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The Boston Globe

Obituaries

Polly Logan, 88, state GOP’s grande dame

Mrs. Logan, a voice of moderation in the GOP, urged women to seek office.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff/file 1988

Mrs. Logan, a voice of moderation in the GOP, urged women to seek office.

With her tireless approach to campaigning, her hearty, infectious laugh, and her charm, Polly Logan would have made a good political candidate, if she had not been so fond of working behind the scenes for Republicans in Massachusetts and across the country.

Asked if she had ever considered running for office, she told the Globe in 1978 that she found it “much more fascinating to work out strategy on how another candidate can win. It’s like a backgammon game with a lot of risks.”

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Calculating chances and odds for others, Mrs. Logan spent more than 50 years boosting the prospects of Republican candidates while remaining a strong voice of moderation as her party became more conservative. As a national committeewoman and state Republican official, she advocated bringing more women into the party and encouraging them to run for office, and she was a supporter of politicians from Margaret Heckler to Kerry Healey.

“Polly was a tornado, a very dynamic force across the landscape,” said former governor William Weld, on whose campaigns Mrs. Logan worked. “She would work 20 hours a day and be at party headquarters in bare feet at 4 in the morning, passing out coffee. She was just tremendous.”

He added that she “was a master of the mechanics of politics in the retail, pre-Internet age, but her biggest contributions were her enthusiasm and her energy, which was infectious. It certainly infected me.”

Mrs. Logan, whose namesake fund at the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston helps encourage the participation of women in politics, died of complications of an infection Sept. 30 in Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, N.J.

She was 88, and although she had lived in Cohasset and Hingham for many years, she had been spending time in New Jersey to be close to her daughter, Martha, who lived in nearby Bloomfield, N.J., and who died of cancer Sunday.

“Polly was a dynamo in all that she did, whether it was civic or political or friendships,” said Donald Dwight, a former lieutenant governor who served with Governor Francis W. Sargent. “In the era when I was involved in politics, she was a spark plug and a leader beyond compare. She committed to the candidates she was supporting, and that included Frank Sargent and me. Her support and counsel were priceless.”

Although Mrs. Logan concentrated her efforts in Massachusetts, she was a Republican national committeewoman whose presence at national conventions was unforgettable. When she created the Polly Logan Fund in 2000, a letter was read from Alexander Haig Jr., the former US Army general and US secretary of state. “I only wish I could have cloned her in every state of the union,” Haig wrote, recalling his 1988 presidential campaign.

Known for her eye for spotting political talent, Mrs. Logan “was as good a recruiter as some of the football coaches, and she would constantly get people up and running,” said John W. Sears, a former state Republican Party chairman. “Polly was a relentless Republican. She was the party activist for a long time.”

Her contacts reached as high as the White House, but Mrs. Logan was just as fervent supporting local candidates, including working the phones for a Cohasset Board of Selectmen candidate more than a decade ago, at 77. “It’s important to do,” she told the Globe in March 2003. “This is our farm team.”

Dwight recalled that Mrs. Logan always stressed “people-oriented” campaigning and “wanted the candidate, me, or any of the others, to meet and listen to as many people who were interested in the campaign as possible. She was adamant about that.”

Mrs. Logan also “was at the forefront of entry by women into the party,” said David Locke, a former Republican minority leader in the state Senate. “She was able not only to recruit them, but instill in them a spirit of making the party what it became.”

Locke added that “the party won’t be the same without her, but it’s far better because of her.”

She was born Paula Peterson in Red Oak, a small city in western Iowa about an hour outside Omaha. Her father was an Iowa food broker, and she attended the University of Nebraska before transferring to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to train for the Foreign Service.

Visiting a sister in Boston, she went to a football game and met Edward Logan, a Harvard student who asked if she would accompany him to see “Brigadoon.”

“I wasn’t even coy about it,” she told the Globe in 2003. “I said, ‘Would I!’ ”

In 1949 she married Logan, after whose uncle, also Edward Logan, Logan Airport was named.

He was a Democrat, and she was among the small number of Catholics in Massachusetts at the time who became involved with the Republican Party. The party differences in the household did not divide the couple.

“Ed and I have lively discussions about politics, and I get to know what the Democrats are thinking,” she told the Globe in 1978. “He’s been very cooperative and understanding.”

Mr. Logan, a major general who had been commander of the Yankee Division of the National Guard, died in 1983 at 65. Their son, Malcolm, died of a heart attack last year at 56.

Described as an indefatigable worker on any number of campaigns, Mrs. Logan seemed just as able to skip past the most serious setbacks in her life. She was treated for colon cancer in 1997 and had open-heart surgery in 2001.

The following year, her Cohasset home was robbed, and she was left bound and gagged with duct tape, at 77, in an upstairs bedroom of her house, where she was found suffering from extreme dehydration a couple of days later. She said later that as she waited for help in temperatures in the vicinity of 100 degrees, she thought of how US Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, had survived being tortured while a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“I remember hearing Senator McCain staying alert by going over old movies,” she told the Globe in 2005. “I thought about all the state campaigns I was in, and how we lost most of them and what we could have done to win.”

Services for Mrs. Logan in New Jersey and Massachusetts will be announced.

Her niece Roberta Collier of New Bern, N.C., who grew up in Mrs. Logan’s household, recalled that in the years her aunt assisted campaigns, “whatever she did, she did with lots of gusto, and she expected you to become an immediate team player and join right in.”

In addition to her niece, Mrs. Logan leaves a sister, Pat Rissler of Lenexa, Kansas, and a brother, Fred Peterson of Fort Worth, Texas.

A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Anthony’s Church in Cohasset for Mrs. Logan and her daughter.

If a mailing needed to be done, the ping-pong table was placed atop the billiard table and Mrs. Logan put everyone in the house to work going through “box after box of envelopes,” Collier said. “You had to label them. You had to sort them by zip code.” After a trip into Boston to drop the envelopes off at the Post Office, a few hours of sleep separated the night’s work from the next day’s tasks, which Mrs. Logan approached with equal energy.

“She had no equal in my view in terms of putting her shoulder to the wheel and making the old cart go,” Locke said.

Bryan Marquard
can be reached at bmarquard@globe.com.

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