Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea


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The Minnesingers a capella group, shown here in 2011. File photo by Ralph Stewart

Three generations of the Martha’s Vineyard Minnesingers will raise their hearts and voices in celebration on Friday, Oct. 23, at 7 pm at the Minnesingers Homecoming, the inaugural reunion of the famed Island singing group that has entertained audiences on the Island and around the world for 48 years.

The event will be held at Atria in Edgartown, and will include food, drink, live and silent auctions, and of course, song from the Minnesinger alumnae and alumni, whose ranks number about 1,000 current or former Island residents. “We hope to make this an annual event,” said Molly Conole, a Minnesinger (1973–76) and professional singer and musical director, who is helping to organize the event. The evening will culminate in a choral sing-along with featured Minnesinger conductors past and present.

Among the 10 to 15 live-auction items are four tickets to a New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills NFL game on Monday, Nov. 23, a one-week stay at a three-bedroom home on the Caribbean island of Nevis, and a round of golf for four at the Vineyard Golf Club. The silent auction will include 100 items donated by Island businesses and service companies. There will also be a cash raffle, with prizes of $750, $500, and $250.

Ms. Conole said the Homecoming idea is a way to add support to a long-term base of Island donors and volunteers, and to reunite the generations of Island singers who have made unique and important relationships through their music-making.

Indeed, Ms. Conole, who moved back to the Island nearly two years ago, can rattle off names and years of Minnesinging by her colleagues since she first immersed herself in the group when she arrived on-Island as a 10th grade wash-ashore.

“It’s just a wonderful experience. Bob Dutton (Minnesinger 1973–76) of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society will be there. His daughter Rebecca is a senior, and Debra Grant, the president of the parents’ group, has a brood of Minnesingers. Her daughter Samantha, an MVRHS sophomore, is a Minnesinger, as well as Sam’s sister Joanne (Cassidy) DeRoche (1989–93) and brother Dan Cassidy (1993–97). The list of Island family Minnesingers is very long,” she said.

“Yes, we want to grow our fan base, but celebration is the key element here. Participation in the Minnesingers has opened opportunities that the members never thought of. I know that’s true for me. I have been able to make a career in music,” said Ms. Conole, currently the musical director of the Wicked Good Winter Cabaret series at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse.

Karen Overtoom has done several Minnesinger volunteer jobs since her daughters joined the group six years ago. “I’ve been the travel advisor on trips to Spain and Croatia, and it’s amazing to watch these kids when they begin the trip and when they return from it. Parents tell me it’s been a life changer. A lot of kids have never traveled internationally, or saw the need for a passport.

“They sang with a Spanish choir in Granada, in a church inside a mosque in Cordoba, for schoolkids in Seville, and did spontaneous street concerts. The people loved it, and our kids did too,” she said. The Martha’s Vineyard Minnesingers have also performed in Prague, Paris, and Austria since the group’s inception in 1967.

“My kids are involved in music, and one of them told me that a lot of their music is done in a competitive environment, but Minnesingers is different because it’s like a family — everyone is pulling for each other,” said Ms. Overtoom.

Minnesinging has a long tradition since its origins in Europe in the 12th century among German “Minnesänger” and French “troubadours.” Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the root definition of the word “minne” comes from an old High German word for “love.”

Minnesingers Homecoming, Friday, Oct. 23, 7 pm, Atria, Edgartown. Parking will be available at the Edgartown School. The public is encouraged to attend. Tickets are available for $30 online at or by calling Karen Overtoom at 508-693-8329, emailing Debra Grant at, or directly from members of the Minnesingers. For more information, visit


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The Pulitzer Prizewinning author sheds light on her latest novel, “The Secret Chord.”

Author Geraldine Brooks at her home in West Tisbury. Photo by Siobhan Beasley

David, legendary king of Israel 3,000 years ago, has been reborn as a man in all his dimensions in “The Secret Chord,” Island resident Geraldine Brooks’ latest work of historical fiction.

Ms. Brooks is devoid of the hubris that tormented David, but she has crafted a big life of her own. A best-selling and Pulitzer Prizewinning author, Ms. Brooks is mother to two sons and has been married for more than 30 years to author Tony Horwitz, a similarly transparent soul who also writes bestsellers.

The clan live in an old farmhouse in West Tisbury, attended by two energetic dogs who are unaware that they are ancients. They all fit well in a simply adorned home that has been allowed to rely on the strength and character of its construction and design.

Ms. Brooks, a reporter and foreign correspondent earlier in her career, sat at her kitchen table with The Times last week and talked about writing her latest book and the personal journey intertwined with it. She spent weeks in the Judean hills with her then 10-year-old son Bizu, researching a story sparked by older son Nathaniel’s devotion to harp playing.

In the acknowledgments to “The Secret Chord,” Ms. Brooks notes that at his bar mitzvah, Nathaniel played Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which contains the lyrics “They say that there’s a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord.” For a review of “The Secret Chord,” please turn to page C5. Ms. Brooks will also discuss her book in a presentation, free to the public, on Oct. 18 at 5 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.

MVTimes: Historical fiction is having a great run these days. Why is that?

Ms. Brooks: It’s the gateway drug to learning history. The work of Hilary Mantel, who wrote about Oliver Cromwell in “Wolf Hall” [2009], moved historical fiction from books about heaving bosoms and bodice-ripping. Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” [1997] and Mary Renault’s books about the ancient world [“The King Must Die,” “The Bull from the Sea”] were important contributors as well.

MVTimes: Is there an appeal to historical fiction related to our increasing lack of personal interactivity?

Ms. Brooks: It provides connection. We have to connect. If we don’t connect, it bites us. Europe is much more haunted than we are, but the recent arguments about the Confederate flag show the Civil War is still unresolved, is still a bugaboo for us. And then there’s our willingness to misinterpret the American revolution.

