A Rye Trailblazer: Mayor Ilse Dies at 82
Mary Ann Ilse, Rye’s first and only woman to serve as Mayor, died peacefully October 7, surrounded by family.
Among her many achievements as Mayor, according to another former Rye Mayor, Ted Dunn, “was her courageous and successful effort to change the garbage collection system, which resulted in the City taking over collection from a private contractor and substantial savings for the community.” He added, “Mary Ann was a splendid, outgoing woman, much more interested in others than herself.”
During Mayor Ilse’s administration, 1986-90, the City also approved the long-term lease with the Rye Arts Center; the demolition of the Jay Mansion and Carriage House was stopped; the Boston Post Road Historic District received National Historic Landmark designation, recycling boxes were introduced, and a coastal Zone Management Plan was approved. She served on the City Council for one term before becoming Mayor.
A longtime friend, the Hon. Annette Guarino, said “Mary Ann’s pragmatism, ability to build consensus among partisan interests, and sense of humor went a long way in meeting the many challenges that faced the City during her tenure.”
Interviewed by Councilman Joe Sack in April for “The Council Project”, his 2011 documentary on the City Council, Ms. Ilse humorously noted that she’d always be known as “the Garbage Mayor”. (Click here to read the transcript)
She explained the situation she faced in the late 1980s to Councilman Sack.
“A private company was collecting our garbage. Their fees were going up too fast and we were going to have a hard time keeping our budget in line if we met their demand. The City Manager, Frank Culross at the time, was not really interested in doing garbage, but he did a lot of investigating and we decided that the best thing for Rye would be to go from private to public. Now that was twenty-plus years ago and the general thinking was that government didn’t do as well as private. So we ran into some people who strongly objected, but I worked very hard and went to visit every organization that I could for two months. Even if they didn’t want me, I conned somebody into getting me there to explain to them that basically what we had to do was build a garage and then buy trucks. It was quite an undertaking, but I understand that we’ve probably saved millions of dollars in the years since we did it.”
The garbage collection issue almost cost the Rye Republicans the election in 1988. “We thought we’d lost … by about 17 votes, and I was very unhappy because I’d worked so hard. When we counted the absentee ballots, we won by two votes!” recalled Mayor Ilse.
Born on January 17, 1929, in Hyannis, Massachusetts, to Marion R. and John E. Hinckley Jr., she lived in many different places throughout her life. While living in Rye, in addition to holding public office, she owned and ran the Yarn Circus, where she developed a lifelong passion for needlepoint.
Five years ago, following the death of her husband George, Mrs. Ilse returned to Cape Cod, where she enjoyed rediscovering her childhood roots and family in the place she always called home.
Mrs. Ilse will be remembered for her passion for politics, her quick wit, spirit of adventure, the love she had for her family, and the tenaciousness that allowed her to achieve success in so many different endeavors.
Mrs. Ilse’s daughters said their mother “was an extraordinary woman, whose life touched many. Our whole family is extremely proud of her achievements and her passion. She will be missed in our hearts each and every day but her spirit will live with us forever.”
She is survived by three daughters: Cheryl Merser of Sag Harbor, N.Y., Christine Merser of Barnstable and Southampton, N.Y., and Leslie Benway of Mattituck, N.Y.; grandchildren Sarah Istel and Jenna Shnayerson; her loving sister, Nancy Hagberg; and many nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to thank the many people who assisted Mary Ann over the past year as she waged her battle against cancer: Donna, Janis, Mariah, Maureen, Mary, Molly, and Taylor.
A celebration of her life was held October 14 at the Yarmouth New Church in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts.
At the October 19 City Council meeting, there was a moment of silence and remembrance for Mayor Ilse.
Donations in her name may be made to Yarmouth New Church, 260 Route 6A, Yarmouthport, MA 02675.
Bartholomew Lalla, of Wellington, Florida, passed away October 8. The former Rye resident was 66.
Born in Port Chester, January 5, 1945, he was the son of Frank and Beatrice (Sabato) Lalla.
A graduate of Rye High School, he was a member of Rye Fire Department’s Milton Point Hose Company. He was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Vietnam.
His lifelong career was in corporate aviation. Well known in the industry, he worked for several companies across the country. In 2010, Mr. Lalla received the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
His family said, “He was a devoted father and grandfather who always gave great advice and had a super sense of humor.”
His memory will be cherished by his wife, Mary; daughters Adrienne, Colleen, Sara, and Stephanie; grandchildren Sadie, Molly, and Anthony; brother Frank; and his many relatives and friends.
Mr. Lalla was interred at South Florida National Cemetery.
Geraldine E. Dean
Geraldine E. Dean, a 44-year resident of Rye, passed away October 13.
She was born July 25, 1928, in Yonkers, the daughter of William and Viola Schwenk Jackman.
A graduate of Manhasset High School and Marymount College, Class of 1950, she received a Master’s degree in English Literature. Gerry, as she was called, was a lover of books and a wonderful writer, with several published articles to her credit.
On August 7 of this year, she and her husband, Thomas Dean, celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary.
Her childhood summers were spent in Cape Cod. She and her husband and children enjoyed many wonderful summers at their home on Martha’s Vineyard.
Her greatest joy was her family. She will be remembered as a loyal friend to everyone.
In addition to her husband, Thomas, Mrs. Dean is survived by four children: Thomas, Brian, Leslie, and Cynthia Dean; three grandchildren: Madeleine, Connor, and Piper Dean; and a sister, Patricia Kelleher.
A mass of Christian burial was held at the Church of the Resurrection October 17.