Skip to content Skip to footer

The Biography of Juanita Whitaker Pulos



This tribute results from my mother’s lifetime of service for the betterment of society. It was composed nearly 20 years after her death. The intent is to memorialize my mother’s contributions in the fields of music and fine arts in rural Western New York, most of which I only recently came to recognize and appreciate.

My thanks to everyone I’ve contacted in this endeavor including my brother Robert, Mark Davidson for always being willing to listen, Ellen Slaght, Shannon Buckley and Joreen Young for their production assistance, my partner Tim Rosell for his patience in allowing me the freedom to explore this concept, Jennie Hanks Wright for her faith and insight and my wife Darcy Pulos for her support and encouragement, particularly while proof- reading numerous drafts of the text and in helping me find the balance.

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Donna Burdett Ryan for serving as the catalyst helping transition the past to the present.

I’m grateful for the loving and positive thoughts from my mother’s students and friends; many have been told to me and most, I’m certain, are unknown to me. I have been humbled by the impact my mother had on people’s lives, particularly during their formative years.

I’m fairly certain I’ve left out names of people with whom my mother had a special relationship. If I have, it is because I don’t know (about) them or don’t know about the relationships. I apologize to those people, thank them for their friendship and thank them for sharing my mother’s spirit.

Miraculously, as this was going to print, my wife made contact with the Pittman family, whose children were my mother’s students in the late 1970’s. They (mother Diana and daughter Zoey) are now professional recording artists and composers.

The Pittman family was kind enough to send their memories, the text of which serves as the Postlude to this piece.

The description of their experience encapsulates the meaning of my mother’s life as I am now finally coming to understand it.

Lastly, I dedicate this effort to my niece, Kailey Whitaker Pulos within whom the music lives.

William Whitaker Pulos

February 2006



Juanita Whitaker was born a coal miner’s daughter in the small town of Cromona, Kentucky, about 18 miles from the Virginia border, on October 7, 1925. Her parents were Wiley and Ethel Stapleton Whitaker. She had one older sister, Roberta.

As a child, Juanita was raised in the coal fields and mining towns. The family followed the coal mining business throughout the heart of Appalachia, living primarily in Kentucky and West Virginia. They were devout Christians and members of the 1st Church of God of Anderson, Indiana. The brother of Juanita’s father was a minister in the Church of God denomination.

As children of the Great Depression, Juanita’s family lived in what were known as “company towns”. These were settlements surrounding the local mines where payment was made to the miners every Friday by the company in the form of paper “scrip” which could then be spent in the company facilities like the company store. After many years of the coal miner’s life, Juanita’s father succumbed to black lung disease.

Juanita was drawn to music at an early age. Once, while a young girl under 5 years old, her family was visiting the local county fair. Juanita came up missing only to be found on the lap of an organ player. Her parents understood then that music had a magnetic pull for Juanita, not to be denied.

Her first piano teacher was the wife of the local doctor. The family took a liking to Juanita and served as mentors for her. Sister Roberta reports the doctor’s wife was a tough taskmaster, informing Juanita early on that she didn’t want to waste her time if Juanita wasn’t going to seriously practice playing the piano. Those early lessons of formal education and constant practice stayed with Juanita throughout her life.

Juanita’s father had learned on his own to play the banjo and he played the instrument without sheet music. Juanita inherited this trait and she learned to play by ear as well. Juanita was blessed with perfect pitch. She also had the ability to play without sheet music, a trait she would later teach her students. Her first instrument was a spinet. As she grew into her teens, Juanita studied with a local musician and learned to play the accordion as well.

From the age of 12, Juanita served as the regular church pianist. In her teenage years leading up to, and well into, World War II, she played at evangelical church revivals which drew big crowds. According to sister Roberta, she was well known as the outstanding accompanist in the area and when the revivals/performers came to town, they wanted to play with Juanita.

From those meager beginnings, Juanita’s love and appreciation of music grew, taking her on a lifelong journey of extensive formal education, classical and technical music training, and service to community, children and church.


Juanita graduated from Fleming High School in Fleming, Kentucky in 1943. In what was a considerable leap of faith, a year later she left the coalfields for good and began her collegiate education at Anderson College in Anderson, Indiana, the college and home of the 1st Church of God. While at Anderson, students were not allowed to have cars and daily morning chapel attendance was required.

