Authors Posts by Pat Waring

Pat Waring

Pat Waring
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Rabbi Balfour Brickner and Marina Tempelsman (one of the four winners), at the 1999 ceremony for the Reading of the Poetry Winners. — Kristin Maloney

When Elisa Brickner died at age 17 in a 1973 horseback riding accident, it was a tragedy for all who knew and loved her.

But thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of her father, the late Rabbi Balfour Brickner, that heartbreaking loss became the impetus for a gift that even now, four decades later, continues to touch the lives of many. It is a moving example of a bereaved parent turning loss into an opportunity to bring joy and benefit to others.

Wishing to memorialize his young daughter in a way that would be meaningful and reflect something of who she was, Rabbi Brickner that same year established and funded the Elisa Brickner Poetry Corner at the Chilmark Public Library. The Rabbi and his family were longtime Menemsha summer residents. Because Elisa loved poetry, he sought to foster that same love in other youths and all who would visit the little library, both in summertime and year round.

Today, the Elisa Brickner Poetry Corner collection contains well more than 1000 volumes for both adults and children, thanks to the rabbi’s significant generosity. But that was only the beginning.

In 1993, Rabbi Brickner approached the library again, sending a letter with a new, far-reaching proposal.

“We feel it is time to expand the memorial in a new and challenging way,” he wrote. “We propose the establishment of an annual poetry contest to be known as the Elisa Brickner Annual Poetry Contest.”

One year later, in 1994, the contest for junior high and high school students was launched and immediately attracted hopeful young poets, dreaming of recognition for their creative work.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the well-loved competition, which is now underway, with entries accepted until August 11.

In addition to honoring the winners, the Elisa Brickner Fund, to which the rabbi added from time to time, enables the library to award them substantial cash prizes. Usually given to only the first and second place winners, this year a cash award will also be presented to the third prize winners in observance of the anniversary.

According to Kristin Maloney, the library’s program coordinator, from the very beginning the contest has drawn 35 to 50 entries each year from both year-round Islanders and summer residents. She said that many of the previous contest winners have gone on to be actively involved in writing endeavors, from poetry to novels and plays for both stage and screen.

This year’s judges are John Maloney, Donald Nitchie, and Laura Wainwright. Marlan Sigelman, summer library assistant who is also a poet, will join the usual three-judge panel for this 20th anniversary contest.

Judging takes place promptly after the deadline date and winners are invited to read their pieces at a library ceremony on Monday, August 18, at 5:30 pm.

“One of the special parts is the ceremony and the reading of the winners’ poems,” said Ms. Maloney.

For many years Rabbi Brickner would faithfully attend the ceremony, serving as emcee and announcing and congratulating the winning student writers. Since his death in 2005, his son Rabbi Barnet Brickner participates whenever possible.

Ms. Maloney said that previous winners and family members often attend the ceremony to meet the successful contestants and hear their poems. She added that earlier prize recipients have told library staff how meaningful it was to have their poems chosen, and both they and their families have fond memories of the occasion.

“The kids say how honored they were to be acknowledged and taken seriously,” Ms. Maloney said. “They say how important it was to them.

“Kids don’t really have an arena to be celebrated for writing poetry, unlike sports or performing arts. This ceremony spotlights their talent and who they are. They’re really appreciated.”

Winning poems have been displayed in a scrapbook since the beginning. As a special feature of this anniversary, the library will publish a book compiling all winners from 1994 through 2014. The volumes will be given to the contest winners, all local schools and libraries, and will be available to the public.

The contest

The Elisa Brickner Annual Poetry Contest invites entries from students in two age categories: Junior High School (entering grades 6 through 8), and Senior High School (entering grades 9 through 12).

Contestants may submit one original poem: any length, style, or subject, typed or printed on 8 1/2” by 11” paper. The writer’s name must not appear on the submission. A cover sheet with name, grade category, and contact information must be attached.

First prizewinners in each category will receive $200; second and third prizewinners will receive $100. Winning poems will be read at a ceremony on August 18 at 5:30 pm.

The deadline for submitting poems is August 11 at 5:30 pm. Entries may be mailed, faxed, or delivered in person.

For information, call 508-645-3360 or visit chilmarklibrary.org/youth.php.

