Mary Ann Masterton

On this date in 1925, freethinking homemaker and community volunteer Mary Ann Masterton was born in Milwaukee to Rusk and Marion (Duchac) Potter. She graduated from Washington High School in Milwaukee and in 1948 married Bruce Masterton.

The family moved frequently, including three years in Munich, Germany, due mainly to Bruce’s work as a buyer for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, which supplies military PX facilities worldwide. Mary Ann kept the home fires burning for their four children — cooking, cleaning, gardening and sewing clothes — while volunteering prolifically at schools, Lighthouse for the Blind, Scottish Rite Hospital and soup kitchens.

She made audio tapes for the visually impaired and taught English as a second language and youth classes at Unitarian Universalist congregations. Her UU connection was deep and extended over 50 years, said her daughter Samantha: “The Unitarian church in Dallas I was brought up in was almost militant about their common atheism. It seemed to be an unofficial requirement to join.” 

People were drawn to her, Samantha said. “She was a stay-at-home mom to us, wife to her husband, and friend to everyone she met. She loved freely and fervently. Everyone felt they had a special connection to her. She loved putting on shows, singing, making people laugh.”

Mary Ann and Bruce moved in 1983 to Antigo, Wis., to care for her mother, who died two weeks later. She continued her community connections there with the Unitarians, Friends of the Library, schools and other groups. Bruce died in 1993.

“Her Christian friends insisted that Mom was a believer because she’d always let them pray for her because she thought it couldn’t hurt. But she didn’t believe any of it,” her daughter said after Mary Ann died at home at age 92. A private family gathering was held to mark her passing and memorials were established to benefit literacy and Antigo public schools. D. 2018.

PHOTO: Masterton protesting GOP union-busting at the Wisconsin Capitol in her mid-80s. (Leslie Amsterdam photo, cropped.)

Freedom From Religion Foundation