Volume 79, Number 9 | August 5 - 11, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Obituary

Elizabeth Jane Allison, 97, a Hoosier in Manhattan

By Albert Amateau

Elizabeth Jane Allison, a Village resident who for years wrote a daily column entitled “Hoosier in Manhattan” for the Indianapolis, Ind., newspapers, died July 20 at the age of 97.

Born in Spencer, Ind., she became a Villager by choice, having moved to the neighborhood more than 60 years ago.

Known from childhood as Jane, she was a girlhood friend of Nina Mason, who in 1941 married Eugene Pulliam, publisher of a chain of newspapers from Indiana to Arizona.

At Jane’s viewing last Monday at Perazzo Funeral Home on Bleecker St., neighbors and friends recalled her as an enthusiast for theater and cabaret performance and an animal lover devoted to Ninabel, her Maltese.

Oscar Moore, a freelance theater critic and a former partner with Hubert Des Forges in a kitchenware boutique on W. 10th St., recalled that Jane helped them find an apartment in the building where she lived on the northeast corner of Washington Square Park.

“She was a great theatergoer and she loved opera,” Moore said. “She had a pretty good voice, too, but she sang only occasionally at parties after a drink or two of her favorite — vodka with a just a splash of ginger ale.”

Donald Smith, a cabaret agent and founder of the Mabel Mercer Foundation, met Jane Allison about 45 years ago at a gallery.

“She went everywhere, looking for people from Indiana for her column,” Smith said. “I worshiped Cole Porter — he was a Hoosier, born in Peru, Indiana — and I had a party on his birthday every year since his death. Jane would come to all of them.”

Shawn White, who was the housekeeper for Jane Allison’s University Place apartment for the past decade, was a fount of knowledge about his late employer and dear friend, Janie.

“Nina Mason Pulliam was her late boss and dearest friend since the 1920s when they both worked for the magazine Farm Life, which went under when the Depression hit,” he said.

White said Jane would occasionally talk about her three ex-husbands and her near husbands, most of whom had Indiana in their backgrounds.

“She married an elderly man whose family had music publishing connections. I don’t remember his name, but she showed me his picture and he was really old,” White said. “I asked her why she married him and she said, ‘For his money.’ Then she was married for a while to Wad Allen, a musician who was a friend of Hoagy Carmichael [a popular songwriter]. They were both from Indiana.”

She was last married to Patrick McGuff, White said. At one point she was engaged to an Indiana doctor, Stanley Davis, who boasted to her that he was having Frank Lloyd Wright design his house.

“But she said, ‘I like Colonial’ and the marriage just didn’t happen,” White said. “There was also a Pakistani who died in a plane crash. She told me she almost killed herself over him,” he recalled.

In a 1980 “About New York” column in The New York Times by William E. Farrell, Jane Allison told about her love for New York City and about her first published writing — the society column for the Spencer Evening News when she was 10. She also told Farrell that when the Andrea Doria was struck in 1956 and the survivors were brought to the Manhattan docks, she was told to interview the four Hoosiers on board.

“I was so scared I’d miss them. I made a big sign saying ‘Hoosiers here,’ and they came,” she told Farrell.

According to a résumé that she left with her executor, Catherine Fitzsimmons, she worked for Voice of America in New York in 1949 and worked for the Indianapolis Times in 1941-’42. From 1937, when she graduated from DePauw University, to 1941, she was the auditorium program director for the William H. Block Department Store in Indianapolis.

“I helped arrange such daily attractions as book reviews, fashion shows, concerts, plays, travelogues, etc. and the two hour-long radio programs emanating from the auditorium,” she wrote in the résumé.

Even after her “Hoosier in Manhattan” columns were discontinued she continued to write things for Pulliam papers until about 1990.

“In the last few years she was very frustrated with her decline and was at times difficult beyond description,” White said. “Now that it’s over, I believe it was because she loved life so very much and saw it was coming to a close.

“I miss the Janie that was funny and happy, and yet I know that nothing lasts forever. I was lucky to have known her,” he said.

Two nephews, David Allison of Texas and Eric Allison of Florida, and a niece, Julie Allison of Gig Harbor, Wash., survive. Jane’s ashes are to be buried in the family plot in Spencer, Ind.

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