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Scott, Hank Kiely, Peter — Photo by Meg Higgins

Mix together a crew of zombie-like monsters, a flock of sweet angels, some cheerful red-horned devils, a batch of good-hearted, hard-working Amish folk who just want to keep their community free from sin — or at least from electricity. Add a crazed doctor, spirited musicians, and a camp full of inspired performers and you get an evening of colorful fun. These were the ingredients for “Frankenstein’s Last Dance,” Camp Jabberwocky’s hilarious play presented July 18 and 19.

Juan singing
Juan singing.

Those lucky audience members who squeezed into the crowded studio for the show enjoyed an evening of heart-warming, rib-tickling wackiness as the campers went all out to entertain. It was hard to tell who was having a better time — the campers and counselors singing, dancing, mugging, and cavorting on stage or the guests who got into the spirit, cheering, applauding, and singing along.

Thanks to the keyboardist David Thompson’s friendship with a counselor, the Philadelphia band “Big Tusk” joined by camper Jason Lopes added professional glitz.

Helen Lamb, known as “Hellcat,” who died in 2011, began the camp for individuals with cerebral palsy and other disabilities in 1953. Beginning in an Oak Bluffs summer cottage, Jabberwocky now occupies a spacious Vineyard Haven campus donated by Grace Episcopal Church years ago.

The play is a high point in the camp’s busy first session that includes the Prom, field trips to beaches, baseball games, concerts, private gatherings, and the July Fourth Parade where Jabberwocky members are enthusiastic participants.

The studio was festive, strung with tiny lights, and packed with a standing-room-only crowd. The band started playing early, setting the upbeat mood.

Ben Winter and Myles
Ben Winter and Myles.

The story was complex and zany, characters and themes appearing and reappearing as though in a Technicolor dream. There was the talking horse who would amble through; a fellow in an Island shirt, shades, and shorts, bogeying and bopping from scene to scene. A counselor or two would bounce in and twirl or cartwheel across the stage.

Focus was on Dr. Frankenstein, the monster-making madman. But instead of Transylvania, this doc lives in Pennsylvania and that’s the problem.

For while Dr. Frankenstein and his monster band collect body parts and patchwork them into people, the upstanding Amish are troubled. It’s not the ghoulish process that bothers them, but the use of electricity — an Amish “no-no” — to revive the creatures. Meanwhile, angels try to maintain harmony; devils make mischief; monsters return to the crypt to collect more body parts.

Every camper was a star, shining bright. Especially memorable were the green-suited, top-hatted “Puttin’ on the Ritz” tap dancer, sweet voiced, smiling angels, the young man grinning ever wider as two counselors spun his wheelchair in the dance. Another camper exultantly flew through the air as four counselors lifted him from his wheelchair and aloft — jubilantly free at last! A vivacious, sparkly-eyed wheelchair-bound devil delivered a memorable address. Others danced, their walkers no encumbrance.

Even Camp director Johanna (“JoJo”) Romero de Slavy, RN, and assistant director Kristen (“Sully”) Sullivan St. Amour got in the act, bouncing around the stage in Amish and devil garb.

There were ballads, rap, rock tunes, solos and ensemble numbers. When the angels started singing “Sweet Caroline” with others backing them up, arm-waves and all, the building rocked.

“They sing just with no inhibitions!” said one thrilled audience member, having just experienced her first Jabberwocky play.

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The grand finale.

Later there were make-your-own ice cream sundaes for all, performers and audience alike. The scene in the community hall was jubilant, exultant campers and counselors reliving their moments on stage.

Like any camp anywhere, proud parents and relatives were on hand to congratulate their sons and daughters, sharing ice cream and stories.

These campers may have disabilities, as friends and fans of Jabberwocky know. But they have no challenges when it comes to having fun and celebrating life, offering a valuable example to the rest of us.

The show was lovingly dedicated to Manny Furtado and Sean Wawrzaszek who died since last summer.

Mike Leon, a counselor from Boston who directed the show, said that this year’s approach was different from usual, and the emphasis more than ever was on spontaneity.

Unlike last year’s “Romeo and Juliet in Las Vegas” which writers/directors worked on for months, this play started with the campers. Mr. Leon and others asked campers who wanted to be Angels, Devils, Amish, Monsters, and found a perfect Dr. Frankenstein.

“We asked ‘what would you have the most fun doing?’” said Mr. Leon. “It felt like a pretty natural process.”

He said the story grew out of camp dynamics, friendships, and all aspects of Jabberwocky life.

“We let it naturally write itself. The only thing left for me to do was cut and paste.”

