West Tisbury


The passing of Johnny Mayhew has overwhelmed all my thoughts and observations. I had recently visited him at Windemere. He smiled and joked as he always did. I believed it would be so forever.

Johnny was a constant in my West Tisbury life, a pillar of his community, his family, and all who knew him. Large and robust even in his wheel chair, he was a manly man. Fisherman, W.W. II fighter pilot, teacher, musician, raconteur. I was struck by the photograph accompanying his obit, how he looked like his son, Jack, when he was young.

A different photograph appeared in the paper last Veterans Day, when Johnny was present at the rededication of the W.W. II Veterans Memorial monument after it was moved to Town Hall grounds. He was one of the last living WWII veterans from town. I’m so glad he was able to be there for that ceremony. And for his 90th birthday party in November 2010, his 50th and 60th wedding anniversary parties, the births of his children and grandchildren, and all the days that seem just days that make up a life well lived.

Shirley and I spoke on the phone this morning. She told me a story about this Christmas. John Athearn asked if he could join the Mayhews for their family Christmas with Johnny at Windemere. He had a special present, a 1929 Martin guitar Johnny had owned. Johnny had given it to Jack and Jack traded it to John Athearn for a motorcycle, probably in the 1960s. It was played, then put aside, discovered again recently to bring a big smile to its original owner. Shirley told me about musical evenings that were a regular West Tisbury entertainment. They still are. Harry Athearn has a photograph of one of those musicales showing his dad, Mike, with George and Lillian Magnuson, and Johnny playing what looks like the Martin guitar.

I will miss Johnny. He was quite a guy. My love and condolences to Shirley, Jack and Betsey, Deborah and Todd, Sarah, Caroline, Lucy, and Katie.

At the same time, life gives us joys. John and Anna Alley have become first-time grandparents to Robert John Hambardzumian, son of their daughter, Nicole, and her husband, Armen. He was born on January 6.

Our next-door neighbor, Maureen Fischer, dropped by for tea last Sunday afternoon. She was telling me about her grandson, Owen Albert, age 7, and his recent interest in American military history. Maureen’s mom, Marguerite McDonough, had given Owen a soft cap her husband, Ned, had worn in WW II, and an Austrian silver coin. They were the highlights of show and tell in Owen’s second-grade class. Maureen mentioned hoping she could find some of Bob’s military uniforms and memorabilia to pass along to their grandson.

We both laughed about our husbands keeping their old Army uniforms (Mike’s is in a trunk in the basement) and commented on the durability of Made in America wool uniforms of that vintage (Vietnam). I mentioned a pair of Mike’s wool Army socks I have worn every winter since we have been married, 27 winters. He gave me two pairs of those socks, the warmest I’ve ever had, still perfect except for a hole near the top of one that Talley chewed when she was a puppy.

Last week’s Gazette announced that Tom Hodgson had found the first snowdrops blooming, so I went out to look for ours. There they were, atop myrtle and stray oak leaves from last fall. I had been watching under Bessires’ hedge and beside my Aunt Janice’s screen porch, but this year ours came first. They are just outside our dining room door, the south side of our house, a place I walk past several times a day. I can’t wait to hear from other gardening friends about their earliest blooms.

Don’t forget to bring in forsythia branches to force in time for Groundhog Day.

Town census forms have gone out. Fill them in and return them to Town Clerk Tara Whiting. Wednesday, February 3, is the last day to register to vote or to change your party affiliation before the Presidential Primary on March 6. Absentee ballots are available, and so are nomination papers for anyone interested in running in our town election. Stop by Tara’s office between 8:30 and 1:30, or call her at 508-696-0148.

Dog license forms were sent in the same envelope. Mike went up to Town Hall right away. Talley and Nanuk are #18 and #19. He was just behind Julia Humphreys whose Xochi is #17.

Beth Kramer is looking for a volunteer to bring books to Windemere the second and fourth Fridays of every month. Stop by the library or call her if you are interested. 508-693-3366.

Restoration Specialist Michael Hopper of Sea Run Trout Coalition will be at the library this Saturday, January 21, 3:30 pm, to speak about Mill Brook, its native fish population, and possibilities for stream restoration.

Cynthia Riggs and Lynn Christoffers will discuss their new book, “Victoria Trumbull’s Martha’s Vineyard,” at the library next Thursday, January 26, 4:30 pm.

The Lyme Support Group will hold their monthly meeting at the Howes House on Tuesday, January 24, at 6:30 pm.

I enjoyed meeting Anne Billings at church Sunday morning. Anne is newly settled into Karen Overtoom and Louis DeGeofroy’s guesthouse. She moved here from Texas after having been a summer visitor since 1955. It was nice to see her at Cronig’s this afternoon and recognize her, knowing she will become a familiar face around town. Welcome to West Tisbury.