It was here Juanita pursued her undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), majoring in the field of piano theory. During her four undergraduate years, she studied various aspects of music and piano including harmony, history, orchestration, recital, classical and evangelical. She regularly trained 4 hours a day to complete the applied music college piano requirements. She joined Mu Phi Epsilon, the national music sorority as well as various campus groups like the Pep Club.


It was while attending Anderson College Juanita met her husband, an Anderson local and professor-in- training, William L. Pulos, to whom she was married in the Park Place Church of God near campus in 1948. The wedding minister was Dr. Carl Kardatzke, a prominent college theologian, whose family now numbers more than 100 Anderson (College) University alumni.

The couple was married for 37 years. One schoolmate from the couple’s wedding party, Rusty Ratcliff, wrote 57 years later in 2005 that she remembered “(many times) going to the college music room listening to Juanita play which she did without any sheet music.” That type of performance was the kind of lasting memory Juanita left with people throughout her life.

After graduation in 1948, Juanita immediately began teaching as an assistant instructor on the Anderson campus while continuing her college studies, a pattern she would follow for the next 25 years. She enrolled for Masters of Music graduate study at the Arthur Jordan Music Conservatory in Indianapolis, Indiana, now part of Butler University. While at the Conservatory, Juanita continued her formal piano training in such areas as Musicology, Pedagogy of Applied Music and Piano Normal Method.


The following year in 1949, Juanita and William packed all their belongings in a car, said goodbye to William’s hometown and their alma mater and came east to Alfred University, for William’s professorship that lasted 36 years. Evidently, the trip east was uneventful until arriving in Elm Valley. Stopping at the corner Texaco station, they were instructed to follow Elm Valley Road (the infamous County Route 12) to Alfred, their destination. After driving for what they thought was an inordinate amount of time “into the dark on a strange road with few houses”, they turned back thinking they had made a mistake. No, they were told, “just keep driving”, which they did. They began their life at Saxon Heights with neighbors including the Langs, the Lobdells, the Ogdens and many others.


It was at this point in time that Juanita began her own 36 year relationship with the University. After settling in Alfred, Juanita immediately enrolled in the Masters of Education program in the fall of 1949. Her Masters coursework included study in the fields of Teaching, Psychology, Guidance and Philosophy. Those courses would help Juanita transition her love of music to the public school system. The University conferred the Master of Education degree (M.Ed.) upon Juanita 2 years later in 1951.


A year earlier in 1950, at age 24 and while still in the Masters program, Juanita was hired by the merged Alfred-Almond School District as a vocal music teacher for the elementary grades, which included responsibility for the grade chorus and junior chorus. She began teaching in the fall of 1950 and was awarded tenure in 1955 at the end of 5 years.

Juanita served two terms at Alfred-Almond, 1950-1955 and 1961-1966. During both terms, she helped produce various musical presentations and plays in addition to her teaching duties, starting with the “Gilbert and Sullivan Revue” in 1951. In what was to become the hallmark of her career, she took an exceptional interest in the welfare of the children, particularly the young ones and those from disadvantaged homes. She would do whatever she could to protect defenseless children and keep them from harm’s way.

It was here Juanita began a series of special relationships she shared during her life with many friends and students, from across the years and across the spectrum, some of whom include: Miss Hazel Humphreys, Lucille and Mildred Baker, Ollene Smith, Irene Mitchell, Doris Paine and Jackie (Paine) Walker, Patricia Spaine (Harvey) Curran, Amanda (Stevens) Snyder, Joyce and Diane Leon, Rose Emerson, Rose Marie (Emerson) Jennings and Phyllis (Emerson) Dennis, Norilyn (Cornell) Patrick, Angie Ninos, Margaret Butler, Margery Sands, Janet Love, Elizabeth (Pat) Sibley, Lisa (Smith) Hilfiger, Christine (DeSain) Peterson, Diana and Bob Pittman and Zoey (Pittman) Lynne, Fran Washburn, Diana, Charise and Rena Zweygardt, Zakia and Aida Robana.

In addition, Juanita had a unique affinity in her heart for the women comprising the food service and hospitality support staff of Alfred University, Alfred State College (f/k/a “the Tech”) and Alfred-Almond Central School.

Although the list of people with whom Juanita had a special relationship is very long, in the end perhaps the person Juanita felt closest to in her life was her beloved Virginia (Buchanan) Van der Veer (A-A Class of 1955).