The campers immersed themselves in monster activities and classes, drawing their ideas of the Frankenstein monster. The art activity evolved into the backdrop at the rear of the stage, entirely created by campers.

Mr. Leon has volunteered at Jabberwocky for seven years. Like many other counselors he works a regular day job — advertising in his case — 11 months each year, but looks forward to his July at Jabberwocky.

“This is the center of every year,” he said.

The second-session Camp Jabberwocky play is Saturday, Aug. 9, 7:30 pm. For info, visit campjabberwocky.org.

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The Main Street, Vineyard Haven gallery is home to 10 diverse artists and artisans. — L.A. Brown

The Night Heron Gallery in Vineyard Haven feels like a mix between a boutique packed with unique gifts and a mini Artisans’ Festival. Both comparisons are very apt. Whether vacationer or full-time Islander, you’ll find this a treasure trove to seek that perfect present. The similarity to the popular Vineyard Artisans Festivals is no surprise, since many represented here have long shown their wares at that larger event.

Established in 2011, Night Heron is a collaborative endeavor among 10 very diverse artists and artisans. It is the Vineyard’s only artist owned and operated cooperative gallery, featuring jewelry, paintings, wearable art, ceramics, gift books, and much more.

According to Lisa Strachan, one of the original founders, this artists’ cooperative is far from being just a business venture. Along with owning, taking care of all business aspects, and operating the shop on a rotating schedule, members work well together, encouraging and supporting one another in their creative ventures, she said. They are good friends and congenial too, as was evident at the opening party on June 27. The small shop was packed with family, friends, art lovers, and vacationers drawn by the colorful displays and effervescent ambiance.

“Even our food is cooperative,” quipped one member, gesturing to the buffet of varied and mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres, each contributed by a different artist.

From first stepping in the door, the visitor is surrounded by colorful variety, indeed as tempting as that snack smorgasbord.

Ingrid Goff-Maidoff’s sweetly inspirational gift books, cards, journals, CDs, and other meditative keepsakes are antidotes for summer hustle-bustle. She collects poetry, affirmations, and snippets of wisdom in pretty bindings and wrappers. “Good Mother Welcome” is a soothing gift for that tired new mom; other books hold lovely reminders of life’s wonders for all.

Another style of thoughtful serenity is found in seascape paintings by Carolyn Warren — boats, ocean, beaches, grassy dunes in soothing coastal colors. Along with standard sized compositions, she displays a selection of miniatures, tiny Vineyard seaside scenes, charming and affordable.

Or choose an evocative photo by L.A. Brown with distressed white frame for special atmosphere. This inspired photographer shows scenes on the Vineyard and abroad of animals, barnyards, fields, and architectural details, all of which have a timeless, peaceful feeling. She sets them in frames she creates with molding from 18th and 19th century homes.

“I watch the light and capture what touches my heart,” she said.

There is wearable Vineyard glamour to be found, a just-right gift for a daughter, mother, sister, best girl friend. Some shoppers are so captivated that they treat themselves. And what better way to remember a vacation or reward yourself for getting through a hectic work week?

There is a large selection of Sylvie Farrington’s signature vintage Sylvie Bags and throw pillows too. Ms. Farrington constantly refines technique and designs, coming up with new features to make these bags even more irresistible. They appear in several styles and sizes, many adorned with bright zippers, Austrian crystal beads, and decorative buttons to accent the lush floral fabrics.

For pure glitter, visit the two jewelry makers, Diana Stewart and Kathleen Tackabury. Both work with silver and gemstones, combining them with dramatic results, though each creates with personal style. Small silver pieces are on display too, including earrings in delicate seashore shapes, molded from the real thing — perfect summer jewelry.

Far from being bitter competitors, the women report they are good friends and support one another’s work. They frequently show next to each other at fairs and shows, as they do here. Ms. Tackabury features an Island-inspired piece in her new horseshoe crab pendant, an exquisite little silver sea creature on a silver chain. A browser at the opening purchased one immediately upon trying it on.

“If I like it, why not?” she said, leaving the shop a happy vacationer.

All of Beldan Radcliffe’s creations are stylish and one of a kind. This season she is particularly enthusiastic about “upcycled” sweaters using all recycled materials. These eye-catching garments are multi-colored, multi-textured, multi-layered, boasting a variety of buttons, ruffles, and trims. She also shows scarves and other work, from lampshades to jewelry. This inventive Vineyard artisan employs her collage-maker’s touch in all her work, combining colors and patterns with flair.

