Rosanna (White) Cullity of East Sandwich, curator of the Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum for nearly 40 years, died November 19 at the age of 99.
She was born in her family home on Cedarville Road, the only daughter of Samuel Dexter White and Anna Nye Armstrong and a direct descendant of Benjamin Nye and Katherine Tupper, one of the earliest families to settle in East Sandwich. The house in which she and her two brothers grew up had served as the Cedarville schoolhouse in the mid-1800s. Her maternal grandparents, Rosa Nye Armstrong and Frank Armstrong, converted the Cedarville School into a farmhouse and moved it from “School House Hill” to its present location in 1896.
When she was 10 years old, her mother died, so she helped to cook and do housekeeping, but nevertheless enjoyed a childhood filled with friends and adventures. She learned to can vegetables and to target shoot with a 22; her artistic talents extended to painting, sewing, knitting, rug hooking and braiding and jewelry making. A favorite game was playing house with her best friend, Jackie (Snow) Staples, a precursor to the later work Ms. Cullity did as curator at the Nye House.
She was graduated from Sandwich High School in 1938 and married Walter D. Cullity in 1942 after becoming reacquainted two years earlier. The first time they had met was in 1926 when Mr. Cullity, a lineman, was working in Sandwich during construction of power lines down the Cape. He was part of a group of workmen who rented the old Joseph Hoxie home, nearly opposite the Benjamin Nye Homestead on Old County Road in East Sandwich, and would buy milk and produce at her grandmother’s dairy farm. They would meet again in Sandwich about 14 years later. Mr. Cullity died in 1997.
Ms. Cullity had interest in history, antiques, old houses and furnishings. She and her husband were antique dealers and collectors. They operated the Old Time Shop on Route 6A for 39 years. Ms. Cullity was instrumental in saving and restoring the 17th-century dwelling built by her ancestors that became the shop. She would later operate a small shop at her home on Cedarville Road up until spring 2019. The local antique collectors and flea market vendors sought her expertise, especially for early American items.
She will perhaps be remembered most for her effort in reviving the Nye Family Association in 1959 in order to obtain stewardship of the 17th-century home built by Benjamin Nye, restoring and furnishing it as a small antique house museum. Mr. Nye, one of the early settlers of Sandwich, established one of the first gristmills in the country in 1669. Ms. Cullity served on the board of trustees and as curator of the Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum from 1960 to February 2019.
The site opened to the public in 1972. The house, in its original setting, has many artifacts that show how life was lived in Colonial times. After the Nye Family of America Association completed repairs to the Borning Room at the museum, Ms. Cullity stenciled the walls with pineapples and willow trees, a design inspired by early Federal décor.
She also was one of the eight founding members of the Thornton W. Burgess Society, which was formed on January 8, 1976; and served on the board of the Sandwich Glass Museum.
In 1987 she collaborated with her son John Nye Cullity, a local historian, on “The Sandwich Album,” a collection with commentary of historic photographs of the town published by the Nye Family Association. The book was assembled in honor of the 350th anniversary of the founding of Sandwich.
Ms. Cullity was chosen in 2006 as the first recipient of the Leo F. Manning award for outstanding volunteerism in the Town of Sandwich.
She traveled throughout New England, visited Ireland and, in her mid-80s, explored the jungles of Guyana. She witnessed the Challenger disaster in 1986. She was an avid reader and kept active; in 1987 she and her friend Jackie Staples systematically walked every road in town.
Ms. Cullity loved nature, all animals and her garden. She kept chickens for many years and raised dogs, cats, a red squirrel, woodchuck, Canadian goose, a parrot and more. In the early 1950s she kept a pet crow: Blackie couldn’t talk, but could imitate laughter and crowd noise.
She leaves three sons, W. Daniel Cullity and John Nye Cullity, both of East Sandwich, and Brian David Cullity of Sagamore; 10 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and extended family.
In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her brothers, Robert L. White and John D. White.
A celebration of her life is planned for next spring, on May 2 at the East Sandwich Grange Hall.