Anita “Tita” Willis Vivian died peacefully at her home in Vineyard Haven on Monday evening, November 21, surrounded by her family and caregivers. She was 90 years old.
Born in Flushing, New York, in 1921 to Harold S. Willis and Anita Storm Willis, Tita, as she was known, grew up in Great Neck, Long Island. She was an excellent student with a particular love of words and reading. After high school years at The Master’s School (Dobbs), Tita graduated from Smith College. She married Leslie L. (Bud) Vivian Jr. before he was deployed for service in Europe during WWII. Their first child Leslie was born in 1944, followed by daughters Elinor (Lea), Ann and Mary. The young family settled in Princeton, New Jersey, where Bud worked in the administration for Princeton University for 37 years.
Tita had a very long association with the Vineyard, starting when she was a summer visitor as a teenager. In 1945 a tradition of yearly family visits began with stays in Chilmark and Vineyard Haven. A few years after Bud’s retirement from Princeton in 1986, he and Tita became year-round residents of the Island, which they enjoyed together until Bud’s death in 1995.
While raising her family, Tita was a very active volunteer in her community and an elder of The First Presbyterian Church of Princeton. She was twice president of the local PTA and was a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Board of Education. Tita was very active in Girl Scouting and served as president of the Mercer Girl Scout Council. Another interest was the American Field Service (AFS) program; she served as a local board member and was a host mother to Tami Takeda Muto from Japan. In the late 1970s Tita and her husband hosted the Ly family from Vietnam and thus began a life-long relationship. For many years Tita also enjoyed being a partner in a local antiques shop, The Calico Cat.
Tita loved every aspect of the Vineyard, particularly the natural world. She enjoyed the seasons, the trees and flowers and particularly the birds. An avid reader, Tita had a deep love of books. She was an active member of the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury. The church community gave her great comfort and solace. Tita was a loyal and devoted friend and beloved by many.
Tita was predeceased by her sister, Skye Knowlton. She is survived by her brother, Robert S. Willis of Springfield, Virginia, her son Leslie L. Vivian III of Monroe Twp., N.J., and daughters Lea V. Edmundson of St. Cloud, Fla., Ann V. Dintenfass of New York City, and Mary Vivian of Vineyard Haven. Her eight grandchildren, including Nick Briggs, Ila B. Halby, Finn Briggs, Shelley Edmundson, Scott Edmundson, Kyra V. Shingleton, Matthew Dintenfass and William Dintenfass, and her three great-grandchildren, Kepler Edmundson, Clover Briggs, and Truman Halby, brought her great joy.
A memorial service will be planned.
In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to either The First Congregational Church, West Tisbury, 1051 State Road, West Tisbury, MA 02575 or Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, 111 Edgartown Road, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.