At the same time she began making friends, Juanita began teaching piano with private lessons in her home on Jericho Hill on Elm Valley Road in the Town of Alfred, something she did her entire life.

Juanita was no pushover as a teacher and there’s no shortage of students to attest to that. When it came to piano practice, she didn’t play favorites (regardless of social background) and wasn’t afraid to drop piano students if they didn’t practice diligently. This rule she had learned at an early age from the doctor’s wife in Kentucky.

According to long-time student Amanda (Stevens) Snyder, Juanita (early on) encouraged and inspired her (and many others) not only to practice, but to push themselves to play and perform without sheet music, the trait Juanita had learned as a child. Simply stated, Juanita always wanted the best her students could give.

Sharon (Smith) Quintos, an All-State singer from Alfred Station, remembers (in school) “she was a strict disciplinarian, she made you sit up, pay attention and behave. She wasn’t mean, (rather) in a loving manner she believed in, and taught, good manners and respect. At the same time, she would always take a few of us aside to playfully sing and perform her original compositions while (spoofing) herself. She liked to have fun. She was my inspiration.”

Through the years, Juanita’s students presented numerous piano recitals. For example, in May of 1954, several students from Alfred-Almond performed at the Alfred home of Dr. and Mrs. Harold Simpson: Alan Whitney, Jennifer Smith, Holley Rawe, Alan Simpson, Lynda Whitney, Charles Smith, Olyce Mitchell, Pat Mensinger and Donna Burdett.

The next academic year, 1954-1955, the ALCEN student yearbook reported Juanita as the director of the junior high chorus with nearly 70 junior high students in the group photo. Typical of her Alfred-Almond service, at Christmas time of that year, THE ALFRED SUN reported Juanita directed about 400 children presenting the pantomime, “A Christmas Carol Pageant”, featuring sixth graders George Miller, Ann Dickens and Bill Frechette.

Juanita took five years off from teaching at Alfred-Almond to have her two sons, William in 1955 and Robert in 1957, both Alfred-Almond and Alfred University graduates. She lived to see her son Robert become an elementary teacher.


Once her boys started school at Alfred-Almond, Juanita returned for her second term of teaching in the fall of 1961. This time she was put in charge of the entire K-12 vocal music program. Using what she had learned about the school, its families and children in the previous decade, (in sports parlance) Juanita returned with a passion, went to work and “really put up the numbers.”

The previous year 1960-1961, the numbers were down; the elementary chorus had 54 children, the junior high chorus had 19 members and the senior high chorus had 18, all girls, no boys. By June 1962, Juanita recruited 3 boys for the senior high chorus and sent Jan (Burdett) Leathersich and Dorothy (Snyder) Goodridge as delegates to area All-State. She solidified her credentials in September of that year by earning permanent certification as a music teacher from the New York State Education Department.

The turnaround soon became more profound; by 1963 there were 97 children in elementary chorus, 48 in junior high and 67 (including 21 boys) in senior high chorus with several members going to All-State competition, including Susan Scholes, Tom Rawe and Joe Decker.

In 2006, Joe Decker recalled his experience (43 years earlier) at the All State Chorus Festival in Gowanda, New York in 1963:

Before the festival (Juanita) made us practice and practice 7 or 8 songs until we could sing them without sheet music. She drove us to Gowanda herself in her own vehicle. We bunked with families in town for the weekend. During practice on stage at Gowanda with the New York State ensemble, the Director singled out Juanita as having the best prepared students and best performers of the entire group. We were the only students in the group able to perform the songs without sheet music. The experience of that trip to All State is the highlight of my high school career.”

The following year 1963-1964, in what could be considered her crowning achievement Juanita recruited, taught, coached and directed 6 separate choral groups at the school: junior high chorus, senior high chorus, a new 6th grade girls chorus with 27 members, a new 6th grade boys chorus with 17 members, a new combo group with 80 members dubbed “(the) harmonaires” and incredibly, an elementary chorus with 134 members, all in addition to her regular teaching duties.

Juanita had so many children and teenagers singing that year it took a full 3 pages of the ALCEN student yearbook to print all the group’s composite photos. Nevertheless, she knew the names of all the children. She just had a knack for recruiting.

Another of Juanita’s students, Jennie (Hanks) Wright remembers that Juanita “made me feel she was genuinely glad to have me near her. She had such an appreciation and joy in the music. She made every child or person in her presence feel very special by giving each her full attention. In my mind, that is the greatest gift that a teacher can give a child.”