MVTimes: As a journalist, was the lack of hard source material on the life of David problematic?

Ms. Brooks: I was shocked. I had no idea there were virtually no historical references. Israel was not a literate culture at the time, but it was surrounded by Egypt and the Assyrians, who were literate cultures. So I had to do research differently to understand the meaning of power and how it worked then; to learn about their houses, what they ate, army sizes and battle tactics. Bizu and I herded sheep and explored the caves in which David’s army hid. Bizu was very helpful, particularly scrambling up steep hillsides that his mom struggled to climb.

This was a personal journey for us. I was hoping to get Bizu more exposure to the Hebrew traditions, not just ink on paper. As a subagenda, I like to take the kids [on research expeditions], because they have an undated eye and can make leaps of understanding that are often difficult for adults.

MVTimes: And the Bible as a research document?

Ms. Brooks: I’m not a theist, more of a transcendentalist I’d say. But I loved the language of the Old Testament, which gets straight to the point. Not like the King James Version, which is flowery. It’s like the difference between Mondrian and Rembrandt.

MVTimes: Why this subject as a novel?

Ms. Brooks: The idea came to me about 10 years ago when Nathaniel told me he wanted to play the harp and I thought of David, the boy harpist. And David felt right — the beauty of him is that he is full of contradictions, has the light and the dark. He wrote beautiful psalms, and he was brutal. He has the essential human capacity to fail spectacularly, but I like that he listened and made amends.

MVTimes: You’ve said that you don’t create your characters, they reveal themselves to you. How does that work?

Ms. Brooks: I don’t know. Amy Dillard says it’s like tapping a line of stone — tap, tap tap — until you hear the right sound, then you’ve found the line. I had thought very differently of Natan [David’s prophet and the book’s narrator], for example. He became a very truculent character. I thought he’d be different. I was thinking he’d be sort of a consigliere with very gritty explanations of the use of power, but he didn’t want to be the grubby guy.

MVTimes: What else would you say about “The Secret Chord?”

Ms. Brooks: The strength of the women characters. Women had little power, and aren’t mentioned often in the Bible, but women like Mikhal, Avigail, and Bathsheba were strong female characters with important roles at that time, very “Game of Thrones” in that way.

MVTimes: What’s next?

Ms. Brooks: It’s a three-stranded narrative based in New Orleans in the 1860s, 20th century Manhattan, and a famous racehorse.

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Parsnips, carrots and leeks from Morning Glory Farm, roasted with fresh sage, thyme and rosemary prepared by JP Catered Creations. Photo by Sam Moore

Youth was served at the sixth annual Local Wild Challenge last Sunday, as a group of Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS) foragers and chefs won the competition’s grand prize with an Island-grown Summer Bounty Salad that included homegrown crickets and grasshoppers. The group was rewarded with a day cruise to Nantucket catered by Local Wild Food Challenge and Soigne, a Krug & Ryan maple handcrafted chopping board, and a chef’s tasting menu at Detente in Edgartown.

The winning team is part of the Island Grown Schools Farm Project, led by Kelsey Head. In keeping with the spirit of the challenge, the MVPCS team produced a video of their foraging and gathering efforts across the Island. The video of the work they did preparing for the event is available to watch at

Logan, left, and Sawyer Schaefer shuck corn from Morning Glory Farms. Photo by Sam Moore
Logan, left, and Sawyer Schaefer shuck corn from Morning Glory Farms. Photo by Sam Moore

The Local Wild Food Challenge is a “culinary Adventure Competition” that requires participants to create a dish featuring at least one wild ingredient. The competition encourages the use of as many wild and locally grown ingredients as can be obtained, and as part of the judging and scoring rubric, entrants are required to submit a story chronicling their experience in finding, harvesting, and preparing the local ingredient(s). The four judging criteria are effort, ingredients, taste, and presentation.

Entrants create recipes using local food resources, which are sampled at the challenge event by the public and by a panel of judges who decide on the winning recipe.

The challenge is focused on drawing attention to natural food resources available in local communities, with a larger goal of promoting environmental awareness and protection of those resources. Part of the proceeds from the event go to the Island Grown Schools organization.

The Local Wild Food Challenge is the brainchild of seasonal Island resident Billy Manson, his wife Sarah, and their 11-year-old daughter Grace. The international competition was founded in 2008, and came to the Island in 2010. The Mansons will produce eight local wild food challenges in 2014–15 in across New Zealand (two), Martha’s Vineyard, Italy, France, and Finland.

Sixteen prizes are awarded (see list of Sunday’s winners below), with emphasis on effort and ingredients. “That produced a level playing field [between amateur and professional chefs],” Sarah Manson said on Sunday afternoon, while watching senior division judges Dan Athearn of Morning Glory Farm, Juli Vanderhoop of Orange Peel Bakery, and Albert Lattanzi of the Barn Bowl & Bistro noshing on entries.

Across the room, caterer Annie Foley and Craig Decker of Rockfish were sampling the junior-division entries, won by nine-year-old Brooke Ward with a heartwarming family recipe named “Breakfast in Bed.”

Eight-year-old chef Quinlan Slavin may have suspected he had a winning recipe, as he had last year when he earned runner-up in the kids’ division. If he did, he wasn’t saying so. The second-year entrant in the event was excited that people liked his dessert torte, made from Island fruit, nuts, and honey, nestled in a thin pastry shell. “It’s got six Island-grown ingredients in it,” the Chilmark native said. Sure enough, his apple berry crisp took home the Best Effort prize.

Quinlan, a third grader at the West Tisbury School, is fascinated with the magic that mixing food ingredients produces. “It’s more like a custard, really,” he said. His 2014 entry was a fried pork belly dish, which took second place in the contest’s junior division, so Master Slavin took a huge leap up the food chain this year.

