Jo-Ann Cargill Ewing died on March 18, 2011 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital after battling bone marrow failure for more than a year.
Jo-Ann was the daughter of Walter Milton Cargill and Abbie Mae Briggs Cargill. She was born on November 5, 1928, in Providence R.I.
Her family moved to Fairhaven, Mass., when she was five years old and they spent summers on Martha’s Vineyard. Jo-Ann’s great-grandfather, Charles Cargill of Providence, was a seasonal resident of Martha’s Vineyard since the mid 1800s.
Jo-Ann and her parents and her two brothers continued the family tradition of spending summers on Martha’s Vineyard in a house that her grandfather, Walter John Cargill, moved from the highlands of East Chop to Canonicus Ave. in Oak Bluffs in 1912. Jo-Ann graduated from Fairhaven High School in 1946 and from Winslow secretarial school in Boston in 1947.
Jo-Ann married Harvey Sterling Ewing on September 8, 1951. Harvey had recently graduated from Boston University on the G.I. bill after returning from WWII where he was distinguished as a decorated war hero. Sons Steven and Douglas were born in New Bedford, Mass., and in the summer of 1955 the young family moved to Martha’s Vineyard because Harvey had been offered a job as the first Bureau Chief on Martha’s Vineyard for the New Bedford Standard Times.
The family spent their first two Island winters in a house in the Campgrounds and then moved to a house near Oyster Pond, which they rented from Sonny Norton, where son Colin was born. In 1958 they moved to the Rogers house on Main St. in Edgartown where their youngest son Scott was born.
In 1964, the family moved to their permanent home on Upper Main St. in Edgartown, known as “Blowout Villa,” where Jo-Ann’s delicious home-cooking was enjoyed by family and friends for countless Sunday dinners, holidays and birthdays over the years. She passed on many recipes to her children and grandchildren, among them Ranger Cookies, baked beans, all sorts of pies, and her beach plum jelly, of which she made batches and batches every summer including this last one.
Jo-Ann and Harvey welcomed Harvey’s disabled brother, “Uncle Bob,” into their home and he lived there with the family for over 30 years until his death in 2003. They also opened their home to guests and boarders from all over the world throughout the years, many of whom to this day call Jo-Ann their second mom.
Jo-Ann’s working life spanned over five decades and demonstrated her commitment to serving people. When she first moved to the Island and her sons were young, she worked part time as a court stenographer and evenings as a waitress at the Square Rigger Restaurant. In the early 1960s she began to work for psychiatrist, Dr. Milton Mazer, where she was his first receptionist and secretary at the Mental Health Center, located at the Dr. Daniel Fisher House in Edgartown. She also typed and helped to edit, along with Harvey, Dr. Mazer’s renowned book “People and Predicaments,” a book about the specific psychosocial challenges of living on an island.
In 1992, Jo-Ann earned certification as a home health aide and was employed by the Vineyard Nursing Association. Her distinguished career of 18 years with the VNA enabled Jo-Ann to make the most of her compassionate and generous nature, which she selflessly shared with her clients. She retired from the VNA in 2009.
A vital part of Jo-Ann’s life was her devotion to the Methodist Church. Her weekly attendance at the Sunday service throughout her life was enhanced by her commitment to works of service associated with the church. She was a member of the choir beginning as a 13-year-old girl and she continued to sing in the choir until January, 2011, when her illness made it difficult for her to attend church. As a member of the United Methodist Women on Martha’s Vineyard, she helped cook for and organize the weekly soup suppers, and she participated in the yearly Crop Walks.
Additionally, Jo-Ann was a founding violinist for the Vineyard Sinfonetta, following in the footsteps of her musician parents, and she continued to play with the Sinfonetta until 2010. Jo-Ann and Harvey were also founding members of the Scottish Society of M.V., when Harvey was elected the first president of that organization in 1986.
Jo-Ann’s last year was filled with the love of her family and friends. In May of 2010 she and her six grandchildren and other family members took a road trip to visit some of the most memorable places from Jo-Ann’s childhood along the south shore of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her grandchildren filmed her as she told stories about growing up there in the 1930s. Another high point of Jo-Ann’s recent months was a weeklong visit by her childhood best friend Arlene MacDougall MacDonald and Arlene’s sister Betty. The 82-year-old women spent that week in January reminiscing and playing many spirited games of Scrabble.
Jo-Ann was pre-deceased by her youngest son, Scott, in 1985 and by her husband, Harvey, and son Doug during the summer of 1995. Jo-Ann endured those losses with incredible strength and grace. She continued to deeply appreciate the beauty and joy that life has to offer and she was truly inspirational to everybody who knew her.
She is survived by son Steve and his wife, Claudia, son Colin and his partner, Jordan Max, daughter-in-law Lizzy Bradley, and six grandchildren — Heather, Niko, Celeste, Arno, Ray, and Vivian. Jo-Ann felt blessed to be able to spend many happy days with her beloved grandchildren, all of whom grew up close to her home in Edgartown and were the light of her life. She is also survived by her brother, David Cargill, and his wife, Clarice, of Franklin, and brother Richard Cargill of Knoxville, Tenn., three nieces and three nephews, and many dear friends.
Donations in her name can be made to the Vineyard Nursing Association or the United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 2580, Oak Bluffs.
A memorial celebration of Jo-Ann’s life will be held at noon on March 26, 2011 at Trinity Chapel in Oak Bluffs and a reception will follow at the Trinity parish house adjacent to the church.