Ceramic art is displayed here in three fascinating styles. Lisa Strachan shows the delicate white porcelain pieces such as vases, trays, and mirror frames for which she is well known. Now she offers an intriguing alternative, stoneware creations with the color and texture of Vineyard beach sand, and even occasionally combines this with a partial blue glaze, suggesting the ocean. On some stoneware she adds seashore embellishments — a shell, a tiny crab, sandpipers.

Ms. Strachan also benefits Hospice with the sale of heart-themed Island-shaped porcelain pieces — a Christmas tree ornament or sweet Vineyard souvenir.

Who wouldn’t recognize the imaginative Washington Ledesma’s heartwarming ceramics? His soulful, big-eyed animals, fish, birds, and reptiles with innocent, unwavering gazes and robust three-breasted goddesses bring a smile. This Uruguayan-born artist’s warm, intense colors are uplifting too. He shows trays, happy little animal statues, and Healing Stones, another cure for summer stress. Medium sized bowls in sunshiny colors will perk up your morning cereal.

Nicholas Thayer contributes majolica pottery inspired by Italian designs. The serving ware and smaller pieces boast crisp, vibrant colors and symmetrical motifs employing lemons, leaves, fish, flowers, even a friendly cow. He aims to use traditional Island borders “and flavor with a bit of the Island.”

Printmaking is another of Mr. Thayer’s loves. His striking monotypes show dark crows with distinctive personality. They are slightly brooding, thoughtful, gathered as though gossiping. Some are playful, some menacing: one swoops, one preens, another catches a dragonfly.

Prices vary widely and much of this art is affordable. Or just browse and appreciate the creative gifts of these talented Islanders.

Night Heron Gallery, Vineyard Haven: open daily, 10 am to 6 pm. For information, visit nightherongallery.com or call 508-696-9500.

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For 19 years, the well-liked and much admired minister was known for the energy and creativity he brought to Grace Church and for his participation in the Island community.

Artist Barney Zeitz polishes the window before it's dedication. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Along with the usual worshipers, the pews at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven were filled this Sunday with visitors on hand to honor the Rev. Donald Lyons, minister there from 1966 to 1985. Mr. Lyons was well-liked and much admired for the energy, enthusiasm, dedication, and creativity he brought to the church and his participation in the Island community.

Mr. Lyons and Mr. Zeitz
Mr. Lyons and Mr. Zeitz

To celebrate his vibrant ministry, a stained glass window created by artist Barney Zeitz was formally dedicated with a ceremony at the end of the service.

Lead by the choir and the Rev. Robert Hensley, the congregation proceeded into the Parish Hall where the window floated, shimmering, at the peak of the newly renovated outside wall.

“I didn’t know anything about this until this morning,” Mr. Lyons, now a stalwart choir member and lay reader, confided. Many knew of the upcoming dedication but kept it secret from the honoree.

After brief prayer and introductions, longtime parishioner Lee Fierro said she met Mr. Lyons when he visited her home. He promptly drafted her daughter Dinah into the children’s choir. Later, Ms. Fierro became an active member.

She recalled years of church activities with Mr. Lyons, his dynamic ministry, and memorable experiences working with him as an actor in Island Theatre Workshop productions.

“Don was the most generous person throughout the Island,” said Ms. Fierro. “He had a way with everybody, all ages.”

Mr. Hensley dedicated the window and walls to God, seeking blessings for those involved with the project. A reception followed with refreshments and hugs, handshakes, and congratulations for Mr. Lyons.

The round 51-inch diameter fused and bonded stained glass window features an image of a green Jerusalem cross on a clear background with lighter green details. When critical and long-deferred reconstruction of the parish house wall was being planned with participation by Mr. Hensley and then-junior warden Lena Prisco, designs by architect Carole Hunter featured a round window as a centerpiece. As Mr. Hensley sought financial contributions from parishioners to pay for a stained glass window, Joan Merry offered to fund the window as a way to honor her husband’s ministry, and she made the final choice of design and color.

“He’s the best minister I’ve ever had,” said Lorraine Clark, an active member since 1960. “He was the best because he was the most active, he had an extremely active church with everything you could think of.”

Ms. Clark’s four children grew up in the church. She taught Sunday School among other responsibilities.

