Connie Stuntz, a World War II cryptographer who later authored four books on Northern Virginia’s history, died Feb. 9 at age 98 at her Vienna-area home.
Constance Barton Pendleton Stuntz was born Sept. 4, 1923, in Falls Church to Grace Barton Reid and Charles Arthur Pendleton.
Stuntz graduated in 1942 graduated from the then-two-year Averett College in Danville and in 1944 earned a liberal-arts degree from Duke University.
Stuntz became a cryptographer with the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Arlington Hall in 1944 and was tasked with helping crack Japanese codes. She married Vienna resident Mayo Stuntz in 1947 after being introduced by her maiden aunt.
“He had a thick head of hair and she came from a family of bald man,” said her daughter, Anne Stuntz.
Connie Stuntz was a homemaker for the next 25 years, two of which the family spent in Japan. She was a gifted floral designer and trained at the Sogetsu School of Ikebana of Japan in Tokyo, her family said.
Stuntz later became a real-estate agent with Yeonas Co. in Vienna, and she and her husband for 10 years operated an antique shop in the family’s basement after he retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in 1975. The couple traveled all over the world, including extensive jaunts in South America and Asia.
The pair began doing historical research and writing and published three books together: “This Was Vienna, Virginia” (1988), “This Was Tysons Corner, Virginia” (1990), and “This Was Virginia 1900-1927 as Shown by the Glass Negatives of J. Harry Shannon, the Rambler” (1998).
The Stuntzes remain household names in local historical circles, said Historic Vienna Inc. board member Laine Hyde.
“Connie and Mayo need no identifying surname in Vienna, Fairfax County and even, I dare say, much wider realms, as historians, writers, raconteurs, educators, volunteers, researchers and friends,” she said.
The couple’s historical books were the product of a strong partnership, Hyde said.
“One of them may have had a natural instinct for the ‘raconteur’ part and the other a superb talent for research and the behind-the-scenes part, but the end result in book after book, lecture after lecture, was not only quality of the first degree but important to all of us who care about keeping history alive,” she said.
Stuntz in 2005 published her fourth book, “A View of Falls Church, Virginia, Including Its Western Neighbors, Through the 1881-1889 Diaries of Edmund Flagg.” She was in the process of writing another book, “This Was Falls Church,” at the time of her death; it will be published posthumously, her daughter said.
Historic Vienna Inc. board member Nancy Moats said when she joined the Ayr Hill Garden Club, Stuntz was a gracious, welcoming and “positively lovely Virginia hostess.”
Moats said she always enjoyed welcoming Stuntz to special events at the Freeman Store and Museum.
“When ‘This Was Vienna, Virginia,’ Connie and Mayo’s legacy book, was reprinted, Connie’s celebrity presence at the store was an absolute treat,” Moats said.
Stuntz participated in the Duke Chorus; Vienna Presbyterian Church Choir (1957-1966); Historic Vienna Inc.; Historical Society of Fairfax County; and Northern Virginia Association for History.
Stuntz was a member of the Ayr Hill Garden Club in Vienna since 1960 and was a past president of the group. She and her daughter attended that organization’s 90th anniversary in May 2019.
At various points, Stuntz served on the town of Vienna’s Windover Heights Board of Review and Mayor’s Advisory Committee. She also chaired the Falls Church Reunion Committee in 1988.
Stuntz was named an honorary Lady Fairfax in 1992. She and her husband received Vienna’s Heritage Preservation Award in 1995 and were grand marshals at the town’s annual Halloween Parade in 2003. The couple also received the Jean Tibbetts History Award from the Great Falls Historical Society in 2010.
Stuntz is survived by two sons, Mayo Stuntz, Jr. (wife Liz Cohn Stuntz) of Mamaroneck, N.Y., and Reid Stuntz (wife Linda Gillespie Stuntz) of Alexandria; a daughter Anne Stuntz (husband Brad Swanson) of Vienna; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
In addition to her husband, who died in 2013 at age 97, Stuntz was predeceased by an infant daughter, Grace Stuntz, and brothers Charles Pendleton, Robert Pendleton and Edwin Pendleton.
Stuntz’s family will receive visitors Feb. 19 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Money & King Funeral Home in Vienna. Funeral services will be held Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. at the Vienna Presbyterian Church, followed by interment in the family’s plot at Flint Hill Cemetery in Oakton.
Stuntz for decades lived on the same road not far from the cemetery and sometimes joked that not only had she spent her adult life on Chain Bridge Road, but would be ensconced there for eternity, too, her daughter said.
In addition to imparting traditional wisdom on having a strong work ethic, Connie Stuntz also gave her daughter practical advice: “Never leave your house without lipstick and earrings.”
“It was just so ingrained,” Anne Stuntz said of the habit. “If I forget earrings, I feel half-dressed.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for people to donate to Historic Vienna, Inc.