Aris Nyad Timeline

Aris Nyad.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called him a “wealthy Greek land developer.” The Miami Herald called him “Aris Nyad, of Greek shipping interests.” Some thought him a military hero, others a college professor, and others a wild, gun-wielding duke. When he eloped with Lucy Sneed, Diana Nyad’s mother, the Miami Daily News dubbed him a “wealthy mystery man about town.”

Except for the “mystery” part, Aris Z. Nyad was none of those things: he was a pathological liar and a con man. He scooped Lucy up into his gorgeous Greek arms and hied her to the altar, wedding himself to her and her bank accounts. For a brief time, Lucy’s money gave Aris everything he wanted: access to multiple homes, yachts, and opportunities to mingle with the rich and famous while pretending to be one of them.

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Early in her career, Diana Nyad spoke frankly about her step-father:

An aristocratic bum. A goodlooking, big, muscular Greek type, big curly Afro hair, very statuesque-looking, and he looked so terrific, and talked so well, spoke seven foreign languages, and he taught at Oxford for two years, and was very—knew everybody and everything. And, I even knew as a 10-year-old: I knew he was a liar (“What Makes Diana Nyad Swim”).

She was more succinct in the New York Times’ “Marathon Woman,” declaring that her step-father was “remarkably handsome and pathologically devious.”


Aristotle Z. Nyad Comes to America

1940, 28 May — Arrives in U.S. as crewman aboard S.S. Nea Hellas, then deserts.
The manifest for the ship Nea Hellas lists an “Aristot. Naidis” under the heading, “DESERTED SEAMEN (Continued).” The ship left Piraeus, Greece, on 11 May, arriving in New York on the  28th:

  • “Statement of Master of Vessel Regarding Changes in Crew Prior to Departure”: lo-res  | hi-res
  • First page of the Nea Hellas passenger manifest (for reference): lo-res | hi-res
The 1st Mrs. Nyad: Mary Kalamaridis

1940, Sep 26 — Obtains marriage license.

1940, Oct 5 — Marries Mary Kalamaridis in New Jersey:

1940, Oct 16 — Registers for draft.

1940, Oct 28 — Demonstrates at the Greek consulate in New York.
On the day Italy invaded Aris’s homeland, he joined “scores of young men [who] visited the consulate to express readiness to go to Greece to aid in the fight” (NY Herald Tribune, 29 Oct 1940). Aris, however, may have attended more in body than spirit. “[A] drive for funds for the Greek Red Cross” presented a grand opportunity for the fetching and fraudulent military hero to gather funds for himself. (See also New York Herald Tribune Archive Holds Nyad-related Gems.”)

Aris Nyad’s War Effort

1941, Nov — Deported to Canada from New York.
See “Wined, Dined Visitor Branded Imposter,” a 1943 article that mentions 1941 arrest.

1941, 29 Nov — Arrives in Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force.
(Note: Aris probably doesn’t know how to fly an airplane.)

See also the 6 Dec 1941 Lethbridge Herald, which reports that Aris is “the first Greek war flier to enlist” in the RCAF. This more detailed article about the episode — “Greek War Flier Joins Air Force” —answers at least one question that the previous article raises, i.e. how did Aris manage to stay out of the cockpit given that he didn’t know how to fly? He made it a language problem.

He is starting from the bottom in the Canadian service, hoping to become a full-fledged pilot. He speaks English fairly well although he has had little chance to really learn it, and admits the language will be a serious difficulty in enabling him to obtain his wings.

The article does NOT clarify who was lying to whom. Did U.S. authorities lie to Canadian authorities about Nyad? Or did Canadian authorities know about Nyad but lie to the press? Or . . . ?

Also see 6 Dec 1941 Saskatoon Star Phoenix, “Greek Enlists in Canuck Air Force.”

And here’s another article that demonstrates Nyad’s flair for fraud:

Excerpt: “He worriedly asked the jailer if his uniform was properly on a hanger.”

