Constance Gerasim McAllister


Connie McAllister of Oak Bluffs died peacefully early Sunday morning, August 19, at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital after a short stay there. She was the beloved mother of Matthew McAllister of East Greenwich, R.I., and Gwyn McAllister of Oak Bluffs.

Connie was a private person, but her few close friends enjoyed her dry sense of humor, her strong opinions, her knowledge of current events and her love of literature, opera, and art. She was an avid reader who consumed the New Yorker magazine religiously. Her favorite authors were Thomas Mann and Joyce Cary. She loved the paintings of Vermeer.

Connie was born in 1931 in Boston to second-generation Polish/Russian parents. Shortly after graduation from the Katherine Gibbs School, she moved with her sister to New York City where she worked as a secretary. There she married Leslie McAllister, a graduate student at Columbia University and later a theater professional who worked at the Circle in the Square Theater in New York. Both of their children were born in New York City.

While living in Cleveland, where Mr. McAllister was employed by the Cleveland Playhouse, the couple divorced and Connie moved back to her parents’ home in Medford with her two small children. She stayed at home just long enough to complete a master’s degree between Tufts University and Harvard University and then moved to Cambridge and took a job as a teacher in the Somerville public school system.

After three years as a grade school teacher, Connie accepted a job offer from Highlights for Children magazine and moved her family to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, a small town in the Poconos. She worked as an editor for that magazine for over 15 years.

Around 1985 Connie purchased a Victorian house in downtown Oak Bluffs and relocated to Martha’s Vineyard. She worked from home as a teacher for a correspondence course with the Institute of Children’s Literature. She continued working tirelessly at that job right up until she had a major heart attack six months before her passing.

Connie was a tiny lady who always dressed neatly and stylishly, favoring white clothing. She enjoyed outings to the theater, music events and lectures with her daughter, and frequent visits from her son and daughter-in-law, Katherine Besnier. She was close friends with her ex-husband until his death in 2010. She also maintained close friendships with her sister-in-law Barbara Naughton of Laramie, Wyoming, and her sister, Elliot Treibeck of Winchester. Connie hosted a number of family reunions at her Oak Bluffs home.

People who knew Connie described her as ladylike and elegant, but she often surprised people with her irreverence. She will be greatly missed by her children, friends and family and her daughter’s dog, Felix — a loving companion to Connie.