Sunday, March 26, 2006

City Loses Outspoken Activist

Another fervent community voice has been stilled.

Phyllis Mason, a commentator on both local and national politics for many years, died Saturday at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.

She was one of the regulars who came to the microphone at City Council meetings to state her views on city finances and decisions of the governing body. Her voice had a ringing quality that commanded attention and she used both intellect and humor in trying to sway the council to her arguments.

A Republican for many years, she became a Democrat more recently. After her car accident in May 2005, she could not attend council meetings but began watching C-Span for hours at a time and writing letters to Senator John Kerry and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. She had a zest for Congressional byplay that few people could match.

While devoted to things of the mind, Phyllis cared less for bodily needs and often ate dinner at midnight or got around to breakfast by late afternoon. She was more faithful in caring for her dear Chihuahua, Anisette, who suffered many health problems until dying in December 2004.

Phyllis favored long phone conversations and didn’t hesitate to keep talking if a new idea occurred to her. She had a hearty laugh that often punctuated her many anecdotes about people she knew.

Perhaps her greatest interest was holding elected and appointed officials - in Plainfield or in Washington - accountable their constituencies and to the laws they swore to uphold. If she got mad enough, Phyllis was not above swearing a little bit herself in exasperation with the shenanigans of officeholders.

She was in the hospital only briefly before it became clear that she was gravely ill and would not recover. She will be missed by all those who admired her strong will and clear personal vision of how a city or a country should be run.

Count this writer among them.

--Bernice Paglia