An instance of all-in generosity


Islanders benefit from astonishing levels of private philanthropy that endows or assists so many of us, in support of services we need. From health care to hospice to conservation and preservation, and on and on without end, people give and help and pitch in.

Sometimes, occasions of all-in generosity are so astounding that they must not slip by unacknowledged. The effort, now four years running, by the Nixon family of Chilmark, Bob, Sarah, and Jack, owners of the Home Port, the Menemsha Inn, and the Beach Plum Inn, is such an extraordinary undertaking.

The Nixons fly recently wounded soldiers from Washington-area hospitals to the Vineyard for a respite and to fish the Derby. They feed, house, and entertain their guests. The soldiers, some of whom described the experience in a report last year by Nelson Sigelman, find the break from hospital-centered life therapeutic, in ways only freedom from confinement, lovely surroundings, welcoming hosts, and a fish on the line can make it.

In 2009, Mr. Sigelman described the all-in nature of the Nixon family’s effort.

“The idea to invite soldiers to enjoy…fishing in the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby sprang from Jack Nixon, an eight-year-old Chilmark seasonal resident who loves to fish. His father and mother…took it from there. The story began in August 2009, during family reading time at the Nixon house. The book was “The Big One,” David Kinney’s entertaining tale of the annual Bass and Bluefish Derby, published that spring.

“Bob Nixon happened to put the book down next to a newspaper photo essay about the challenges facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Jack looked at the book and the photos and told his dad, “I wish some of them could fish the Derby.”

So, it happened, and continues. The Nixons don’t do it all, of course. The Derby committee, Island charter captains, the staff in the Nixons’ businesses, and lots of community volunteers pitch in to kindle a few days in the lives of soldiers, whose day-to-day is extremely challenging. But this was a generous impulse, then a family commitment, around which the Nixons assembled the resources that make it extraordinary.

Tom Hale, R.I.P.

The remarkably rich contribution by Tom Hale to Island life derived from the breadth of his interests and talents. Tom died on September 16. Tom was a rare polymath, an artful man, one whose business, the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, now run by his son, demanded an aesthetic sense. His workers scraped and painted boats of all sorts, but he saw through the annual maintenance and repair cycle to the curve of the shear, the trim of ship, the dynamic interaction of the center of gravity and the center of effort. He worked at a desk, he worked at a drafting table, he liked this curve, disliked that one, he wanted the stem to incline just so, the overhang to be just so much. In a business moored on a historic waterfront, Tom was a businessman/historian, a businessman/storyteller, a businessman/model maker, a businessman/designer. Such combinations are not ordinary, or common.