His experience is one reason the Local Wild Food Challenge has been a roaring success here. The challenge allows entrants and eventgoers of any age a rare opportunity to experience local food.

“The Island is usually the largest event we have in terms of entries,” Mr. Manson said on Sunday. “I expect entries will be down this year because we have a new venue and a new date, and it’s a holiday weekend,” he said. (Last year’s contest took place at the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club in Edgartown on Columbus Day.) In fact, entries were down this year, but the fan base was solid. More than 200 foodies and their kids entered the doors in the first two hours. The event ran from 2 to 8 pm, featuring entertainment by Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, which began at 6 pm.

Lana and Robert Schaefer of Oak Bluffs used the event to teach their sons, Sawyer, 8, and Logan, 6, about new food tastes. “We’ve sampled about 10 dishes each, and the kids did too. They loved the wild boar chili,” Ms. Schaefer said. “That’s our rule with food. You have to try it,” Mr. Schaefer said.

The popularity of the event and its mission have attracted more than 50 sponsors on the Island, including Dennis Redican of Tabor Tree and Land, a first-time sponsor. Mr. Redican had his first Challenge experience, and the event was a gustatory bonus for him. “I’m mostly a vegetarian — I eat chicken and fish — but I avoid the ingredients in a lot of processed foods, so this is a treat, to have so many healthy choices,” he said.

2015 Local Wild Food Challenge Winners

Adult division

Grand Prize: Kelsey Head, Astrid Tilton, Lily Tilton, Zale Narkiewicz, and Clancy Conlin of the MVPCS, in collaboration with Island Grown Schools, Summer Bounty Salad

First Runner-Up: Robert French, Surf Clam “Scallop” with Beach Plum Sauce and Wild Rabbit, Ragu with Chicken of the Woods Mushroom, Sorrel, Watercress, and Russian Olive Vinaigrette

Second Runner-Up: Kristina Hook, Locally Caught Conch Salad with Island-Grown Vegetables and Herbs

Best Effort: Gus Leaf and Nathan Gould of MV Smokehouse, Smoked Local Seafood

Wildest Ingredient: Doug Werther, Roasted Local Venison, Bay Scallop Purée and Crispy Norton Point Mole Crabs (Sand Fleas) Surf and Turf

Best from the Water: Nina Levin, Bay Scallop-Encrusted Mako Shark, Sea Rocket, Beach Rose and Purslane. Wild Apple and Chestnut Cake

Best from the Land: Mike Harmon, Braised Pork Osso Bucco with Acorn Soup, Feral Apple and Local Watercress

Best on the Wing: JP Catered Creations, Roasted Goose with Katama Bay Oyster Stuffing

Best Dessert: Michelle Manfredi, Windfall Feral Apple and Bayberry Leaf Napoleon

Best Use of Local Ingredient: Henry Jones, Deer Liver Pâte & Autumn Olive Jam with Sourdough Bread; Mermaid Farm Raspberries and Yogurt Mousse with Wood Sorrel

Hemingway Award for Best Story: Sarah Safford, Blewit Mushroom Frittata

Caroline Johnstone Award: Ben and Nicole Cabot, West Tisbury Venison with Wild Beach Plum Sauce, Local Carrots, and Watercress Salad. Wild Hazelnut Ice Cream, Beach Plum and Grape Sorbet

Junior division

Grand Prize: Brooke Ward, “Breakfast in Bed” with Wild Sausage, Local Eggs, Homegrown Potatoes, Salsa, and Her Own Baked Bread

Runner-Up: Madia Bellebuono and Violet Cabot, Braised Rabbit, Homemade Ricotta-Stuffed Ravioli; Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Watercress with Beach Plum Dressing

Best Effort: Quinlan Slavin, Apple Berry Crisp

Wildest Ingredient: Clara Athearn, Hazelnut-Encrusted Venison Fillet, Lobster Salad with Wild Watercress, Wild Strawberries and Summer Huckleberries, Chilmark-Harvested Maple Syrup

Special mentions

Bear Gilpin: Chicory Ice Cream

Mattie Wolverton: Island Grain and Wild Hazelnut Crackers

Zeb Athearn: Smoked False Albacore

Sunny Wolverton: Island Grain Graham Crackers, Wild Fruit and Berry Jam


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Quietly supplying the big prize.

Fran and Bob Clay in front of their fishing pole laden truck. Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Bob and Fran Clay are authentic people, as “salt of the earth” as the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby — an enterprise they have supported for two decades.

Now retired from running the five Clay Family (auto) Dealerships, Mr. Clay, 74, has donated a new truck as a Derby grand prize for the past 15 years. More than one Island winner has been delighted — and relieved — to be able to replace an iffy old truck with a new Silverado.

The Clays have a 60-year history of Island life; they lived on Chappaquiddick for 15 years before relocating to Cape Cod last fall for easier access to healthcare treatment for Mr. Clay’s prostate cancer. “I’m wrapping up treatment,” he said to a Times reporter on a recent visit. “I’ll be fine.” So now they are back on-Island, where they will fish the Derby as always and enjoy the community that is central in their lives.

“My dad brought me here in the 1950s to fish the Derby, and Fran and I have always fished it though we never have won any prizes,” Mr. Clay said. “But we always went to the awards ceremony and saw these little tykes proudly getting their prizes.”

He said he thought that “we need to get involved in this. What if there was a prize that didn’t require catching the biggest fish? So the first couple of years it was run as a lottery. Weigh a fish and your name went in the basket. But people from places like Switzerland and Wisconsin were winning, and we wanted to have local winners.

“Someone suggested that awarding the biggest fish would probably favor Island residents, so we did that, and it’s worked out pretty well,” he said.

