When Prairie Village resident Joanne Stout first met her future father-in-law George Stout, he was working as the curator of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Her first impressions were strong. He was urbane, possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of fine art, and “the most charming fellow you’ve ever met.”
But impressed as Stout might have been with her husband’s father, she had no inkling of what is almost certainly the most impressive part of his life: Spearheading the rescue of thousands of priceless works of art from the Nazis in World War II, an effort that serves as the basis for George Clooney’s current movie, “The Monuments Men.”
“[My husband] mentioned that his father had done a lot of conservation work after the war,” Stout recalls, “but he never mentioned anything about this. This is a family that does not go about shouting its own praises.”
In fact, Stout had no idea about George’s involvement in the story until more than three decades after her husband Robert died of a heart attack. It was only after the publication of Robert Edsel’s book “The Monuments Men” in 2009 that Stout was able to fully understand the extent of George’s involvement in the preservation of the threatened European art.
“I’m reading this, and I realize, ‘Hey, he was really at the heart of this,’” she said. “This is something his granddaughters should know about. If he had not done what he did, there would have been hundreds of thousands of works of art destroyed.”
Stout, who still has some of George’s papers, says she’s seen the movie twice now, and would see it again.
“It’s a great old fashioned movie,” she said. “I loved it. But the only resemblance between George Clooney and my father-in-law is the mustache.”