Murray, Mary “Polly” Luckett
Mary “Polly” Luckett Murray, 85, of West Orange, NJ, passed away on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, with her daughter by her side.
She was born in New York City, the daughter of the late Edward Hobbs Luckett and Mary Gardner Sayles Luckett. Polly grew up in Irvington, NY, and attended The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. She earned a BA at Mount Holyoke College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1954.
After Mount Holyoke, Polly was awarded a fellowship at Yale Art School, studying with the American painter Robert Brackman in Noank, Connecticut, and the Art Students League of New York. She married the late Irvin Gillis Murray. They raised four children in Lyme, CT: Alexander “Sandy” Gillis Murray, Dr. David Kingman Murray, Caroline “Wendy” Sayles Zeidner, and Dr. Todd Ingalls Murray.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Polly’s family became stricken with a variety of unexplained symptoms ranging from rashes and joint pain to fever. Doctors she visited were unable to effectively diagnose these ailments. It soon became clear to Polly that others in the community were having similar symptoms. In 1975, Polly called the Connecticut State Department of Health to report an unusual pattern of symptoms affecting her family and her community, and listed over 40 cases of what would come to be known as Lyme Disease. The call to the State prompted a meeting between Polly and Dr. Allen C. Steere of the Department of Rheumatology at Yale University
School of Medicine, who began studying the pattern of disease and wrote the first medical papers of what was initially described as Lyme Arthritis.
Following the discovery of Lyme Disease, Polly worked tirelessly throughout the 1980s and 1990s as a volunteer to raise public awareness about the disease. She was a foundational thinker and member of many Lyme Disease support groups and foundations, in California, Connecticut, and New York, among other states. In 1996, Polly published a book with St. Martin’s Press, The Widening Circle: A Lyme Disease Pioneer Tells Her Story, and continued professional connections with many of the leading researchers on Lyme Disease.
Also, in 1996, Polly was awarded an Alumnae Honorary Degree by Mount Holyoke for her work on Lyme Disease. She also received an award from the NIH, and lectured medical students at Case Western Reserve University and Columbia University.
Polly was an avid artist, painting throughout her adult life, and also for a period of time focused her artistic talents on making dolls with faces which were hand painted, and which were a unique fusion of antique bisque doll forms and her own talent for drawing and painting children. Her dolls were displayed at the Museum of American Folk Art in New York, and she exhibited paintings at the Lyme Academy, the Old Lyme Art Academy, the Cooley Gallery, the Essex Art Association Gallery, the Clinton Art Society, the Mystic Art Association Gallery, New Haven Paint and Clay Club, Shippee Gallery in New York, and many other venues.
Polly was known for her love of her family and friends, and for her fierce determination to overcome any obstacles in her path and to help others do the same. She received phone calls from people all over the country and the world, and it was her greatest satisfaction to provide the support they needed and connect them to Lyme Disease clinicians and best practices. In addition to her bouts with Lyme Disease, Polly lived for more than fifteen years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She refused to give in to any of these afflictions, and enjoyed a remarkably high quality of life until shortly before she passed.
Polly was predeceased by her brother, William Stone Luckett, II, and his wife, Diana “Dede” Ward Luckett, and her sister, Nina Luckett Anderson, and her husband, Dr. Harrison Clarke Anderson. She is survived by her four children and grandchildren: Pramila Karki Murray, Santosh Gillis Subedi Murray, Kai Murray, America Murray, Isabelle Amelia Zeidner, Chloe Helena Duarte Murray, and Andreas Gillis Murray.
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for information regarding a memorial service in August.
Published in The New Haven Register & Shoreline Times from July 21 to July 26, 2019
RIP, Polly, you will be missed.