“Jack of all trades, he really was,” said Anne Palches who had known Donald Lyons as minister and as a fellow actor with Island Theatre Workshop. “He did everything for everyone.”

“He was aware of everything going on with everybody,” said her husband, Peter Palches. “He seemed to me to be an ideal priest. “ Mr. Lyons officiated at the couple’s 1983 wedding.

Jamie Harris, a stately Wise Man in the elaborate Epiphany pageants of those years who also acted with Mr. Lyons in the uproarious “I’m Not Rappaport,” offered congratulations.

Church member Sandra Whitworth said her daughter, Posie Haeger, who attended Sunday School and Grace Pre-School years ago, saw the window and was struck by its tasteful beauty.

Diana Waring, whom Mr. Lyons had baptized in the waters of Lambert’s Cove when she was 10 months old, was on hand with her baby daughter, Hazel.

David Grey, who years ago had sung in a church musical production staged by Mr. Lyons, still attends and is a choir member.

After graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine, Mr. Lyons attended the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. Ordained to the priesthood in 1955, he was assigned as Canon at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston.

“I was in charge of drunks and Evening Prayer,” he said.

“The drunks” were the homeless, addicts, others down on their luck. They wanted money, he recalled, but received meal vouchers.

In 1959 he became Archdeacon of New Hampshire. Along with establishing churches in Kingston and Salem, he chaired the New Hampshire Traffic Safety Commission.

His assignment to Grace Church came after Massachusetts Bishop Anson Stokes sought his opinion about placing another clergyman at the Vineyard parish whose minister, the Rev. Henry Bird, had resigned.

“Send me!” said Mr. Lyons. “I don’t know anything about Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve never been there, but I want to be someone’s minister.”

Mr. Lyons and his family, including five children, moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1966.

Working with youngsters was his high priority. He developed a vital children’s choir with some three dozen members.He was renowned for his original children’s musical plays on Biblical themes.

He began “Monday School,” with religious education and outings, so popular that children from other faiths came. Advised that he could entice teens to youth group if he got Dennis DaRosa — then a popular high school athlete — to join, he did so and it worked.

Instituting a sports-themed Father-Son Dinner, he brought Red Sox players here, including Al “Sparky” Lyle and Bill “Spaceman” Lee. The church sponsored a sexuality course for junior high students.

When Tisbury Selectmen refused to allow a rock and roll group to play in town, Mr. Lyons established a Grace Church Coffee House. Luminaries appearing included William Styron, Jules Feiffer, Art Buchwald, and singer Kate Taylor. A dance drew nearly 250 teens.

Mr. Lyons was universally known for making home visits to parishioners, being aware of their needs, and helping however he could. He encouraged lonely people to come to church, comforted the sick, bereaved, and troubled, urged addicts to seek recovery, counseled about family problems, arranged rides for youngsters.

Services were spirited, music exceptional with talented choir and organists. Worship could be colorful like the Palm Sunday when a donkey lead the procession through the church, Rogation Day at Nip ‘n’ Tuck Farm where crops were blessed, dance as part of services, the congregation marching with a band to Owen Park for a baptism. There was Sunday evening “Rock and Roll Worship” and educational Passover Seders.

Fellowship activities like potluck suppers and weekend-long Parish Life Missions fostered closeness and camaraderie.

Mr. Lyons opened the church to community groups including Alcoholics Anonymous, Education for Childbirth, Red Stocking, a food coop, dance and theatre classes.

Grace Church had earlier donated Greenwood Avenue land to Camp Jabberwocky. Mr. Lyons welcomed the campers with disabilities to services and special events.

Especially meaningful to Mr. Lyons was his establishment of a partnership with the Melanesian Brothers, a band of monks dwelling on islands in the southwest Pacific. After taking no vacation for years, Mr. Lyons finally enjoyed a journey around the globe, a visit to the brothers his primary destination.

Mr. Lyons served Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, first as chairman of the Youth Center Committee, later heading the Committee on Alcoholism.

Concerned because Trinity Episcopal Chapel in Oak Bluffs was predominantly white, he enlisted Sen. Edward Brooke to draw African Americans. The Martha’s Vineyard NAACP recognized him for contributions to civil and human rights.

