There is a huge misconception Jean never returned to Marshalltown once she "hit it big." But in speaking with her family and scouring through newspaper accounts, Jean visited her hometown many times. In fact, it happened so often it's impossible to count.
A majority of visits were private, only reported in the local newspaper after the fact. This was to allow Jean to visit her relatives and friends privately. When news of her pending visits home were made public at the beginning of her career, fans and well-wishers called the Seberg telephone and appeared at their door in droves.
Although Jean and her family were considerate, the attention was too much of a distraction and it took away from her time at home. Future visits were conducted in private, which led people to believe she never returned to Marshalltown.
Following the 1970 burial of her infant daughter at Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown, Jean returned home only two more times. However, she did return to the United States for gatherings with her sister on the east coast and she entertained her parents in France. Jean had a trip planned to Marshalltown at the time of her death.
Each of Jean's husbands accompanied her (as did her son Diego a majority of the time) to Marshalltown, and each had different opinions about the city. Looking back, François Moreuil regarded it as "provincial" and "prudish" regarding the American mindset in the 1950s; however, he always liked Jean's family and held absolutely no contempt toward them.
In fact, when I first visited him in Paris he asked about them, and although Jean's father had passed away and her mother was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, he asked me to send his regards to Jean's sister Mary Ann. "They were terribly, terribly nice to me," he said. François returned with Jean to Marshalltown at least twice in addition to their wedding in September 1958.
Jean's second husband Romain Gary flew into Iowa in March 1968 to attend the funeral of Jean's brother David who was killed in an automobile accident (although Moreuil believes Gary had visited Jean there once before). In his book White Dog, he wrote about some residents remarking on a "mixed" marriage that had taken place within a prominent family.
Gary found most Marshalltownians to be "pleasant, friendly and 'un-psychological' (meaning) sufficiently well-balanced, straight-forward and self-assured." As an ultimate compliment, Gary described Iowa being to the U.S. "what a 1924 bottled Chateau-Lafitte is to French wine."
Jean's third husband Dennis Berry, however, was not as complimentary. He visited Marshalltown with Jean twice--in December 1972 and April 1977, with most of Jean's friends dismissing him. Jean's Aunt Velma Odegaard recalled he drove around Marshalltown only to return flabbergasted. Berry remarked about there being "no poor people in this town!" Velma said no one knew what to make of him or his comment because there were and are "poor people" in Marshalltown--and in practically every town in the U.S.