Ralph Donald Bermudes, born in Havana, Cuba in 1928, the eldest son of Ralph Angel and Charlotte (Meserve) Bermudes, died on the island of Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday, July 22, 2010.
Don was born in Havana during the time when his Cuban-born father and American-born mother worked for the Havana YMCA. The following year the family moved to Springfield, where his only sibling Robert was born, and then subsequently to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. By this time, their parents were now commissioned missionaries of the Presbyterian Church working in a halfway house connected with a school, a church, and a clinic. It was here that Don and his brother lived for six years, and how it came to be that they learned Spanish as their first language.
By 1937 the Bermudes family moved back to Springfield, during which time their father held many jobs including working for the YMCA and teaching social studies. During this period in their life the boys were enrolled in public school, but in 1944 when Robert was ready for high school, they were both privileged to be able to attend The Tilton School in New Hampshire.
Both boys did well in their new school, but Don was a stellar student, and upon graduation received more prizes, awards, and commendations than any Tilton graduate had ever earned in the previous twenty years, or for many years thereafter.
Later that year (1946) Don enlisted in the U. S. Army and served in Korea. After serving in the military for two years, he enrolled in Oberlin College in Ohio. Not only did he continue his superior scholastic path, he also traveled widely. One summer he worked the wheat harvest from Oklahoma to Canada, traveling together with his best friend between locations by hopping freight trains. When Don graduated from Oberlin in 1952 with a degree in political science, he had already traveled through all 48 states.
In the summer following his senior year, Don went to work at Geneva Point, an ecumenical Christian center on the shores of the Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., where he met his future wife Nancy Whitmore in 1952. They were married in 1954 and lived in Manchester, N.H. Don was continuing his business education and working at the same time at the New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company. It was in Manchester that Don and Nancy’s three children were born.
In 1964, 10 busy years after he and Nancy were first married, Don and the family moved to Martha’s Vineyard where they bought a house in the Historic District of Vineyard Haven. At the Martha’s Vineyard Insurance Agency where he worked, Don liked the people as much as the people liked him. It would be no surprise for anyone who knew Don that the day would come when Don would become president and co-owner of this well-established Vineyard insurance business.
For the next two decades Don proved himself to be a valued friend by organizations with names including Friends of Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Boy Scouts of America, and the Barnacle Club. He not only served two terms as Master of the Martha’s Vineyard Masonic Lodge, but he was always an active member of Grace Episcopal Church of Vineyard Haven where he long served as treasurer, a member of the vestry, and as a lay reader.
By the time he retired in 1980, his children had left home to build careers of their own. For 10 years Don and Nancy spent their “off-season time” in Naples, Fla., and their summers in Vineyard Haven. Later, they moved to Cape Cod for their summer vacation home where they could be closer to other family members, yet Don and Nancy would return to Martha’s Vineyard so that they would have an opportunity to get together with their old friends. Ultimately they returned home to Martha’s Vineyard and bought a small house by the side of the road in the West Chop section of Vineyard Haven.
Towards the latter part of his long life Don became crippled with Parkinson’s, a disease that eventually required him to be hospitalized in the Windemere wing of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.
Don is survived by his wife, Nancy, to whom he was married for 56 years, and his brother, the Reverend Dr. Robert Bermudes and his wife, Sally, living in Brewster. As for his three “boys,” Ralph “Skip” Bermudes is living in Florida; Dr. David Bermudes and his wife Nancy are now living in California with their son Ari and their daughter Lexi; and Scott Bermudes and his wife, Cynthia, live in West Tisbury with their two daughters, Paris and Anais.
Don Bermudes’ memorial service was held Tuesday, July 27, at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard. Donations may be made in his memory to the M.V. Community Services, 111 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 or The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Church Street Station, P.O. Box 780, New York, New York 10008-0780.
Arrangements were under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. Please visit www.ccgfuneralhome.com for online guest book and information.