Jennie’s classmate, Kate (Fasano) Foster, encapsulated her experience with Juanita by relating “(Juanita) was simply an integral part of all my school days prior to going to college . . . she was so joyful . . . .”

As the big numbers in her elementary choruses demonstrate, Juanita reached for the spirit of every student and wanted each of them to make the most of their talent and innate abilities. Stories abound regarding her generosity, her teaching ability and willingness to help others.

Many of Juanita’s students carried forward to major or minor with music study in college, including Jackie (Paine) Walker (whose mother Doris Paine was a long-time teacher at Alfred-Almond), Rose Marie (Emerson) Jennings, Virginia (Buchanan) Van der Veer, Amanda (Stevens) Snyder, Lisa (Smith) Hilfiger and Zoey (Pittman) Lynne.

Jackie Walker, Rose Marie Jennings and Amanda Snyder were at least three of Juanita’s earliest students that went on to become teachers in New York public schools. All three graduated from SUNY Fredonia School of Music. Jackie became an elementary and reading teacher as her mother before her, while Rose Marie and Amanda became music teachers.

Rose Marie Jennings attended Fredonia School of Music (as did Amanda after her), taught in Buffalo and New Jersey and then taught vocal music K-12 at Belmont Central School for 23 years. In a remarkable role change, some 30 years after their teacher–student relationship at Alfred-Almond, Juanita on occasion was a substitute teacher for Rose Marie in Belmont!

Amanda traced Juanita’s footsteps more closely. After Fredonia, Amanda earned her master’s degree from Alfred University, as Juanita had 22 years before her. Amanda followed Juanita as a music teacher at Alfred-Almond for many years and at Canaseraga Central School as well, while serving as the choir director and organist at the Alfred Station Seventh Day Baptist Church.

All told, Juanita reached 3 generations at Alfred-Almond spanning the graduates from 1951 to 1978 and touched the lives of hundreds of children and their families.


In 1961, Juanita also returned to Alfred University, again as a graduate student, to continue her post-Masters degree course of study. For the next five years, she taught public school full time and pursued her graduate school studies while raising two young children. In doing so, she integrated her learning of music theory and psychology of music at the University by implementing them with her social science training of teaching music in the public schools. All in all, Juanita earned a total of 45 credit hours of post-Masters degree study at Alfred University.

In addition to becoming involved in the public school and university communities, Juanita continued her lifelong commitment to the church. In 36 years, she devoted her efforts to four separate church congregations and volunteered for numerous others.


Juanita followed her fundamentalist Baptist roots upon her Alfred arrival by serving the Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church in the 1950’s. She sang in the choir for many years and it was there she began her study and mastery of the church’s dynamic pipe organ, another considerable challenge for her.

Her mentor in learning the pipe organ was Dr. Melvin LeMon, the noted, longtime professor of music at Alfred University. Their relationship was very close for many years. Her sons knew Dr. LeMon as “Uncle Mel”. As she did in college, Juanita devoted hours and hours of training and practice to master this instrument. She enjoyed playing and many can attest to her skill and prowess on the bench in that church.


In 1960, Juanita joined the Union University Church, coinciding with the simultaneous hiring of the Reverend Richard V. Bergren as Pastor and Dr. LeMon as Organist and Choir Director. These gentlemen succeeded to the roles formerly held at the Church by AU President Dr. Booth C. Davis as Pastor, Mrs. Joseph Seidlin as Organist and Mrs. Lois Boren Scholes as Choir Director, whose granddaughter Susan Scholes soon became an All-State performer for Juanita.

Juanita spent 14 years in the Church, 8 years in service with Rev. Bergren. Her duties included serving as assistant organist and choir director to Dr. LeMon as well as director of the Junior and Youth choir. In 1961, Charlie Cameron wrote in the church notes that Juanita “developed a very strong program for our young people.” In THE HISTORY OF THE UNION UNIVERSITY CHURCH 1922-1972, Mrs. Grace Nease noted “We notice more parents at church on the mornings the children sing.”

The choir members from those times can recount the ritual followed by Rev. Bergren and Juanita on the mornings the children sang in church. Just before the service, Rev. Bergren would always meet with Juanita’s juniors in the cloakroom and stairwell. In this anteroom, with children on the floor and perched on the stairs, Rev. Bergren always offered a prayer for the world, the community and the children.