Bob and Fran Clay in front of the Derby posting board. Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Bob and Fran Clay in front of the Derby posting board. Photo by Lynn Christoffers

The Clays are refreshing, high achievers without ego who work at serving others — things like affordable housing, beach access, and Mr. Clay’s beloved Chappaquiddick Community Center. “We needed that community gathering place,” he said. Indeed. If you’ve lived on Chappy in winter, you know it can be a lonely place.

“I believe deep in my soul that beaches are for everyone,” he said. Noting that waterfront private property belongs to the owner, he said, “Now, I’m not a Communist, but I believe people shouldn’t have to walk the beaches at the low-water mark [beyond the private property boundaries].

“Many towns restrict beach access for other towns’ residents. I’ve noticed that in Barnstable County, where we live, the six towns have a [reciprocity] agreement, providing access to residents of those towns. Might be a good idea to try on the Island,” he said.

Mr. Clay takes the long view of public service. He noted that he has served on affordable housing committees in Edgartown. “I gave my opinion. Sometimes they agreed, sometimes they didn’t. That’s good, helps build character,” he said with a chuckle.

The Clays have also long been rumored to be the source of anonymous gifts to Island families and individuals in tough straits. Neither had anything to say about it during our conversation.

Their passion for the Island has an intriguing backstory involving their relationship. “My dad was a flight instructor in World War II,” Mr. Clay said, “and after the war he bought a small airstrip outside Boston, where he gave flying lessons. In fact, that’s how the auto dealerships began. He gave lessons to a Chevrolet regional manager, who told him a dealership was coming up in the Norwood/Dedham area. My dad entered the car business in 1949.”

Father and son Bob and Brian Clay cast for bass at Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick. File photo by Nelson Sigelman
Father and son Bob and Brian Clay cast for bass at Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick. File photo by Nelson Sigelman

A few years later, young Bob matriculated at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. “End of freshman year, I think, this beautiful auburn-haired girl was sitting two seats over and one seat in front of me, so I got to look at her a lot,” he recalled. “I used the Vineyard to romance her. Told her you could fly in and taxi to the beach [in Katama],” he said.

It worked. The Clays have been married for 50 years, with a son, Brian, and a daughter, Rachel, and four grandchildren, Will, 11; Ben, 9; Campbell, 11; and Wilkins, who is 6 years old.).

The Island was an important ally for Fran Clay’s campaign to relocate here. “I grew up in Buffalo. Lake Erie and Niagara Falls were water for me. I was enthralled by the ocean. After we married, we would take the ferry and use a camper Bob’s dad had at Katama. I began fishing the Derby in 1992. Fishing became a big part of my life. That’s how I talked Bob into buying a house in Chappy,” she said.

“We’ll be on the Island chasing albies for the whole Derby and for the awards ceremony,” Ms. Clay said.

Look for them there, as always, quietly supplying the big prize.

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The UMass medical school study found barriers remain to expanding educational opportunities on Martha’s Vineyard.

ACE MV chairman Judy Miller moderated the presentation of the survey results.

Island residents want more post–high school educational opportunities, including classes for personal enrichment and professional certification, according to a yearlong survey conducted by Adult Continuing Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) in conjunction with a research team from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

On Tuesday, representatives of ACE MV and UMass Medical School presented the findings of the study, titled “Needs Assessment for Adult Education on MV,”  to the public at the West Tisbury library.

The presentation, moderated by Judy Miller, chairman of ACE MV, included a report by Dr. Heather-Lyn Haley, project manager for community health at the UMass Medical School, a group that has conducted similar Island studies on health and education issues in the past.

The two-stage study began last fall as part of a comprehensive assessment of the adult and continuing education needs of the Island community to provide data that would support strategic planning, according to an executive summary distributed Tuesday.

In the first stage, the survey conducted interviews with community leaders “to gain a general understanding of the respondents’ perceptions of the strengths, opportunities, and challenges or weaknesses that ACE MV must address in planning for the future.”

The work group also conducted small-group interviews with 47 respondents representing 45 organizations that play a major part in the community. In the second stage, “559 responses were collected from a larger sample of current and potential ACE MV students in spring 2015 through a combination of paper and online surveys.”


What the survey found

The survey found that people were most interested in offerings for personal enrichment, followed by professional development, college- or graduate-credit courses, and finally technical, job, and basic skills.

The most commonly identified unmet need was the need for technical skills, including computer skills. Specialized skills such as boat handling and construction-trade skills, farming and agriculture, marketing and bookkeeping, were examples in this category. Municipal services such as building assessment and wastewater management, and more complex skills such as arts management and grant writing were identified, suggesting the broad range of needs in this category. A need for basic skills was identified by many interviewees. Interpersonal skills such as written and spoken communication, problem solving, and basic numeracy were mentioned as examples.

Respondents reported the need for college credit courses, both at undergraduate and graduate level. College course requirements for teachers, nurses, and social workers were mentioned. Respondents asked for credit-bearing courses in the “general education” category to fulfill requirements for completion of degrees, particularly in the sciences and with laboratory components.

The need for professional development in the form of ongoing continuing education required by licensed workers such as nurses and teachers was also noted. Some respondents mentioned the need for updating skills prompted by increased regulations and the growing need for certifications in fields such as landscaping, building trades, and food service.

Small-group respondents attuned to the needs of the workplace did not mention personal enrichment as often as might have been anticipated, given that the most popular offerings at ACE MV have been courses of this type, according to the summary. Survey responses in Phase 2 affirmed the popularity of such courses, especially among the retired.

Barriers remain

Among the barriers the study identified was finding time to pursue education, maintaining class sizes large enough to attract resources, inability to access education online, a seasonal economy, an increasing regulatory environment, an aging workforce, and Island cultural and geographic faultlines.

