Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life of Gladys Towles Root

Marriage of Like Minds

Unlike so many career women of her era, Root did not remain single. Nor did she forego motherhood. However, neither did she abandon her career after her children were born.

In 1930, she married sheriffs deputy Frank Root. The marriage lasted 11 years and produced one child, Robert Towles Root. The couple divorced in 1941.

In 1943, Root married John Jay Geiger, a representative for a fashion magazine. The next year, their daughter Christina was born.

The marriage appears to have been a very happy one. As Daniellson wrote, Root and Geiger were soul mates. Geiger worked as his wifes office manager for many years and appeared to have a sense of fashion that was as extreme as that of his wife. For example, he wore a vicuna suit in which the jacket lapels were mink, as were all buttons . . . His cufflinks were also mink. He often had a pet parrot named Pablo astride his shoulder. One evening, the trio Gladys, Jay, and Pablo were at a restaurant. A judge who had ruled against Root the day before was also there and Pablo gave him a vicious bite. Although coincidental, it seemed somehow appropriate to some observers that a pet should so closely and dramatically reflect the feelings of his human family.

A monkey with an organ grinder (AP)
A monkey with an organ grinder (AP)
The couple kept their marriage fresh by surprising each other with gifts. Root once presented Geiger with a little monkey she had purchased from an organ grinder. The animals name was Charley and when Root gave him to Geiger, the monkey was dressed in a tiny sports jacket, top hat, and striped trousers. Charley had a habit of stealing from people. He would bring the loot to the exasperated Geiger who would return it as soon as he could. Eventually, he realized he simply could not take care of the critter and Charley ended up in a zoo.

Root once remarked to Geiger that, reincarnated she would like to return to the world wearing white and riding on the back of a winged elephant. On her birthday, Geiger surprised her with an elephant sporting broad cardboard wings. A few days later Root dressed in white and went for a ride on the back of Geigers present. Unfortunately for the street sweepers of their neighborhood, the sidewalk soon bore the calling cards of pachyderm poop.

Years later, on The Steve Allen Show Root told the audience that she was hopeful of reincarnation rather than heaven. To the energetic attorney, an eternity of sitting on a cloud and strumming a harp was not particularly attractive.

Root suffered a major trauma when her husband became seriously ill. She awoke one morning to the sounds of Geiger moaning piteously. The hospital found he had a pancreatic cyst. It was removed but another took its place. His pancreas was in dire straits and, already weakened, he caught pneumonia. Doctors rescued him from the brink of death several times. His liver and gall bladder started malfunctioning and he seemed to be developing diabetes.

After three years of this agony, Geiger had become addicted to the morphine that was given to ease his pain. He suffered the additional pains of withdrawal. Suicide was increasingly on his mind and he made attempts to end his own life. They were foiled, often by his loyal and loving wifes quick thinking. He underwent surgery to remove a part of his stomach.

Root had a bedroom in their residence turned into an operating room because Geiger said he could not stand to go into the hospital anymore. She hired round-the-clock nursing care. On one alarming occasion, her husband made a suicide attempt when his nurse was out of the room.

When Root asked her why, the woman explained, I just stepped out for a few minutes break.

Your few minutes may have cost my husband his life! an infuriated Root screamed before firing the nurse.

Luckily, however, it did not.

Eventually, Geiger rallied. His health improved to the extent that he was able to leave the sickroom behind for about two years. He returned to managing his wifes office but gave it up after a couple of months because he lacked the stamina. He then took up a new hobby: gourmet cooking.

Suddenly, his health took a drastic turn for the worse. On the way to the hospital, Root accompanied him to the hospital. Im going to die in four days, the sick man told her.

Root spent the entire fourth day beside her husbands hospital bed. He died precisely at midnight. That was in 1958. Root lived until 1982 but never married again.



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