In 1967, after Alfred-Almond, Juanita began college teaching at Alfred University in the Music Department as a Lecturer in Music. She held that post for nearly 20 years until her death. Juanita’s specialty at Alfred University was as a tutor for students in piano and organ.

She offered lessons on campus, including historic Susan Howell Hall and the Gothic Chapel sanctuary, while continuing private lessons in her home. In her 36 year teaching career, she had hundreds of public, private and collegiate students.

While teaching at the University in the 1960’s, Juanita honed her skills with post-graduate work in such fields as compositional techniques, contemporary styles and modern harmony. Always yearning for more, Juanita enrolled for study at the prestigious Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, proving (among other things) that her skill level and desire were still serious business.

She extended her commitment and involvement with long-time memberships in the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the New York State Music Teachers Association.

The evolving 1970’s brought change to Juanita and once again she was called for service, both in the public schools and in the Church. At almost 50 years of age, Juanita embarked on what likely was her most difficult professional challenge, this time in Steuben County.


The Greenwood Central School advertised a (single salary) dual teaching position for both vocal music and visual arts. In recommending Juanita for the job, Alfred University’s President Dr. Leland Miles told the Greenwood Superintendent Mr. Gary Moore “(Juanita was) an outstanding community citizen and fine musician.”

In essence, Juanita was recruited as a State certified professional to teach music and art, for grade levels K12 at Greenwood (combining the duties of 3 or 4 teaching positions) in one classroom. In describing the job Mr. Moore wrote “The situation Juanita walked into was disturbing . . . inadequate supplies, inadequate classroom space and an almost impossible schedule.” Nevertheless, as a testament to her skill and courage, Juanita was willing and in February 1974, she was hired.

Uniquely, this required her to teach visual arts and get formal training in the field at the same time. Never one to shrink from a challenge, Juanita again returned to Alfred University, this time for course work in the visual arts including technical art, art and art history, form and sound relationships, ultimately seeking to merge the music she loved with the visuals she cherished.

The Greenwood school superintendent’s subsequent evaluations are indicative of Juanita’s skills and talents. At the beginning, Juanita was described as “tremendous, hard working, extremely flexible and excellent in communication and student/teacher relationships”. Less than one year into the job, the Superintendent recognized Juanita’s gift for helping disadvantaged children by writing Juanita “has done a lot to benefit many youngsters and high school students who in some situations have not been what one might consider successful.”

In 1975, Juanita was described as “a lady with a great big heart who opens it up to all of the children she has anything to do with . . . before school, after school, evenings, weekends . . . . she spends a great deal of time in creating a tremendous teacher/student relationship.”

By the end of 3 semesters, the superintendent documented that Juanita had taken “25-30 students, with no apparent talent for art or music and had encouraged them to do things such as sing solos and produce their own art work” as he wrote “I see Juanita Pulos as a woman who gives 120% to the school . . . . She is the most warm and kind hearted person to the students as she gives of herself . . . . I would find it very difficult to find anyone who is willing to take the load that she does.”

At the end of 4 semesters, the Superintendent reported Juanita in music class “was working for excellence in timing and quality . . . which takes a great deal of work and patience . . . at no time did Juanita leave any doubt that she was going to get what she wanted (out of the students).”

Juanita’s work at Greenwood came to a premature end after 2 ½ years because of budgetary reasons. Mindful of the children yet to come, Juanita offered the following capsule comment reflecting her life’s mission by defining the place and role of art and music education in the total picture, defending it’s inclusion in the local school curriculum:

The groundwork for present and future knowledge, enjoyment and appreciation of art and music is laid early in the public school program afforded children. It should be a continuing, ongoing and uninterrupted educational program in order to reach the desired goals and should be carefully cultivated and nurtured in the life of each child.


In 1974, Juanita began serving the congregation of the nearby First Baptist Church of Canisteo, where she was organist and choir director for 6 years. In 2005, Vicki (Allen) Ide, a member of the church, recalled while she was a student performing at Alfred-Almond in the 1950’s, Juanita played for her when she sang “Nothing could be Finer than to be in Carolina”. As Vicki (the student) finished the song, she was nervous and asked Juanita “What do I do now?” Juanita whispered to her “sing it again”. Vicki did and everything turned out fine.

