"She loved drama....and men."
Fleming's dramatic funeral procession moves toward the Sant'Abbondio church near the school in Montagnola above Lugano, canton Ticino, on February 1, 2009.
"No is a word I don't know"
When she was well into her 60s, Fleming said she wanted a new challenge and started a sister school in Britain, Tasis-England, in 1976.
"Mrs. Fleming has had such an enormous impact on my life. I can't even begin."
People from all over the world wrote tributes to Fleming after she died on January 27, 2009. Here, the Sant'Abbondio church sits shrouded in fog in Montagnola, where her funeral was held. swissinfo.ch
Fleming lived on the school grounds in this house, dubbed Casa Fleming, which was used for functions and entertaining and now houses some offices, too. So many people passed through the house that her children called it Grand Central Station for many years. "This was her 'royaume'," says daughter Lynn Fleming Aeschliman. Fleming died in the tower surrounded by her children. swissinfo.ch
The master strategist
In expanding Tasis from one villa into a sprawling complex of dozens of buildings, Fleming used to say she collected mortgages like medallions for her bracelets.
"Beauty breeds beauty"
Travel was, and is, an cornerstone of the Tasis mission that seeks to nurture curiosity and beauty to turn young people into "world citizens".
She wanted to be an actress
Fleming said it took her 30 years to come to terms with her long nose. But whatever she felt she lacked in physical beauty friends and colleagues say she made up for in wit and elegance.
"Six girls in a car? Impossible!"
Fleming and five other women drove through Yugoslavia alone, "at a time when women didn't do such things". Records later revealed that only six other American cars had ever attempted to drive across the country. Here, one of many breakdowns, circa 1938.
"Teaching the girls the delights of picnicking"
Fleming rarely traveled anywhere without her "drinking kit", which included whiskey, gin, ice and fixings for an instant party no matter the location.
"She was our passport everywhere"
In the late 1930s Fleming organised a trip called "Fording Europe" and shipped a 1936 Ford Phaeton V8 across the Atlantic for the journey. She was 27 years old at the time.
"Not one of us had changed a tyre before"
The roads in Yugoslavia proved to be so rough that the women suffered at least a dozen flats. The first one, shown here, took four hours to repair. By the end it took them only 20 minutes. Fleming checks underneath the car. Notice her white gloves.
Educating the whole person
Students from all over the globe now come to Tasis, where tuition at the boarding school costs Sfr64,000 ($54,600) a year.
Fleming was an avid decorator. Here, the dining hall walls are covered with medieval armaments. swissinfo.ch
Tasis now includes and elementary school. There are 568 students in the entire school, which goes from kindergarten to a post-graduate year.
Villa de Nobili
Fleming bought the 17th-century building for SFr500,000 in 1960 to serve as the heart of Tasis when the campus moved from Locarno to Montagnola. To afford it, she asked parents of enrolled students to pay tuition in advance. "I have never been afraid to take risks, and happily Swiss banks have finally given me loans, which is very good of them," she wrote. swissinfo.ch
Feed the mind, feed the body
Although Fleming was never much of an athlete, students at Tasis travel all over Europe to compete against other teams.
September 10, 1910 - January 27, 2009
This content was published on February 18, 2009 - 14:22
Mary Crist Fleming started The American School in Switzerland in canton Ticino in 1956 to give Americans a strong education in Europe. Today Tasis attracts students from more than 50 countries. Brash, adventurous and irresistibly charming, Fleming traveled extensively through Switzerland and Europe in the 1930s. She died last month at age 98.
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