This week the flag at Meadowbrook Farm in West Tisbury flew at half mast, and Christmas lights still glittered on the boxwood beside the barn: tributes to Marjorie Manter Rogers, who died on January 3 in the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital at the age of 84. Her family, the Manters, go back 14 generations on the Vineyard.
Meadowbrook Farm had been Mrs. Rogers’s home since 1970, when she married Harold D. Rogers, who had grown up here in the early years of the last century. Mr. Rogers died in 2000. A brook runs through the property, passing under the Indian Hill Road, and the weathered-shingle farmhouse crouches in the shelter of the wooded hills to the north. Here, Marjorie Rogers grew vegetables and flowers, kept geese, chickens and horses. She rode the horses on ancient cart roads from Christiantown to the North Shore and west toward Chilmark.
Mrs. Rogers had been riding since she was a girl, when her mother gave her a Shetland pony. Her skill and passion came to full fruition in 1954, when she opened Pond View Farm on the ancestral Manter property in West Tisbury on Tisbury Great Pond. It was a business, offering riding lessons and trail rides to adults and children, but its larger significance was informal. Quickly, Pond View Farm became a sort of open house for West Tisbury teenagers. Under Marjorie Manter’s watchful supervision, the kids, most of them girls, did farm work in exchange for riding lessons and trail rides. They cleaned stalls, fed and watered the horses, prepared them for the paying customers. And then they rode, sometimes with Marjorie, often on their own.
“I was living at Deep Bottom in the summers in the mid 50s,” remembers Joan Jenkinson—she was Joanie Waldron then—”and I would ride home at night and saddle up in the morning to ride back to Pond View. We all did chores and never had to pay for riding lessons. The best years of my adolescence were with Margie and Pond View Farm.”
Marjorie Davis Manter was born in August, 1928, the second of three children. Her father Daniel was a master carpenter, in the Vineyard tradition. Her mother was Lillian Davis. The Manter property then comprised 50 acres, and Marjorie grew up in the out-of-doors, roaming woods and fields, fishing, hunting, riding.
In 1943, her junior year, her parents sent her to Bridgton Academy in North Bridgton, Maine. At Bridgton she played field hockey, basketball and softball. She skied and practiced archery. She graduated in 1945; her yearbook quote read, “Boots, saddle, to horse and away.” She cherished her two years of boarding school and gave money to Bridgton regularly until the last two years of her life,
After graduation, in what came to seem an aberrant impulse, she went to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and took a job as a waitress. She came home to West Tisbury several years later, and the years following seem improvised, a kind of youthful knocking about, until Marjorie Manter found her calling–and what would be her legacy–at Pond View Farm. She waited on tables at the Home Port. She babysat. Her mother had helped establish the Island’s first youth hostel near the airport, and Marjorie worked there for a while, selling provisions in Lillian Manter’s little hostel store. Then came Pond View Farm, which was several years in the making
At Pond View, “Marjorie touched so many lives in such a good way,” says Joan Jenkinson. Kate Hough and Sundy Smith remember the hard work and firm but tolerable discipline, and they remember too the luxurious freedom of being loose on horseback on woodland trails and on the broad shore of South Beach. They remember the ecstasy of galloping across the field by the North Road entrance to Seven Gates. Sundy remembers Marjorie’s love for the horses, as she loved all animals, and her sharpness with any customer who misused one.
In 1957 she married Mott DeForest, who had grown up in Connecticut and was then working as a reporter for the Vineyard Gazette. The marriage was brief.
The second marriage, to Harold Rogers in 1970, was lifelong. Mr. Rogers, a crusty Yankee craftsman, tinkerer, and jack-of-all-trades, was a kindred spirit, every bit as principled and opinionated as his bride. Visitors recall sociable afternoons and evenings in the snug back room, which Mr. Rogers had built himself, with its view of the duck pond and the field shelving up to the wooded slope of the ridge.
Toward the end of the 1980s, Mrs. Rogers’s back began to trouble her, until, by the mid 90s, she could no longer ride. She withdrew from Pond View Farm gradually, turning the operation over to her niece, Martha Keniston Neubert. Ms. Neubert sold the business in 1998.
Harold Rogers, who was born in 1911, was ailing in 1999, when Mrs. Rogers hired Kathleen Flynn of Oak Bluffs to help care for him. By the time of Mr. Rogers’s death a year later, affection bonded Mrs. Rogers and Katie Flynn, and Katie stayed on as helpmate, facilitator, and friend, and never left. “She was stubborn,” Katie Flynn says. “She was exacting. But if she loved you, she really loved you.”
She enjoyed games of Scrabble and cribbage. She was sociable and liked to visit and receive visitors over tea or coffee or, occasionally, an alcoholic beverage. She read mystery novels. She loved cats perhaps as much as horses, and owned numbers of them at a time.
Her death followed a decline which she bore with predictable stoicism and good humor. She was, says a friend, “as tough as nails.” A memorial service was held in bright sunshine on Monday morning at the West Tisbury Cemetery, followed by a reception in the Agricultural Hall. The large room was full, and the crowd was diverse.
Mrs. Rogers was predeceased by her brother George, who was the longtime police chief of West Tisbury, and by her sister Elizabeth Keniston, She is survived by her nephews Jeffrey and George Manter Jr. of West Tisbury, and Christopher Keniston of Wellington, Florida; her nieces Kimberly Cotterill and Melissa Manter of West Tisbury, Jennifer Manter of Littleton, Colorado, and Ms. Neubert of Wellington, Florida; and her step-granddaughters Molly and Becky Cournoyer of West Tisbury.
A graveside service was held on Monday, January 7, at West Tisbury Cemetery.
John Hough of West Tisbury wrote this obituary.