Another parishioner from Canisteo, Shirley McCourt, writes that many remember Juanita as an “inspiration to us all . . . as a very lovable person, she reached our hearts through her love, the joy on her face, offering a helping hand and a prayer . . . and could lift you up so quickly by telling you of your gift, talent and good character . . . . ”

A third, Church Deacon Larry Wells remembers “My wife and I . . . can attest to the friendliness, faithfulness and quality of (Juanita’s) musicianship that she displayed. She was a wonderful person who added a great deal to our fellowship . . . .”


During the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Juanita played and sang in many chorales, combos and choruses across a diverse spectrum.

One of the first was the Alfred-Almond trio of Jackie (Paine) Walker, Rose Marie (Emerson) Jennings and Patty Spaine (Harvey) Curran, to whom she gave voice lessons and for whom she accompanied at various clubs, meetings and groups where they sang.

Another early group included Claire Randolph (a college music major and teacher at Alfred-Almond), Gene (Jacox) Burdick (a graduate of Eastman School of Music who went on to play with the Cleveland Symphony) and Mrs. Lillian Jacob, a local piano teacher. The group would meet at Mrs. Jacob’s where she had 2 pianos and the 4 women would play together, calling their time together “Christmas time”, as a tribute to the beauty of their ritual which went on for about 3 years.

Juanita performed in all types of arenas and venues ranging from the small Phillips Creek church on Route 244 with the Decker family and friends in the Town of Ward to Miss Humphreys’ Gothic Chapel in Alfred. She performed in the off-Broadway production of “The Fantastiks” at Alfred State College with her niece on the piano bench during the production and participated in numerous high school, college and community musicals. She could play method, classical, Broadway, swing, religious, honky tonk and rock and roll. She could do it all.

In 1979, Juanita was asked to play at her son Robert’s Alfred University graduation. That year the University bestowed the actor Robert Klein with an honorary degree. At the time, Klein was starring in the widely renowned Broadway play, “They’re Playing Our Song”. As part of the program, Juanita played the title track from that production.

As she continued her love of music by sharing everything she had to give with others, Juanita was again called to the public school classroom, this time by serving as a substitute teacher in a variety of subjects, in a variety of local public schools, including Hornell, Canisteo, Belmont and Andover into the early 1980’s. Everywhere she went, people remembered her kindness, her sharing and concern for others.


In 1980, she began serving her 4th major congregation, the Alfred Methodist Church, reuniting with her longtime neighbors from Jericho Hill, Bob and Janet Love and many other good friends. Bob Love recounted “We always tell of Juanita stopping students on the street and getting them involved in the church choir. She was a hard one to refuse. Her enthusiasm was contagious and everyone loved her.”

Once again, Juanita held the familiar posts of organist-choir director and encouraged all the adults (as well as students) to sing, convincing each of them they could carry a tune. Glenn Fairchild related “Juanita always was after everyone to be in the choir. She was relentless. I couldn’t carry a tune but Juanita always was telling me what a great voice I had!”


Tragically, Juanita was stricken with breast cancer in 1984 at the age of 58. She faced that challenge, stoically and privately, with prayer, by calling upon the spirit and experience of her youth in the coalfields and in the Church of God, believing in the eternity of afterlife. She refused surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Outside of her family, (and incredibly to some), very few knew of her illness up to the date of her untimely passing in March of 1986 in Wellsville, NY at the age of 60.

Fittingly, one of Juanita’s longest tenured and most notable private students, Amanda Snyder, was the organist for Juanita’s funeral service at the Alfred Methodist Church. Dr. James Rausch of Alfred University was the soloist.

Many mourned the passing of Juanita Whitaker Pulos, who for 36 years was a teacher, with boundless spirit, energy and compassion. Her desire to share her love of music was such that she would have taught for free and many times over many years did exactly that. By bringing her gifts to the Allegany – Steuben community, she touched the lives of thousands by sharing her passion and talent for bringing music and people together. Ultimately, in many respects, she had something in common with another coal miner’s daughter, Loretta Lynn.


Today, her legacy lives on. After the death of Juanita’s husband in 1995, the Alfred-Almond Bible Church purchased Juanita’s personal piano from the Pulos Estate and moved it to the Church where it is on display in Almond; it is lovingly played by her former student Donna (Burdett) Ryan and others. It stands as a testament to Juanita’s lifelong cherished beliefs in God, family, music, and teaching.