On the other hand, respondents in the one- to two-hour leader discussion groups said a strong Island economy and community support, the pool of available talent on-Island, a willingness to collaborate, and a strong ethic of civic engagement were strengths on which education after high school could be built.

Discussion during the one-hour presentation and conversations with the study architects following the presentation indicated that delivering those services must overcome barriers related to providing educational services to an Island with a relatively small population and further divided by an up-Island/down-Island perspective.

ACE MV leader Judy Miller and executive director Sam Hart said that ACE MV is prepared to provide, facilitate, and broker delivery of educational services. After the meeting, Mr. Hart noted that based on the study’s needs assessment, ACE MV has arranged a two-part Home Energy Rating System (HERS) program for contractors, which will begin online on November, with a four-part lecture series on-Island in early December.

He said the HERS program is one of 11 such educational and certification programs ACE MV has scheduled for Island construction professionals.

Mr. Hart said he sees an opportunity for high school students to begin accumulating college credits while in high school, to make the transition to college more fluid. He also noted that while much emphasis is placed on a four-year college track, college is a choice many students do not make, and outlined the need for on-Island formal training and apprenticeships in skills and trades. “We need to create pathways,” he said.

In her remarks to the two dozen in the audience, including representatives of nonprofits such as the Donors Collaborative, which has played a role in several UMass Island studies, Ms. Miller said, “If you read between the lines here today, you can see one nonprofit, reliant on other nonprofits, with a goal to improve the economic life of our Island.”

The research study was sponsored by Cape Cod 5 Cents Bank, the Farm Neck Foundation, and the Permanent Endowment Fund of Martha’s Vineyard.

For more information on ACE MV, go to


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The game featured a blocked punt that was returned for a Martha's Vineyard score.

Running back Jacob Cardoza breaks free for a huge touchdown run. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 5 pm, Monday

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) football team advanced to 2-1 on the 2015 season with a 28-21 victory over Coyle Cassidy High School in an Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC) tilt Friday night at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

The Vineyarder offense was led by two touchdown runs from senior captain Ben Clark, another from senior standout Curtis Farrell. A blocked punt by sophomore Zach Moreis was returned for a touchdown by junior defensive standout Elijah Matthews in an exciting game featuring outstanding athletic plays from both teams. James Sashin converted four point-after touchdown kicks for the Vineyarders.

Offensively, The Vineyarders were led by Jacob Cardoza’s 167 rushing yards. Ben Clark contributed TD runs of 7 and 18 yards, the last on an intelligently-played change of direction run and a 43-yard bolt by Curtis Farrell. The Vineyarders also had two TDs, including a 50-yard pass play, called back for penalties.

Senior quarterback Tucker McNeely was 4 for 9 passing for 55 yards, including three completions in key situations to Jacob Cardoza, Ben Clark and junior wideout James Sashin.  

In their third game of the season, the Vineyarders revealed themselves to be extraordinarily talented on offense, defense and on special teams/kicking. However a propensity to turn the ball over and to incur unnecessary penalties at critical times occasioned much head-holding in the stands.

A game that could have been a runaway win became a nail-biter as the result of several Vineyarder turnovers and unnecessary penalties.That the Vineyarders were able to overcome their mistakes against a solid Coyle Cassidy team team, unlike their season opener 20-15 loss to Carver High School, indicates that the team is jelling around its talent and will be a force in the EAC.

As an example, Jacob Cardoza had more than 100 all-purpose yards by halftime and the team has been without his tandem running back Austin Chandler, who returns this week from injury.

“We have to be more disciplined,” Vineyarder coach Don Herman said on Monday. “We could be 3-0 but we’re not. This week we face Bishop Feehan, a senior dominant team and probably the top team we’ll face all year.”

The coach said he would emphasize disciplined play this week to reduce personal foul penalties, but he noted that facemask penalties incurred Friday night were the result of reaching for the ball carrier, rather than personal fouls.

The evening began with the singing of the national anthem by senior Darby Patterson, a member of the Minnesinger chorus, and a tribute to 2009 MVRHS graduate and U.S. Marine Ben Ferry.

The Vineyarders began the night with stout defense forcing a three and out. After the Vineyarder offense stalled, Coyle Cassidy moved down the field before stopped on fourth and one in the red zone, courtesy of a Lucas DeBettencourt tackle.

At this point, both teams realized that running  the middle wasn’t working and Curtis Farrell scored on the Vineyarder’s next possession on a 43-yard sweep. Coyle Cassidy mounted an attack, including a pass completion to Gronk-esque tight end Hunter Jones before a fumble recovery gave the ball back to the Vineyarders.

The offense stalled after a holding penalty called back a Jacob Cardoza score, then a red zone fumble gave the ball back to Coyle Cassidy at their nine-yard line before Zack Moreis blocked the punt, leading to Elijah Matthew’s scoop and score and a 14-0 lead with 6:19 left in the half.

Coyle Cassidy was stopped in Vineyarder territory but a facemask penalty gave the Coyle Cassidy a first down at the Vineyarder 29, from which the visitors scored on a sweep by speedy back Connor Rodriguez to cut the margin to 14-7.

The Vineyarders fumbled on their next possession and Coyle Cassidy scored on a 25-yard TD pass to Hunter Jones. The score was 14-14 just before halftime.

Coyle Cassidy stalled in its second half opening drive and Zack Moreis blocked his second punt, giving the Vineyarders the ball at Coyle Cassidy’s 24 yard line, leading to Ben Clark’s savvy 18-yard scoring run for a 21-14 lead.

Ben Clark would add his second touchdown for a 28-14 lead with 3:08 left in the third. The Vineyarders lost a 55-yard passing TD to penalty and surrendered a late TD pass to Hunter Jones, aided by a personal foul penalty, with 4:45 left. Elijah Matthews intercepted a pass deep in Vineyarder territory to seal the win.

