Vivienne Myers was a trailblazer, a world traveler and a collector of beautiful things.
Burning with patriotic fervor, she chopped her hair off at the start of World War II, donned a military uniform, and drove a half-ton truck as one of the first members of a new Army branch for women.
She learned to speak Japanese while living in Japan with her second husband. She was granted an audience with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi while living in Iran with her third.
She filled her homes with treasures: a massive hand-made table, a stunning Oriental screen hand-painted on silk.
Her younger sister, born when Mrs. Myers was 18, knew her first as a flickering image in a black-and-white newsreel, the type that preceded feature films in the days before TV.
"It was the first-year anniversary of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps," said Pat Smith, now 71, recalling an evening in the early 1940s when her parents had taken her to the movies. There on the screen was her sister, Vivienne.
"She was cutting this enormous cake with a big sword," Smith said. "All the WACs were standing around her smiling."
Mrs. Myers died Sept. 7 under the care of Suncoast Hospice. She was 90.
Smith, who lives in Port Norris, N.J., didn't spend much time with her sister until the mid 1950s when Mrs. Myers married her second husband, an Army Air Corps captain she'd known since fifth grade. The sisters parted again when Mrs. Myers followed him to the Japanese island of Honshu.
They reconnected when Mrs. Myers came home to New Jersey, got divorced and began working as an executive secretary. But it wasn't long before Earle Myers, who had been in love with her nearly three decades earlier, re-entered her life. When he proposed a second time, she said yes, and the couple moved to Tehran, where Myers worked for Mobil Oil. They came home in 1974 and moved to Dunedin in 1980.
After Myers died in 1987, Mrs. Myers moved to Pinecrest Place, a retirement center in Largo. For years, she ran the center's bridge groups every Monday afternoon.
In 1991 Pinecrest named her "Pinecrest Place Personality of the Month." An article in the Pinecrest Press described her as "a lovely lady with an infectious laugh."
Toward the end of her life, dementia clouded her mind. Her family refused to put her in a nursing home and hired round-the-clock caregivers to watch over her. She came under hospice care about a year ago.
Jennifer Turney, a hospice counselor who began caring for Mrs. Myers when she could no longer speak, remembered the glow in her eyes, the nice smile.
Having heard pieces of her story, Turney said she wished she had met Mrs. Myers sooner.
Vivienne T. Myers
Born: June 9, 1919.
Died: Sept. 7, 2009.
Survivors: Sister, Pat Smith; daughter, P. Kyle Elsman; two stepchildren, Nancy Schwartz and Bruce Myers; and six grandchildren.