Natalie McMasters (1928-2012)
Please join us for A Celebration of Life for Natalie McMasters that will be held on October 23rd at 5:00 p.m., at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The family invites those who knew Natalie and appreciated all her contributions to attend.
Natalie McMasters – a talented athlete, excellent cook, fierce bridge player, loving partner to her husband Lew, and generous philanthropist – had many interests, and she developed them all fully. “She wasn’t a dabbler,” her long-time friend Pat Baldwin explains. “If Natalie was going to do it, she was going to do it well.”
St. Petersburg, her home from the age of three years old, provided Natalie with an ideal setting for her many talents. From a young age, she sailed in the gulf and played tennis and golf year-round. Later, she became a quiet force behind the burgeoning arts scene in downtown, a development that brought her much personal satisfaction.
In the decades when Natalie was growing up here, and then raising her own family, St. Petersburg was still a small town. It had little to offer artistically. Natalie and Lew realized they would need to look elsewhere to find cultural opportunities, both for themselves and for John and Martha, their two children. John and Martha today fondly remember their parents regularly taking them to New York City as youngsters, to experience museums, plays, ballets, and concerts. Later, when Martha was in college in New York, Natalie would come up, both to visit her daughter and also to see theatre in Manhattan.
Then – to many people’s surprise – St. Petersburg began to grow from a sleepy southern town to a world-class arts destination. This transformation was an unexpected joy for Natalie, who took full advantage of the cultural offerings. She challenged her keen intellect by auditing literature classes at USF. She got involved with the Florida Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts from their beginnings in the late 1960′s.
Natalie also became a regular patron at American Stage Theatre, which was founded in 1977. She continuously supported American Stage Theatre over the years, making it possible for the theatre to be enjoying a robust 34th Season this year, in a time when many not-for-profit arts organizations are suffering. She also joined the theatre’s Legacy Society, which was created by Marion Ballard, Natalie’s devoted friend and fellow American Stage supporter (and former Board President).
In addition to attending performances at the theatre, Natalie also traveled on the American Stage trips frequently, particularly the ones to New York. She was interested all types of theatre – serious drama, Broadway musicals, classics, edgier off-Broadway productions. Natalie didn’t hesitate to voice her opinion on the shows. “She didn’t like every play she saw, but she appreciated them all,” her traveling companion and dear friend Marilyn Mathis recalls.
Natalie’s son emphasizes just how rewarding the arts were to Natalie, especially in the years following Lew’s death in 1999. “Seeing St. Petersburg develop a vibrant arts scene was very satisfying to her. It made her life full,” John says.
In February of this year, just five months before Natalie’s death, Martha took her mother to New York City for a weekend of culture. They went to the NYC Ballet and a chamber music performance on the waterfront under the Brooklyn Bridge. They visited the Frick and MOMA, and saw a cutting-edge new drama at Lincoln Center. “We had a glorious time,” Martha shares. How fitting that Natalie, who loved the arts herself so much and strived to instill that same love in her children, was able to enjoy a wonderful weekend of the arts with her daughter in the last year of her life.
Natalie McMasters was a loyal and generous supporter of many arts institutions in St. Petersburg, including this theatre. We are proud that Natalie attended American Stage productions and traveled on our theatre trips, and grateful that she included the theatre in her legacy gifts.