In addition to offensive proficiency, the Vineyarder defense, with two interceptions by Elijah Matthews and Ennis Foster and prodigious sacks from Lucas DeBettencourt and James Sashin, showed  great promise for Mr Herman’s final season at the helm.

“I like this team. We’re thin (in depth) but we’re talented,” Mr. Herman said.

The Martha's Vineyard defense works together to tackle Coyle receiver Alex Grande. — Photo by Michael Cummo
The Martha’s Vineyard defense works together to tackle Coyle receiver Alex Grande. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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And now, it’s time to move on.

John Washbrook, with Paul and Diane Watts, sharing a laugh. – Photos by Ralph Stewart

Over his more than three decades as an Island banker, Paul Watts has shown himself to be an open and steady man with an eye for the task at hand.

Paul Watts with daughter Jennifer Pillsworth and her husband Kenny Pillsworth.
Paul Watts with daughter Jennifer Pillsworth and her husband Kenny Pillsworth.

Last Thursday morning, on Mr. Watts’ final day as Edgartown National Bank’s chief lending officer and executive vice president, a half dozen files were centered on his desk at the bank, awaiting his final scrutiny.

He was squaring it all away after a dizzying round of retirement parties that the bank and other Island groups had held for him over two weeks.

“It’s all been a little overwhelming,” he told a reporter. “I’ll look these over today. We’re on the 8:15 boat tomorrow morning.” Mr. Watts and his wife, Diane, were heading to their retirement home, 150 miles up the coast on Long Island, Maine, in Casco Bay, just off Portland. The couple have two daughters, Jhenn Watts Pillsworth, who displays her photographic art at the Field Gallery in West Tisbury and Kimberly Watts Peaslee, who uses her Ph.D. in chemistry and a law degree in her practice of intellectual property law in Concord, N.H., while raising granddaughter Natalie, 11, acknowledged as the “queen of the world” by her grandfather.

Fielding Moore makes some remarks before Paul Watts addresses the crowd.
Fielding Moore makes some remarks before Paul Watts addresses the crowd.

The Watts are not expecting any problem settling in on Long Island for several reasons. “We’ve been preparing for this a long time, bought the cottage 20-odd years ago, made improvements every year and now it’s a completely winterized three-bedroom house,” he said. With the permanent arrival of the Watts, Long Island’s population will rise to 222 people.

And Mr. Watts is an experienced Mainer. Born in the U.K., he emigrated with his parents as a 2-year-old to Thomaston, Maine, 75 miles up the coast from Portland as the crow flies.

One of two cakes made for the special occasion.
One of two cakes made for the special occasion.

Then too, Diane (Williams) Watts was born and raised in Portland, where she met young Paul, who was a student at the University of Maine in Portland. “I’d completed two years, and thought if we were going to get married, I’d better get a job,” he said. “Always had an interest in the restaurant business, but the best I could do was an offer as a salad chef.” But the pay was thin, so Mr. Watts kept looking, and found a job at the Portland Savings Bank. “Bottom rung, but I kept working at it, and started moving up the ladder,” he said. One thing led to another, and Mr. Watts became a respected commercial lender in the Portland banking community.

Judy Soules, Diane Watts, ann Pellegrino.
Judy Soules, Diane Watts, ann Pellegrino.

“The bank was having trouble, and I knew the FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation], the banking regulatory agency, was going to close it. I decided to be one of one unemployed banker rather than one of 375 unemployed when the FDIC closed it, so I began looking.

“I was blessed to have worked with Jim Lambert in Portland, and he’d moved to the Vineyard. He ran into another mutual friend, Jim Lund of the Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, in the beer line at Fenway Park. Jim Lund was looking for a commercial loan officer and Jim Lambert said ‘Well, Wattsie is looking for a job.’

“So that’s how I got here in 1980. The Martha’s Vineyard National Bank became Compass Bank, then Sovereign Bank, and now it’s Santander Bank,” he said.

With the exception of Jesse Valencia on the far left, all work with Paul at the bank: Vesta Valencia, Stephanie Monahan, Ana Ilievska, and Tilma Zyla.
With the exception of Jesse Valencia on the far left, all work with Paul at the bank: Vesta Valencia, Stephanie Monahan, Ana Ilievska, and Tilma Zyla.

Mr. Watts managed his commercial loan portfolio through the internal changes and the increasingly volatile Island economy until six years ago, when the popular and successful Island banker became a downsized banker in the quixotic decision-making world of big business.

“We were OK. I’ve always been a big believer in setting aside money, particularly in our 401(k) retirement account,” he said. He had also saved a copy of his original contract, which guaranteed him a severance package.

He didn’t need to spend it, because Fielding Moore, president of Edgartown National Bank, installed him as chief commercial lender and executive vice president before the week was out.

Dee Lander.
Dee Lander.

As Mr. Watts recounted his 46 years in banking and his life on the Vineyard, it became obvious that while Mr. Watts was being steady on Friday morning, the booming public voice became more muted as he reviewed, in an interview, just what living here has meant to him and his family. “The sense of community. Customers have become true friends,” he said.

“Rotary has always been a big part of my life, very important,” he said. Island residents will always remember that Mr. Watts, as president of the Martha’s Vineyard Rotary, organized and took part in what can be described as several arduous expeditions to the mountains of Peru to bring medical care, wheelchairs, and technical help to poor villagers.

Sandy Ray.
Sandy Ray.

His version of the events shunted praise away. He remembers best that “a kid from one of those villages moved here, and I got to stand up for her at her wedding,” he said. Mr. Watts served on the boards of many nonprofits, including the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital during its building campaign, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and the Dukes County Housing Authority.

He is the treasurer of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, and has served with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Tisbury Business Association.

