By Chuck Wiser
Pictured, Polly (Weart) Lucas with daughter Denise DeGroat.
Saturday, October 8th, was a special day for one resident of the Eden Heights Assisted Living & Memory Care facility in Olean, New York. Polly (Pauline Weart) Lucas turned 98 years young on that day and was serenaded with a surprise musical gift from her daughter, Denise DeGroat and her family.
Polly, as she is known by everyone, was a long-time music teacher for decades, at many schools throughout Allegany County.
Polly studied Music Education at Fredonia College and began her teaching career at Cuba Central School alongside her sister-in-law Irene Weart, who introduced her to her future husband Craig Weart, a well-known former area insurance agent who passed away in 2001.
Polly taught music, and directed musical groups at both Cuba Central School, and later at Friendship Central School. Never really retiring, she spent 20 years as a substitute music teacher at various Allegany County schools.
Polly shared her love of music and her talents in other musical related activities as a member of the Musical Literary Society, played the organ and piano at the United Church of Friendship, and other various groups in the area. Visitors at the annual Friendship Oldtimers gathering were also charmed by her directing the “group sing” at their main dinner for a number of years.
In addition to her teaching music, Polly started the Red Hats group which became very active in Allegany County, and were noted for marching in local parades, wearing pajamas and playing their “Kazoos.” In the 1980’s Polly was very involved with New York State musical education programs in Albany.
In 2007 Polly married Preston (Roy) Lucas and together, they travelled the world visiting countless countries, often on Cruises, and throughout the United States. After Roy’s passing in 2021 she became a resident of Eden Heights, in Olean, NY.
When Denise approached a friend and former Friendship, NY resident who she knew was involved in various local singing groups, they formed a plan to surprise Polly with a musical celebration of her Birthday. The Genesee Valley Chorus (GVC), based in Wellsville, NY, and directed by Norma Bartlett, was approached, accepted the request, and within two weeks’ time put together a “mini concert with a mixture of “Patriotic” tunes and other formerly popular musical renditions that might be recognizable by Polly.
Judging from the comments of the GVC chorus singers who witnessed the smile and rapture on Polly’s face, and who watched Polly as she too directed the chorus with her famous arm and hand gestures, the performance was a big hit. Not everyone gets to enjoy their 98th Birthday as Polly did, nor do others get to share the joy seen on her face, as did the singers.