe. Much of Genevieve’s early life was colored by World War II in France. Hedick said Ness worked with the French Resistance which led to her and her daughter’s confinement in a Nazi concentration camp. “She spoke of watching German planes being shot down,” he said. Royal involvement After the war, Life Magazine reported that 10 year-old Gen met King Faisal II of Iraq, 13, in Switzerland in 1948 while both were vacationing. Life reported the young king was “smitten.” That same year Genevieve and her mother came to the US, where no longer in film, her mother was described in publications as a “construction engineer.” In 1952, Faisal visited the US, met Genevieve again and renewed their acquaintance. Life said Arnault and her mother traveled to Iraq twice after that. Hedick said Genevieve recounted her mother’s development of a furniture business, catering to the wealthy in Iraq. At the same time Genevieve and Faisal became “unofficially” engaged and then married on June 22, 1957. Hedick says she left the country at Faisal’s insistence as revolution was imminent. Life reported that she and her mother were “unceremoniously kicked out,” in the spring of 1958. Faisal was assassinated in July. Life and Time both wrote of Arnault in 1963, when a New York court upheld her claim to more than $100,000 in Faisal’s account in a New York City bank. “The tale told by blond Genevieve Arnault was right out of Arabian Nights,” Life Magazine wrote in March of 1963, “but it convinced a sober New York surrogate.” Hedick said he still finds state department documents at home from John Foster Dulles and Dean Rusk seeking “the queen’s signature.” Later years Hedick said Arnault married and later divorced a Long Island, N.Y. man. She had two sons, who survive her. Her children’s charges of sexual abuse later got her imprisoned for three years at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women. While Hedick says her sons’ claims were recanted, the charges were not expunged. Hedick says Arnault refused to press the legal matter, saying “I didn’t do it and I won’t.” She came to Port Jervis shortly after her release, lived quietly, took up her art and exhibited. According to a bio from a 2006 show at Orange County Community College, “She self-taught herself painting, and then, perfected her skills by attending classes at the Arts Student League in Manhattan. Well-known for bright colors and exciting compositions in her interpretations of landscapes, still lifes, and figures, her paintings are testament that she is not afraid of color.” She would not trade on the notoriety of her life, Hedick said. “She didn’t want to be famous. She was very happy to be a starving artist and involved in the community.” Milford’s Safe Haven was listed in her obituary as a place for donations in lieu of flowers. Safe Haven administrator Peggy Emmanuel said a donated painting of Arnault’s hangs at the women’s shelter. Near death, Hedick recalls her reaction, “Who knew that dying could be so much fun.” “She was more than a survivor. She enjoyed life in spite of living through every piece of crap that mankind could do to someone,” he said.