1942 — Arrested in New York for entering the U.S. Illegally.
See “Member of RCAF.”

Aris Goes From the Beverly House to the Big House

1943 — Arrested in Beverly Hills for immigration violations and gun possession.
Beverly Hills police take Nyad into custody at the Beverly House Hotel while he posed as a Greek military hero. From “Hollywood Trip Ends in Arrest”:

He said he served seven or eight years in the Greek navy as a flyer, was wounded, and came to this country to spur Greek morale.

(NOTE: According to “Hollywood Trip . . .,” the police take Aris into custody at “120 S. Laskey Drive.” A researcher in the Beverly Hills library’s history department told me that 120 S. Laskey did not exist in early 1943. She thought that the author or the police probably meant 140 S. Laskey, the address of what was at the time the Beverly House.

See also:

1943 — Sentenced to 6 months in jail. See “‘Fake Hero’ Jailed,” “Illegal Wearing of Uniform Costly”:

The 2nd Mrs. Nyad: Charlotte Vivienne Stratford

1944, Nov 12 — Birth of Aryne Nyad, daughter of Aris Nyad and Charlotte V. Stratford.

1944, Dec 5 — Arrives in Brownsville, Texas, from Mexico (detail / complete).

1945, MarMarries Charlotte V. Stratford.

1945, Apr 26 — Petitions for naturalization in New Orleans.

1946, Mar 6 — Enlists in the U.S. army.

1947, Oct 25 — Arrives in the U.S. from military posting in Egypt.

1947, Dec 31 — Dances at Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.
Aris is likely in quest of a benefactor (detail / complete). Year is approximate since the article’s author, born in 1936, was remembering his childhood. It’s more likely that the dancing occurred in 1951 or ’52. Aris, however, did get around.

Breakers Hotel circa late 1940s.
The 3rd Mrs. Nyad: Nelly Frohlich Spaar ¹

1948, Jul 16 — Marries Nelly Spaar or Frohlich in England. (register detail / complete)


1948, 16 Oct — Swiss pilot Gérard de Chambrier makes an emergency landing on the Greek island of Lefkas. This leads to the unearthing of the biggest smuggling operation in Greek history. Aris Nyad turns up at the center of it. See “Articles Related to Aris Nyad’s post-WWII Greece-Switzerland Smuggling Operation.”

1949, Feb 2 — Sentenced in absentia in Athens to three years in prison for smuggling.

1951, Jan — In prison in Zurich, Switzerland, serving an 18-month sentence for fraud.

1951, Jul 28 — Arrives in NYC from France.

The 4th Mrs. Nyad: Lucy Winslow Sneed

1953, Jun 13 — Lucy crashes her car.
1953, Jul 3 — Lucy files for divorce from William Lent Sneed Jr., Diana’s father.

1953, Oct 3 — “Many Colonists Attend Aris Nyad’s Dinner Dance.”
Make sure to note that Mrs. Curtis Sneed, a.k.a. Lucy Winslow Sneed (underlined in red), attended this bash. In other words, we know that the orbits of Aris and Lucy have collided by this date.

1953, Oct 11 — Aris makes a grand entrance in Palm Beach.
Aris knows how to make a great first impression. The “ingenious host — said to be of French, Greek, and Egyptian heritage, with a dash of Scotch (and soda?),” having found a source of cash, is causing “feminine P.B. [to do] a genteel version of the swoon.” See also:

1953, Nov 1 — “Aris Nyad’s summer parties added much.”

Aris Goes Into Business and Starts Buying Stuff

1953, Oct 27 — Aris opens GLOBAL ENTERPRISES.
1953, Oct 29 — Aris buys a house.
1953, Nov 6 — Aris has come by a yacht, the NYROCA.
He changes its name to ARYNE-N, after his and Charlotte Stratford’s daughter Aryne. By 1957, Aris has a brand new yacht called the Dianaliz.