Last Friday, Mr. Watts was soldiering, but his face was reflecting the inside substance of community building, of having faith and keeping faith with customers who turned into friends, of knowing and sharing the lives of Island residents.

“Please make sure you convey that we don’t want to leave this place and people. It’s just time. Forty-six years is enough. It’s time,“ he said.



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The Islanders could not recover from four turnovers in the first half.

The Vineyard stops Carver on a drive.


Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) literally dropped its season opener by a 20-15 score as the Carver High School Crusaders used four first-half Vineyard turnovers to snatch a win on Friday night at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

Before kickoff, the half-filled stands stood for a moment of silence to honor America’s victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, then were treated to a first-half highlight, a perfect a cappella rendition of the national anthem by MVRHS senior and Minnesinger Darby Patterson.

After a Carver three and out following the kickoff, Island fortunes turned ugly. The Vineyarders fumbled a kickoff and a punt return, and had an interception and an unforced fumble in the backfield, leading to three Crusader TDs in the first half of Coach Don Herman’s 28th and final season as head coach.

To their credit, the Vineyarders stuffed two of three Crusader point-after tries, and got untracked offensively to score two first-half TDs of their own on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Tucker McNeely to James Sashin and a 56-yard TD burst by running back Curtis Farrell.

The second half, in which the Crusader offense dominated play, was scoreless against a bend-don’t-break Vineyarder defense which included two goal-line stands. Before the season, Coach Herman expressed concern about injuries to a squad he described as talented but undermanned.

Two-way senior starter Austin Chandler missed the opener, awaiting results from an MRI on a knee injured in a scrimmage last week, and key defensive big man junior Lucas Davenport did not play the second half as a precautionary measure after tweaking an ankle in the first. Go-to running back Jacob Cardoza played sparingly in the second half after being shaken up.

The Vineyarders netted 114 rushing yards in the non-Eastern Athletic Conference contest. Senior quarterback Tucker McNeely was 5-15 for 85 yards, and Ben Clark rushed for 88 yards in a gritty performance.

“I was not pleased, not happy with the way we played, particularly in the first half,” Mr. Herman said. “Four unforced turnovers, three in the first quarter, led to us losing the ballgame, in my opinion. We looked disorganized and missed some opportunities to win it even after the early mistakes,” he said.

“I think part of the problem was that some kids who hadn’t played before were a little shell-shocked when the lights went on,” he said.

Mr. Herman then looked at the glass half-full. “Ben [Clark] had a phenomenal run for the touchdown. Curtis Farrell made a nice play on the touchdown pass. We played well defensively in the scoreless second half. We were in a position to win the game. I saw some things to build on, to help us get better. We need to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers more often,” he said.

The Vineyarders got standout defensive play from junior Elijah Matthews, the DeMattia brothers (Andy and Jimmy), and Mr. Clark. Diminutive sophomore Zach Moreis made a strong debut against an aggressive Carver team which showed multiple looks and a solid passing game.

While Austin Chandler’s knee injury will sideline him for more two weeks, the Vineyarders will have Jacob Cardoza, Lucas DeBettencourt, and tackle Joe Burchell back for Friday’s contest at Bourne High School. The Vineyarders and Canalmen kick off at 6:30 pm. The junior varsity tilt begins at 3:30.

“We’re challenged; no question we’ll miss Austin. But we have to work hard and balance the work with staying healthy,” Coach Herman said.

While the Vineyarders easily handled Bourne twice in 2014, Coach Herman expects a challenge this week. “They have completely revamped their program. They’ve become much more athletic, and they beat Monomoy 36-6 in the season opener. So we need to be ready,” he said.

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Longtime Vineyard coach Don Herman begins his final season molding a football team, and exceeding expectations.

Head coach Don Herman demonstrates the proper way to block a defender.

Don Herman begins his 28th and final season as head coach of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School football team with a squad long on talent but short on numbers.

“I feel really good about this team. We have very good skill-position players. We just have to work hard to get better every day, and we have to stay healthy,” he said Monday. “We’ve got 24 or 25 varsity players, and we need some of the younger kids to step up and play.”

Mr. Herman said that many of his players will have to play both offense and defense, and that the team needs its 17 underclassmen to spell the veterans. “We run an uptempo offense, and it’s hard to be uptempo when you are on the field for 80 plays in a row,” he said.

Freshman Ivan Shepard prepares to pass the ball.
Freshman Ivan Shepard prepares to pass the ball.

Senior quarterback Tucker McNeely has a quartet of talented backs and receivers, including seniors Jacob Cardoza, Austin Chandler, and Ben Clark, who generated much of the Vineyarder offense in 2014, a comeback season in which the 5-5 Vineyarders won four of their last five games, including the coveted Island Cup over a favored Nantucket squad.

The kicking game can be sketchy in high school, but wide receiver James Sashin doubled as punter and kicker last season with some excellent results that appeared to translate to the next level.

“James has some work to do, but he can be a very good one, no question,” Mr. Herman said.

Last weekend, the Vineyarders participated in a quad scrimmage with Hull, Bristol-Plymouth, and South Shore vocational high schools.

The Martha's Vineyard varsity football team ran through drills on Monday evening in preparation for the upcoming season.
The Martha’s Vineyard varsity football team ran through drills on Monday evening in preparation for the upcoming season.

“I liked what I saw. We competed well and did some good things, particularly on offense. The question marks are on defense,” he said noting that the line is anchored by brothers Andy and Jimmy DiMattia, 2014 stalwarts who bring a combined 500 pounds to the line of scrimmage.

Big-man juniors Luke DeBettencourt and Pete Foster also figure to be two-way players, based on their sophomore season contributions, and Mr. Herman is looking to senior Crockett Cataloni, juniors Wilson Redfield and Andrei Bernier, and sophomore Curtis Fournier to help out on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Mr. Herman said the Vineyarder offense will be familiar to fans, using spread formations in an uptempo offense that served the team well, particularly in the Island Cup game last year against a bigger Nantucket squad.

