CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Polly Diller, a former director of the city of Charleston's Department of Consumer Protection whose unique style shone on TV, in a high school classroom and around the community, died Monday at age 88.
Diller suffered from congestive heart failure and had been especially sick since she fell and fractured her hip last year, said her son, Brian Diller of Nashville.
She lived for a time at Edgewood Summit but had been transferred to the River of Life Personal Care Home in Elkview.
In addition to Brian, Diller was mother to three other children: Kathy Wilkinson of Cincinnati, Brad Diller of Reno, Nev., and Charlotte Cohen of Charleston.
Friends say they will remember Diller riding her bicycle on Kanawha Boulevard while wearing her red glasses and sparkly tennis shoes.
"When we lived on Virginia Street, she lived right down the street," said Sandy Zando, executive director of the Foundation for Thomas Memorial and Saint Francis hospitals. "She rode her bike with her red glasses, her little helmet and her red tennis shoes. You could see Polly coming from a mile away."
Zando was a friend of Diller's for 25 years.
Betty Ireland, former West Virginia secretary of state, also was a friend.
"I remember Polly just always being so smart and so witty," Ireland, said. "She spoke her mind -- and I always thought you should listen when Polly spoke."
Diller's signature shoes -- a pair of red-sequined Converse Chuck Taylors -- were a gift from her daughter-in-law, Brian's wife, Whitney Clay Diller, who found them at a Nashville store.
Once, when Diller was sitting at Taylor Books, a photographer approached her and snapped a photo of her shoes, which ended up on a greeting card.
The shoes got noticed, Brian Diller said.
"She used to say, 'If you're shy, get a pair of red, sequined shoes. It takes care of itself," he said.
She taught Latin and English at Dupont High School. Last year, when she was hospitalized, a nurse and a former student told Polly she was the best teacher he'd ever had, Brian Diller said.
"She was really engaging as a teacher," Brian Diller said. "She was one of those people who could make Shakespeare come to life."
But while she excelled at teaching, Brian Diller said his mother came into her own as the director of consumer protection for the city.