Obituary for Polly Cote (Swanson)
Polly Coté, artist and gracious host
Polly Coté, 77, of Provincetown, Massachusetts, died after a brief but spirited battle with pulmonary disease on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, with close family by her side. Polly is survived by her loving husband, Melville P. Coté, 80, also of Provincetown; sons Melville P. Coté, Jr., and his wife, Edith Rodrigue, of Wakefield, Mass.; Adam A. Coté of Santa Barbara, California; Quentin P. Coté, and his wife, Kelly McEwen, of Acton, Mass.; sister Gail Shields, and her husband, Robert Shields, of Narragansett, RI; grandchildren Claire, Maya, and Sophie, of Acton; and Lily and Sage, of Santa Barbara; and four nieces and one nephew. She was predeceased by her daughter, Anna Cassandra, who died in infancy. Polly was born in Manchester, Conn., the daughter of Herbert and Mae Swanson.
Polly was an accomplished artist whose prints graced the walls of Cape Cod galleries. Her art became a part of the lives of friends and strangers and it will keep Polly in their memories far into the future. As an avid gardener she knew the Latin names of all the flowers and as a gourmet chef was never reluctant to try exciting new foods and recipes. But above all, she was devoted to her husband and family, and she had a real soft spot for cats and dogs and a parrot or two, but was tough enough to rule the roost with four other men under the same roof.
Polly attended Smith College before graduating from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Polly and Mel married on July 25, 1961, at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, and spent the summer in town before embarking on a series of journeys that would take them to Hawaii, Nigeria, Europe, and all over the northeastern US, learning and gathering friends along the way. Many of those friends were from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where Mel and Polly were among the pioneers that created this unique school of human ecology as an administrator and a teacher, and where so many of their important relationships began. After moves to Princeton, NJ, and the Lakes Region in New Hampshire, Polly received her Master’s Degree from Dartmouth College in 1988, sharing her graduation ceremony with her son, Quentin.
Mel and Polly returned to Provincetown part-time in 1994 and full-time in 1999 upon Mel’s retirement that year from a second stint at COA. Once back in Provincetown, Polly immersed herself in the local arts community, started a garden care business with Mel, and hosted memorable (but somehow stress-free) dinner parties for their family, local friends, and a never-ending parade of visitors from all ends of the earth. They also rekindled long dormant relationships with friends from their early years on the Cape and elsewhere, and started many new ones. No one will forget the extraordinary Halloween costumes Polly and Mel wore to the annual Beachcombers party.
Polly lived life to the fullest, and she tackled her last challenge with the same vigor she gave to everything else she did in her life. But when the end was near, she accepted it with a peaceful calm and focused her remaining energy on the many details she knew we would need to move on without her. Polly leaves a lifelong legacy of love, friendship, and beautiful artwork to her family and many friends, who miss her dearly. The family held a small, private gathering on Saturday, December 16, at the home of Quentin and Kelly, and will hold a public memorial service in Provincetown in the spring. In lieu of flowers, please make any memorial donations to go to the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) at https://www.paam.org/support/ or Carrie A. Seaman Animal Shelter (CASAS) at http://www.casasanimalshelter.org/