Obituary: Willa Wye Rockett, Belmont Dramatic Club's Cornerstone

A member of the club since 1940 and resident of Belmont from 1931.

Willa Wye Rockett, who for decades was a major force in the Belmont Dramatic Club, died on Saturday, Nov. 23.

Rockett, known as "The Purple Lady" for her favorite lilac color, turned 100 on July 29.

"I could not have lived in a better place," said Rockett on her centennial birthday. "I'm so so lucky to have all of you. I love you all," she told her friends and family. 

A Belmont resident since 1931, Rockett was well-known for acting, directing, producing some of the early productions of the Belmont Dramatic Club – the second oldest community theater club in the US – having joined the organization in 1940 before going behind the scenes working on mailings and tickets. She was an honorary board member at the time of her death. 

Rockett was born in Needham on July 29, 1913 to William H. Wye Jr. and Bertha Wye (Conley).

The family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin before traveling back to Needham before settling in Winchendon on the New Hampshire border when it was known as "Toy Town" for the Morton E. Converse & Company.

"That's where I went to high school, where I had my happy days," Rockett told Belmont Patch in July. Rockett was her High School class' valedictorian in 1929.

Rockett graduated from the prestigious Leland Powers School of the Theater in Boston's Fenway neighborhood in 1932 at the same time as the great character actor Reta Shaw. She studied acting and elocution before beginning a career teaching public speaking, acting and speech in Belmont from 1932 to 1944.

She worked in the accounting department at Mass Bonding Insurance in Boston from 1945 to 1971 and at J. C. Paige, Boston from 1971 to 1978.

She married Francis W. Rockett in May 1944 but has been a widow for nearly a half century. For many years, she lived in a two-family on Trapelo Road with her parents on the first floor. She moved in with her mother on Harriet Avenue a few years after her husband's death.

Rockett loved to travel and would never missed a chance to head off to the Cape and loved visiting Nantucket. Her niece said one of her biggest thrills was winning a drug store contest which allowed her to take her mother on her mother's 75th birthday on a tour of Paris.

Visiting hours will be held in the Brown & Hickey Funeral Home, 36 Trapelo Rd.,  on Friday Dec. 6, 2013 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. A funeral service will be held at the Payson Park Church 365 Belmont St. on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. Burial will take place at Belmont Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to the Payson Park Church 365 Belmont St., Belmont, Mass. 02478. 


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