Aris Nyad’s yacht, the Dianaliz, at Sarasota in April of 1959. Click for full article.


1953, Nov 27 — Aris Explained.
With “Mystery Man? Not Now,” gossip columnist C. Knickerbocker, a pseudonym for Igor Cassini — Oleg’s brother — shows that he knew and understood Aris better than perhaps anyone else on the planet. Cassini follows up with two short items that prove his “Mystery Man . . .” prescience. (Click images for complete/enlarged versions.)

See complete column here. See Cholly’s complete column here. See also complete versions of the column here: San Antonio Light / Miami Herald.

1953, Nov 29 — Aris and Lucy elope to Arizona.
See: Marriage license and certificate / “Aris Z. Nyad and Mrs. Sneed Wed” / “wealthy mystery man-about-town.”

1953, Dec 13 — The Newlyweds return to Palm Beach.

1954 (Jun 15, 16 or Jul 2) — Birth of Eliza Nyad, Lucy and Aris’s daughter, Diana’s half-sister.
U.S. Public Records Index gives the June dates. The Palm Beach Post society page scoots the date into July—perhaps to avoid the aroma of impropriety.

Belgian Sues Aris

1955, Jan 3 — Henri Perret of Belgium sues Aris for 8,500 Swiss francs.
1955, Feb 17 — On circuit court schedule.
1955, Mar 25 — Judge denies Aris’s motion to dismiss.

1955, May 7 — foreclosure sale

1957, Mar 7 — eminent domain sale.

1958, Jan 17 — Aris and Lucy go to a fashion show.
At the Lauderdale Yacht Club: “Males Galore Don’t ‘Dig’ Dior.”

1958, Dec 31 — Aris and Lucy spend News Year’s Eve in Key Largo.

1959 — Sells New Hampshire residence, perhaps marking the beginning of another end.

Things Go South

1960 — Taken to court by Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for unpaid bills.
1961 — Taken to court for kiting checks.
1963 — Divorce from Lucy becomes official.

That’s the last I can find of Aris Nyad.

But then there’s Nelly:

Nelly Nyad: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma Wrapped in Balenciaga
Detail of Nellie Nyad wearing Balenciaga, photo by Philippe Pottier, 1950. Image via Sophia.

1947–48: By the winter of ’47–’48, Aris is living with Nelly Spaar nee Fröhlich as husband and wife in a villa on Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

At least two articles about her husband’s smuggling operation mention her, though not by name:

July 1948, Aris marries Nelly in England.

early 1950s: In France with “her lover, a very rich and powerful duke [who] was threatening to shoot [the photographer] and not with a camera.” (See “Paris Fashion Week Story: Nelly Nyad.”)

This sounds familiar. Ten years earlier, Aris had passed himself off as a Greek military hero. With his looks and charm, playing royalty would be a piece of baklava. And we know about his fondness for firearms (see 1943 arrest for gun possession above and 1958 skeet shooting competition).

1952, summer — In Paris (see Milton Greene and here).
1952, fall — In NYC. See “Models for Annual ‘Diamonds U.S.A.’ Show.”

1953, Jun 25 As Nelly Frohlich, flies with French industrialist Gilbert Fenal from Paris to New York.
1953, Jul 15 Flies as Frohlich with Fenal from New York to Paris.
1953, summer Vacationing with Fenal in Cannes.

1955, Feb 24 — Flies from Paris to New York with three other models: Patricia Prunonosa, Bernadette Dufrene, and Janine Lacombe.
1955, Feb 27 — Flies from New York to Paris with Prunonosa, Dufrene, and Lacombe.

[to come] marries Brazilian-French racecar driver Hermano “Nano” da Silva Ramos.

[to come] Two images as Nelly de Silva Ramos:

2021, Apr 17 —death

Updated 18 October 2020: Added “serving an 18-month sentence for fraud” to January 1951 entry. This was necessary to clarify that Switzerland imprisoned Nyad for an issue separate from his Greek smuggling charges.