Twelve years after her death, the Pulos family and the Alfred Methodist Church collaborated in 1998 by creating the annual Juanita Whitaker Pulos – Alfred Methodist Church music scholarship award to honor Juanita’s lifetime body of work and service. The first award was presented by the Church in 1999.

This award recognizes and supports the achievements of area high school graduating seniors (for Allegany and Steuben counties) who have studied/participated in vocal and/or instrumental music during their high school years, and will further those studies at the four year collegiate level, either as music majors or in music education, with a stated mission of sharing music with others as performers and/or teachers for their lifetime.

This scholarship seeks to identify these special students specifically committed to music.


By achieving within, and contributing to the arts, for having performed outstanding humanitarian acts and deeds, by profoundly and positively furthering the spirit of achieving and contributing toward the good of humankind, in respect of her lifelong contributions to the Alfred-Almond Community and by practicing, teaching and sharing the Fine Arts, and for defining her life with these criteria, Juanita Whitaker Pulos was nominated for 2006 induction in the Alfred-Almond Humanities Hall of Fame.

The Alfred-Almond Alumni Association Humanities Hall of Fame Selection Committee voted in April 2006 to induct Juanita (posthumously) as a member of the Hall to be recognized at the annual Alumni Association banquet July 22, 2006.


In further recognition of Juanita’s achievements and in respect of her lifelong contributions to children, community, church and higher learning, the Pulos family and the Alfred-Almond Alumni Association collaborated in 2006 by creating the annual Juanita Whitaker Pulos Fine Arts Scholarship Award. The award program and the scholarship were approved in April of 2006 by the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and the Alfred-Almond Central School Board of Education.

As a tribute to Juanita’s memory and to further her purpose in life, this award annually seeks and supports the achievements of an Alfred-Almond graduating senior who has at least four years of study in one or more of the broader categories of vocal and/or instrumental music, visual arts and/or theater/drama during their high school years, and has committed to further study at the collegiate level, in a fine art field, hopefully with a goal of sharing their talent and education in the arts with others during their lifetime.

Virginia (Buchanan) Van der Veer inaugurated the alumni donor portion of the program by pledging funds to match the Pulos Family donation beginning in 2006. Diana and Zoey Pittman were the first non-alumni donors.

In this way, it is hoped Juanita’s spirit and love can be experienced and enjoyed by others for generations to come, by encouraging young people to reach for their dreams and share their talents through the beauty of the music and the arts.

May 2006



Zoey’s Memories:

One of my favorite memories is of the time mother would drive my brother, Bob and I to Alfred. We would meet Juanita at the old chapel for our piano lessons. After our lesson, on warm summer days, we would pick mulberries from the old tree behind the chapel. Then, very often, we would go the Alfred Sub Shop and enjoy a delicious meal. We would eat and laugh and have a wonderful visit. And sometimes, Juanita would invite us back to her home for tea. On occasion, we would tell ghost stories and visit late into the evening.

Juanita was not just a piano teacher to me but also, a mentor and a good friend. When I think of her, it takes me back to a very happy and carefree time in my life in which she was a central part.

Diana’s Memories:

One of my fondest recollections is of the time Juanita invited us to her house for dinner. My father, a well-known professional pianist, who was visiting us, was also invited. Juanita asked Zoey, who was about 10 or 11 at the time, to set the table. She placed Juanita, my father and herself together at the table. And then, she made the announcement: “Us pianists will sit here!” Juanita and I had a good chuckle over that.

Zoey started classes at Fredonia State College in September of 1985. We spent the winter holidays that year at our country place in Rexville, NY. We stopped to see Juanita and Bill on our way back to the city. I had a gig booked for New Years Eve so, we had to be back in Buffalo a few days before the New Year. We had a wonderful visit with them both and we all drank a toast to the coming year. That was the last time that we saw her. Juanita looked so good and so happy. Bill informed us a few months later that she had passed on. Needless to say, we were very grateful that we had gotten together that one last time.

Juanita was a very special person and a wonderful friend to us all. I am so glad to have had the privilege of knowing her. She will always be remembered.

Diana and Zoey can be reached at:
ZODIA, PO Box 568, Williamsville, NY 14231
*Reproduced with the permission of the authors Zoey Pittman Lynne and Diana Pittman



1925 – Born near the coal fields in the mountains of Cromona, Kentucky

1938 – Began playing in the First Church of God of Anderson in Neon, Kentucky

1938 – Began playing in Evangelical Revivals

1941 – Juanita’s father, one of the Church’s Board of Elders, helps burn the church mortgage, December 7, 1941. Her uncle is a preacher in the Church.

