Polly (Mary Vaughn) Cody|
Polly (Mary Vaughn) Cody, beloved mother, wife, grandmother, teacher, gardener, and activist, died peacefully on February 7, 2013, at Horizon House, her home for the last five years of her long and wonderful life. Polly lived with Parkinson's disease, with courage, dignity, and determination, for more than 10 years. Her longevity, wit, and engagement with her family and devoted caregivers delighted all.
Polly was born in Welland, Ontario, on September 18, 1917. She grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio with her parents, Hurlbut and Betsey Jacoby, brother Saylor and sister Betsey. Polly spent summers at Lake Chautauqua, where she worked as a camp counselor, and loved swimming, canoeing and the outdoors. At Mount Holyoke College, she was freshman class president, a leader in Fellowship of Faiths, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She joined the New England Student Christian Movement, and progressive clergy like Georgia Harkness and Howard Thurman inspired her to become a pacificist and an activist for social and economic justice.
On a blind date in college, Polly met Hi (Hiram) Cody, a handsome Yale Navy ROTC student. Despite different political views, Hi pursued, with success, this beautiful, idealistic, very smart young woman. They were married on the eve of WW II, on October 4, 1941, in the Grace Methodist Church in Wilmington, Delaware, where Polly was Director of Religious Education. Hi's sister described their marriage as "the most devoted, dynamic and romantic marriage." They celebrated their 65-year anniversary two weeks before Hi's death in 2006.
During the war, Polly moved 8 times to join Hi at stateside naval stations. After the war, Hi began his 35-year career with AT&T, during which Polly orchestrated 6 moves to New Jersey, California, and Illinois, with strength, stamina, and energy. She became an expert at settling her children in new communities. Polly described the moves as "packing and unpacking, cleaning houses as we left, and cleaning stoves as we arrived."
Polly taught for 19 years in the public schools. She shared her writing skills, her flawless grammar, her love for words, and the artful turn of a phrase with her children. The family dinner table, which easily expanded to include her children's friends, was the center of lively, passionate debates about politics, education, and social values, with Polly advocating for social change.
Polly joined her children in opposing the Vietnam War. Ideas and books you were reading were important. Words mattered. Her favorite recipes and tradition of making gingerbread houses live on with her grandchildren and their children. She loved dogs (St. Bernards, black Labs) -- always the best excuse to take a walk. She hosted African students, inner city youth, a high school AFS student, and sponsored Eritrean immigrants who became lifelong friends.
Retirement years in Black Mountain NC were active "second acts" for Polly, who persuaded Hi to become a Democrat and work with her on
numerous campaigns. Polly found her true church "home" with the Asheville Unitarian Church, and was a mainstay on the Social Action Committee. She
helped create outreach and substance abuse treatment programs, was a tutor for prisoners for more than 10 years, fought the spread of billboards along state highways, and was an anti-nuclear activist. She was an active Mt. Holyoke College alumna, receiving the college Medal of Honor in 1989. The League of Women Voters recognized her with a special award on her 90th birthday. As a
lifetime member of AAUW, she embraced the women's movement. She valued service to others above all, and the professions chosen by her children reflect that value.
Polly played tennis weekly until she was 80, never turned down a
Scrabble game, wrote poetry all her life, and took up acting in resident theater productions. Gardening was her passion: she created gardens at every home, developed a wildflower trail at Highland Farms, supported a campaign for wildflowers in highway medians. Polly kept her far-flung children and family connected with newsy family letters, typed on her manual typewriter with carbon paper. Family reunions, hosted by Polly and Hi, leave a lifetime of wonderful memories. Polly and Hi were lifelong learners who traveled extensively, including an exchange to Black Mountain's sister city in Russia. Inspired by her children who worked in Latin America, Polly delighted in speaking the Spanish she studied in retirement.
Seattle was Polly's 21st and final home. With Harriett and Henry close, she embraced Seattle's parks, theaters, its diversity, and the lively community at Horizon House. Her curiosity and anticipation about her final journey, her absence of fear, and her beautiful smile were with her to the end.
Polly is survived by her five children, 9 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. Her greatest legacy was family, including grandchildren and inlaws from Korea, Ethiopia, India, Belgium, and Russia. Her children are Marney Komives (Bob), Harriett Cody (Harvey Sadis), Hiram S Cody III (Chip) (Myung-Hi Kim), Henry Cody (Karen Johnson), and Bill Cody (Leslie Smalley).
The Cody family wishes to express its gratitude for the extraordinary Horizon House Supported Living staff, who embraced Polly with love, delight, and superb care, during her final years. Polly frequently expressed her appreciation to her caregivers, and it was well deserved.
The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Horizon House Employee Education, Providence Hospice of Seattle, or Mount Holyoke College.
Join Polly's family for a celebration of her life at Horizon House (900 University St., Seattle 98101), on Friday, April 19, 2013, at 2:00 pm. A photo retrospective and music will begin at 1:30 p.m., followed by a reception.
Published in The Seattle Times on Apr. 7, 2013