By Emily J. Minor
GULF STREAM — Ethel Sloan Allen, the consummate Great Gatsby girl whose coming out as a debutante was much ballyhooed by the famous New York gossip writer, Cholly Knickerbocker, died Oct. 26 at her home in Gulf Stream. She was 92. “She really was the end of an era,” said her daughter, Renee Allen Rand.
Born in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Allen was the daughter of Col. and Mrs. Thomas Donaldson Sloan. The couple reared their six children on Long Island, where Mrs. Allen attended the Lawrence School in Hewlett, N.Y.
Nicknamed “Bam,” Mrs. Allen made her coming out in 1937. Reading from a yellowed clipping, Rand said Knickerbocker wrote at the time that her mother dressed in a “rather exotic manner” and that she lit up a room with her “hearty laugh.”
And while some descriptions in the old social column seemed a bit off-center, Rand said it was certainly true that her mother’s laugh was unmistakable.
“She really did have the most incredible laugh,” her daughter said. “You could always easily find her in a room by her laugh.”
Along with her sense of style, beauty and grace, Mrs. Allen had a rather historic family background. A descendent of the Mayflower settlers, Mrs. Allen was a member of the Colonial Dames of America and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was also the great-great-granddaughter of Gen. Rene de Russy, Harvard class of 1812, a prominent Army general for whom five U.S. forts were named.
Mrs. Allen attended the American School of Design in New York City, and kept her magnificent sense of style and grace all through her years.
“She had a style all her own,” Rand said. “Even in her 70s and 80s, people would turn and look when she walked into a room.”
Mrs. Allen was married several times, and began coming to Gulf Stream with her husband at the time in the mid-1970s.
The couple joined the Gulf Stream Bath & Tennis Club, and Rand remembers when all the grown-ups used to “sit around the pool, enjoying the evenings, with their cocktails.
“The club was a huge part of their lives back then,” she said.
Although Mrs. Allen was well enough last spring to travel north to escape the Florida summer, Rand said her mother had grown increasingly more fragile in recent months. She died just a few weeks after returning to Florida, in the home where she had first begun staying in 1976.
In addition to Rand, who lives in Sugar Grove, N.C., Mrs. Allen is survived by a second daughter, Evelyn Sloan O’Neil, of Golf, Fla., and six grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in North Carolina, but no date has been set.