1943 – Graduated from Fleming High School, Fleming, Kentucky

1944 – Began Anderson College, Anderson, In, home of the 1st Church of God

1948 – Awarded Bachelor’s degree (B.S.) in Piano Theory from Anderson College

1948 – Married at Park Place Church of God in Anderson to Wm. L. Pulos

1949 – Arrives in Alfred, New York

1949 – Enrolled in Masters Program at Alfred University

1950 – Began first term of teaching at Alfred-Almond Central School, Almond, NY

1950 – Began with the 1st Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church

1951 – Received Masters Degree (M.Ed.) from Alfred University

1952 – Appointed the 1st Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Choir Director, with Mrs. Lillian Jacob on the organ, following Dr. Ray Wingate’s retirement.

52-54 – “Christmas Time” piano with Claire Randolph, Lillian Jacob and Gene Jaycox

1954 – Presented 400 children in the pantomime “A Christmas Carol Pageant”.

1955 – Seventh Day Baptist Baby shower, hosted by daughters of the SDB Pastor (the Rev. Clyde Ehret), Mrs. Aurabeth Van Horn and Mrs. Gretta Potter

1955 – Birth of son William

1957 – Birth of son Robert

1960 – Joined the Alfred Union University Church with Rev. Richard V. Bergren

1960 – Appointed Director of the Union University Junior and Youth Choirs

1961 – Returned for second term of teaching at Alfred-Almond Central School

1961 – Returned to Alfred University for post-graduate study

1962 – Received State of New York Permanent Teaching Certificate

1966 – Graduate study at Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York

1967 – Began 20 years teaching at Alfred University – Lecturer in Music

1972 – Joined the First Baptist Church of Canisteo, New York as organist

1974 – Began teaching at Greenwood Central School, Greenwood, New York

1977 – Her son William graduates from Alfred University

1979 – Her son Robert graduates from Alfred University

1980 – Began with the Alfred Methodist Church as organist and Choir Director

1984 – Stricken with breast cancer

1986 – Dies at Wellsville, New York. One of her favorite students, (noted vocalist, organist and teacher), Amanda Stevens Snyder, plays the organ at her funeral service. The soloist was Dr. James Rausch of Alfred University.

1989 – Juanita’s grandchild, Kailey Whitaker Pulos is born

1995 – JWP’s piano purchased and preserved by Alfred-Almond Bible Church

1998 – Juanita Whitaker Pulos – Alfred Methodist Church Scholarship begins

2004 – Kailey Pulos selected for Area – All State Senior High Mixed Chorus

2005 – Kailey Pulos selected for Area – All State Senior High Mixed Chorus

2006 – Juanita posthumously inducted in AACS Humanities Hall of Fame

2006 – Juanita Whitaker Pulos-Alfred-Almond Fine Arts Scholarship begins

2006 – Kailey Pulos selected for NYSSMA All State at Eastman Theatre

2007 – Kailey Pulos awarded the JWP – Methodist Scholarship at Cuba-Rushford CS

2007 – Kailey Pulos begins Nazareth College as a Music Education major

2009 – JWP Memorial Donation Ceremony to support the Organ Renovation Fund in the 1st Alfred Seventh Day Baptist Church

2011 – Kailey Pulos graduates Nazareth College with a performance degree

2011 – Kailey Pulos begins Master’s study in performance at Ithaca College

2011 – The Alfred Methodist Church transfers all JWP scholarship funds to the Alfred-Almond Alumni Association

2013 – Kailey Pulos graduates Ithaca College with a Master’s in Music

2013 – Kailey Pulos begins her public school teaching career in Prince William County schools in Northern Virginia, outside D.C.


William W. Pulos was born August 29, 1955 to William L. Pulos and Juanita W. Pulos.

He has one brother, Robert. They grew up on the family farm.

William was schooled at Alfred-Almond, Alfred University and Albany Law School.

William is managing partner in the Hornell, NY law firm of Pulos and Rosell, LLP.

He still lives in Alfred.

He invites readers’ memories about his mother directed to:

William W. Pulos

PO Box 803

Alfred Station, NY 14803


The Biography of Juanita Whitaker Pulos - Bill Pulos

the Kick-ass Multipurpose WordPress Theme

© 2024 Kicker. All Rights Reserved.
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme