Masterson led long life of giving

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 21, 1999

Floyce Taylor Masterson never wanted public attention. By all accounts, she was a strong-willed, generous woman who was always looking to the future. &uot;She loved living, and I think she truly lived every day of her life,&uot; said her niece Cissy Galloway of Alexandria, La.

Although Masterson didn’t seek attention, she likely will be remembered by many people for her generosity.

To a handful of cowboys, she was the strong-willed widow who took over a Texas ranch when her young husband died.

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To Texas Tech University, she is a donor to the school’s Ranching Heritage Center, a museum and research center devoted to the life Masterson married into.

To the people of rural west Texas, she is the woman who helped bring clean, drinkable running water to the parched area.

And to Natchez, she will now be remembered as the donor behind a charitable trust whose grants will help restore the city piece by piece.

But to her nieces and nephews, her most important role was as a loving aunt who taught them the romance of ranching and took them out for a night on the town in New Orleans.

&uot;My sister and I often said, it was like having a second mother,&uot; Galloway said. &uot;She always came to the rescue in a crisis.

&uot;She was one of the most loving, giving people I’ve ever known.&uot;

Nephew Dr. Gene Taylor of Natchez remembers a particularly special Christmas present one year.

&uot;She called me up and said, ‘Your Christmas present this year is a night on the town in New Orleans,’ Taylor said. &uot;She took us anywhere we wanted to go.&uot;

Born in Taylor, Ark., Masterson moved to Ferriday, La., when she was a young girl. One of six brothers and sisters, all college-educated, she went to Texas Tech University, where she met her husband, Thomas Bennett Masterson.

&uot;She was the first girl Uncle Tom met at Texas Tech,&uot; said her niece Peggy Thomas of Fort Worth, Texas.

Masterson and her husband moved to a west Texas ranch, where she quickly grew accustomed to the rugged way of life.

When Galloway and her sister, Peggy Thomas, were children, they lived near the ranch. The Mastersons had no children of their own.

&uot;We got to really experience that life and the romance of it,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;Of course, it was not romantic, it was a very hard life.&uot;

&uot;But she celebrated that life. She took to it like a duck to water.&uot;

And when her husband died at 39, Masterson, who held a home economics degree from Louisiana State University, took over running the ranch.

&uot;That was in the days when women didn’t do that,&uot; Masterson said in April.

&uot;She ran that ranch,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;She went out and led the cowboys and dealt with the cattlebuyers.&uot;

One of Masterson’s business associates once told Galloway that her aunt had the best business judgment he’d ever seen.

Some Texans will remember Masterson for her efforts to bring clean running water to rural parts of the state. The dry area had few streams, and the water was full of gypsum which made it undrinkable, Thomas said.

So Masterson lobbied the legislature for a better water system.

&uot;They laid water pipes so that water would come from where there was water,&uot; said Thomas, who remembers learning as a girl that some of the cowboy families on her aunt’s ranch couldn’t even get running water.

In her later years, Masterson returned to the Miss-Lou where she’d grown up, settling in the Van Court townhouse on Washington Street and restoring the house and its garden.

&uot;Natchez is such a beautiful town,&uot; she said in April. &uot;I spent all those years in west Texas where you can grow so little.&uot;

In Natchez, said her nieces and nephews, Masterson could concentrate on two of her favorite things: the city and her family. She had moved back to be closer to her siblings and nieces and nephews.

&uot;I never had a meeting with her that she didn’t talk about her family,&uot; said Mimi Miller, director of preservation and education for the Historic Natchez Foundation, which will administer the Masterson Trust.

&uot;She was certainly a favorite aunt,&uot; nephew Taylor said. &uot;She always had an optimistic attitude on life. She was always very kind to me and my children. She was very generous with her time and with her money.&uot;

Masterson even named the garden behind the townhouse the Garden of Four Sisters, for herself and her three sisters.

Masterson told her sister, Cleo Taylor Condray, she would take care of &uot;her girls,&uot; even though they weren’t girls anymore.

Even now, Galloway often has to stop herself from calling her aunt just to talk.

&uot;She would do things for all of us, all our lives,&uot; Galloway said. &uot;She was truly a generous, spirited woman.&uot;