We mourn the passing of Polly Jo Masters of Ancramdale, NY who died peacefully at home on December 4, 2015 surrounded by her children, at the age of 91. The family thanks the community of caregivers and friends who encircled her with love, companionship, laughter and music since 2008: Diane, Keavy, Joni, Elizabeth, Gaye, Peggy, Lolly, Anne, Julia, Jackie, Mandy, Mary, Carol, Brian, Becky, Harold, Gregg, David and Terry.
Born in Beckley, West Virginia on March 14, 1924, she was the daughter of Dr. John H. McCulloch and Effie Lajo Stalnaker.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky fate ushered her through the doors of Beckley’s WJLS radio station where, as “Side-Saddle Sue”, she hosted a weekly radio program. She played banjo and ukulele, singing cowboy music, reading local news and engaging in easy humor. A year or so later she departed for New York City, where she pursued a career in musical theater. She sang cabaret, stage managed many productions including “Oh, Captain!” and was a principal in the summer traveling company of ‘Brigadoon.’ In 1951, she and a business partner, the director George Quick, renovated several old stables and barns on the Vanderbilt Estate in Hyde Park, NY, establishing the Hyde Park Playhouse. While in Hyde Park she also assisted the late Eleanor Roosevelt with the NY State Literacy Project. When theatrical success required a press agent, she and Quick hired a young writer, Hilary Masters. Polly and Hilary fell in love, married and ran the Playhouse for the next 7 years.
In 1960 they sold the Playhouse and moved to their new home on Woods Drive in Ancramdale, New York. From the mid-1960s she was very active in her community. She volunteered for the American Cancer Society, worked with the local PTA and was a friendly and welcoming face at the polls during election time. In 1968 she ran successfully for President of the Pine Plains Board of Education, becoming the first woman in local history to hold that honour. She held that post until 1975 and was, among many other things, instrumental in the conception and building of the Stissing Mountain Junior-Senior High School, also the first of its kind in the region. From 1979 until the mid-1990s she contributed a regular column for a local newspaper, the Roe-Jan Independent, under the heading “One Side to Everything”. She wrote about politics, local and national education, television, rural homeownership, the origins of linguistic memory and the diminutive interior dimensions of the original Ancramdale Post Office.
She is pre-deceased by her brother, John H. McCulloch Jr., her parents and her former husband, Hilary Masters, whom she divorced in 1985. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Carolyn McCulloch of Beckley, W. Va., as well as her three children, Joellen Masters of Lexington, Massachusetts, Catherine Masters of Deer Isle, Maine, John D.C. Masters of Paros, Greece and a grand-child, Kaolin R.E. Pitcher of Portland, Maine. She was a mother, a grandmother, a prescient community leader, a lover of Broadway musicals, English mysteries, a fount of knowledge and a source of no-nonsense unending love and support to all. She covered the ground she walked on.