Estelle Morency Surprenant of Oak Bluffs died peacefully on Saturday, June 9, 2012, with her loving family by her side. She was 94. She was predeceased by her husband of 60 years, Roger N. Surprenant.
Estelle was born in Fall River in 1917 and raised in New Bedford. Her children loved hearing her tell stories of the pony and fur coat that she had as a young girl.She and Roger moved to the Island in 1947 with three small children, when Roger’s work for My Bread Baking Company brought him to the Island. After having three more children, Estelle worked as an accountant on the Island for many small businesses, including the Cooperative Dairy, Bernard’s Garage, Avery Insurance Company, and Ben David Motors.
Estelle then took a full-time position as secretary to the Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools in 1965. She was later named Executive Assistant, an invaluable asset to the school system and to several superintendents over the years.
“Estelle was one of the smartest people I ever met — and the kindest,” said Dr. Jonathan Daube, superintendent of schools in the 1970s. “She took care of me!”
Mary Jacobson, former teacher and principal, began her teaching career living across the street from Estelle. On the first day of school, Estelle showed up with a basket of hot muffins — an amazing welcome — to help settle the butterflies in Mary’s stomach.
Estelle’s favorite place in the world was the beach at the bottom of her street. She kept court there with dozens of friends and family, keeping a clear path through the rocks and seaweed that rolled in with the tides. Nobody dared to sit in her “spot,” or upset her path! It was a losing battle to keep sand out of the house, despite foot baths, towels, and nagging. Children were always covered!
During her burial ceremony at the cemetery on June 14, instead of the usual tossing of dirt, her grand and great grandchildren (never mind the adults!), tossed sand from beach buckets on the casket. She would have been delighted, and everyone went away with happy thoughts of hot summer days with Memere.
Estelle belonged to Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Oak Bluffs, where she composed the Sunday bulletin and prepared altar cloths for church services for many years. She was honored to receive the Marian Medal from the Bishop of Fall River for her service to the Catholic Church. After her retirement in 1988, she continued to serve the Island as a volunteer for Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, as a trustee of the Oak Bluffs Library, Meals on Wheels, and as one of the founding members of the Friends of Oak Bluffs. She was active in the reorganization of the administrative offices of the new Oak Bluffs Elementary School.
Estelle was an original member of the Homemaker’s Club, which for more 60 years met for friendship and good works. These young mothers obtained a copyright and republished a historical account of the Island, “Martha’s Vineyard; History-Legends-Stories,” by Henry Franklin Norton. Profits from sales of the book were used for local charities. In 1999, Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard awarded her the esteemed Spirit of Martha’s Vineyard Award for her volunteer service to the Island.
Estelle will be sadly missed by her six children, Muriel O’Rourke of Oak Bluffs and Natick; Dennis Surprenant and his wife, Maureen Conway, of Ashland and Oak Bluffs; Gerald and Nancy Surprenant of Seekonk; Jeanne and Stan Popielarz of Bedford, N.H.; Renee Nolan of Middleboro and Oak Bluffs; and Diane and Jim Beckwith of Snellville, Ga. She was also blessed to have 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren who were a source of great joy to her.