Any surprises this year?

“Well, I have no reason to hold anything back,“ the coach chuckled.

Mr. Herman turned serious on the subject of Regional High School student participation in its athletic programs. “Our [football] numbers are very low. We have 42 kids total in varsity and junior varsity, the lowest number in more than 20 years,” he said.

Quarterback Tucker McNeely throws a pass to Jacob Cardoza.
Quarterback Tucker McNeely throws a pass to Jacob Cardoza.

“I don’t know if it’s a kid problem or a parent problem, but I firmly believe that, on balance, the benefits of participation in athletics outweigh the negatives. I sense that a successful football team helps the entire school year to begin well,” he said.

Mr. Herman added that he has seen a cyclical, bell-curve effect in participation. “When I first got here, our numbers were really low, then peaked at 75-85 players in the early 2000 seasons. They have been declining for the past seven years,” he said, noting that the low numbers seem to be an Island problem.

“At last weekend’s scrimmages, our opponents had big numbers. In fact, the Hull coaches told me they had such a turnout that they had to borrow helmets from other schools,” he said.

Mr. Herman’s views are based on a lot of football experience. The Savannah, Ga., native played linebacker at the Division 1 state champion Benedictine Cadets before playing baseball at what is now called Armstrong Atlantic University in Savannah. He began coaching high school football after graduation, and has 35 years of head-coaching experience, including his 28 years on-Island.

The Vineyarders will play another four-team scrimmage and a Saturday home scrimmage at noon against a Georgetown High School team coached by former Vineyarder Eric McCarthy, as the Vineyarders prepare for the season opener on Friday, Sept. 11, at 6:30 pm at McCarthy Field against the Carver High School crusaders.

“Three of our first four games are at home. We’re hoping that September will be kind and we’ll get off to a good start,” he said.

Massachusetts high schools complete their league play (Eastern Athletic Conference for the Vineyarders) early in the season, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association schedules the next three games as part of its playoff scheme.

The 2015 league schedule includes Bourne, Coyle & Cassidy, Bishop Feehan, Bishop Stang, and Somerset. The Vineyarders play their annual homecoming game on Friday, Oct. 16, against Brighton High School at 6:30 pm. The Island Cup game will be played Nov. 21 on Nantucket at 1:30 pm.

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Danny Glover is not who we think he is.

Danny Glover spoke on racial justice at the Harbor View on Monday. – Photo courtesy Black Robin Media

The popular actor, 69, is best known for his roles in action thrillers and Hollywood dramas. He also lives an alternative life as a “quasi-historian” on racial and social history and as an activist, putting his knowledge into boots-on-the-ground efforts to affect change in places from Mississippi to Haiti.

Mr. Glover talked with The Times on Monday afternoon following his appearance as a panelist at “Changing the Script: Media, Culture, and Black Lives” held at the Harbor View Hotel. He imparts no sense of ego about his success or his activist work, which includes working with employees at a Nissan plant in Mississippi, the giant automakers’ only nonunion plant in the world.

We asked him about the new form of civil rights initiatives discussed at the afternoon panel.

“There’s no question that this is an important period in our social history, but think about it. The last century in America has had significant focus on social change. Post–World War I, we entered a period of social and racial change, and an attitude of fear about the IWW [International Workers of the World] and the Red Scare, related to fears about anarchists. The time of Eugene Debs and W.E.B. Du Bois as social change leaders … From that period we went almost immediately into the civil rights movement, so the past 100 years has been a period of constant change,” said Mr. Glover.

Mr. Glover lived the 1960s period of social and racial unrest and its prevailing uneasiness, and he sees points of comparison and contrast with racial activism today. “There were as many different perspectives as there are today, from Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown at SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] to Martin Luther King’s message. But the leaders then spent hours face to face, talking, planning, strategizing. That is not available today. People communicate differently, electronically,” he said, indicating that the nuance value of face-to-face conversation has diminished.

“From a media standpoint in the Sixties and Seventies, we had the big story of the day, the Walter Cronkite moments in which the big news was heard the same way by everybody. Not so today,” said Mr. Glover. Indeed. On an Island currently chockablock with media, The Times was the only outlet to attend an event featuring high-profile players in the biggest news story of the year.

If you live long enough and pay attention, as Mr. Glover clearly has, there seems to be a centering wisdom, a déjà vu sense of the world, that evolves. “What is happening in Mississippi at that plant today is similar to the effect of America’s deindustrialization on a whole generation, many of them black, who had well-paying but low-skill jobs in Detroit auto plants,” he said.

Mr. Glover is clearly energized by the work done by this generation of activists. He is a seemingly indefatigable man, who commuted from Florida on Monday morning for the Island conference, and was preparing for an early-morning flight to California on Tuesday.

He uses his role as a famous actor to advance projects that push forward the black narrative, particularly citing his research on the Haitian freedom fight and the involvement of black Americans in John Brown’s raid on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal.

A somewhat disruptive vignette occurred during the interview and photo op session at Monday’s panel, and appeared as a telling tale that describes the value of Mr. Glover and, frankly, describes the work needed in our often uncivil society.

An ill-mannered white woman bulled into the interview and photo area, breathlessly announcing to Mr. Glover and an astounded gathering that her friends, who were having a drink inside, “would love to meet you and say hello,” adding triumphantly that “they are all attorneys,” certain that bit of news would seal the deal. The woman, who showed no evidence of mental impairment, clearly expected Mr. Glover, who had a bemused expression, to go with her to meet her idling pals.

He did, and returned in five minutes, resuming his work without a word about the incident. Wisdom, evidently, also breeds patience.