After leaving Grace Church, Mr. Lyons joined the MV Times staff as an ad salesman, then proofreader and copy editor, and finally as a lively sports writer. Mr. Lyons was as popular at the Times as he was at Grace Church; staff often sought his guidance when writing about religion. Although no longer a full-time minister, he has frequently been asked to officiate at weddings and funerals.

Few here knew about favorite earlier roles: serving as a baker in China for the U.S. Marines, in which he enlisted days before turning 18; or as a Bowdoin undergrad, directing the Meddiebempsters, a double-quartet of young singers so exemplary they were invited to tour European Army Bases.

A crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony.
A crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony.

Modestly accepting compliments, Mr. Zeitz watched with satisfaction as noonday sun sparkled through his creation. He used a fused and bonded glass technique, affixing handmade stained glass pieces to a clear backing. Painting the backing glass with colored metal oxide, he added cobalt blue to the green glass to emphasize the central crosses. He said the exceptionally high quality epoxy he used acted as a lens, creating the appearance of moving light.

It was a day of celebration too for contractor Michael Carroll, who witnessed the successful completion of the nearly six-month project. Despite being delayed by harsh weather, Mr. Carroll said the job had been fun and church members “wonderful to work with.” He was especially glad he could reuse the original wall’s exterior siding as trim and wainscoting.

“I like jobs like this where I feel I can contribute to the community,” he said.

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John Holladay "Up Island" 48x70 acrylic on canvas — Photo courtesy of Louisa Gould G

Vineyard Haven is decked out for the season. From window boxes overflowing with blossoms and enticing window designs, to “Now Open” signs, there’s no mistaking the good news that summer is here.

Gallery owner Louisa Gould dived into the spirit with her upbeat and colorful “Summertime” exhibit opening last Saturday, June 28. Four artists, each with a very personal style, offer their unique interpretations of summer. Michael Haydn’s guitar tunes  set a festive mood, and light refreshments were served.

"Best Friends" 12x16 by Kate Huntington
“Best Friends” 12×16 by Kate Huntington

For Kate Huntington, summertime is beach time — and none would disagree. The Providence artist presents beach scenes marked by energy, color, and spontaneity. She captures the seashore sights so precisely that one can experience other sense perceptions too…the smell of salt air (and even Coppertone), sounds of surf, children’s giggles, the delicious sensation of cold water after hot sun.

Striped beach umbrellas in red, white, blue, seem to shout, “Hooray, it’s summer!” while shading flocks of active beachgoers. This quintessential Oak Bluffs seashore scene is complete with chairs, coolers, blankets, and two determined bathers.

“Best Friends” in bright bathing suits sit together in the sand, sharing pail and shovel. Lifeguards on their tall wooden perch watch over a cavorting crowd at South Beach. A young girl sits in cool shallows, digging. A little boy scuffs along water’s edge, yellow bucket in hand. When swimmers brave the surf we feel it sting our skin, hear it roar.

And what would the beach be without a dog or two.  “Black and Yellow,” a matched pair on red leashes, gaze out to sea, predictably soggy and sandy.

John Holladay — the only full-time Vineyarder among the four artists — works in a small corner of his home in a quiet Vineyard Haven neighborhood, but he paints the wide-open spaces. His most striking canvas is a view of the Keith Farm in Chilmark, a spectacular sight familiar to anyone who drives up Island on Middle Road.

The antique, lichen-covered stonewall is in the foreground. Across the gently rolling green meadow we see a quiet pond, the barn with its bright red door, a distant farmhouse, the ocean far beyond. The sky is light blue, clear; grasses grow high along the wall. All suggest the quiet heat of midsummer in Chilmark.

There are other up-Island farm scenes and for a true, iconic image of summer, Mr. Holladay paints the cliffs at Lucy Vincent Beach, sculpted by erosion.

Mr. Holladay, who has been a celebrated sports cartoon artist and a teacher, is a dedicated landscape painter these days, something Vineyard art lovers can celebrate.

Maya Farber "lillies" 18x24acrylic on canvas
Maya Farber “lillies” 18x24acrylic on canvas

Maya Farber’s paintings portray a trio of subjects: barnscapes seen in three seasons, three still lifes, and three floral portraits.

Born in Romania, Ms. Farber resides in Manhattan and upstate New York. She has a distinguished resume of studies and exhibitions in Europe and the United States. Yet she knows her simple, homey subjects intimately — the barn, fresh eggs, fruit, garden flowers — and portrays them with modest grace.

Her still lifes offer summer with a quiet, rural feel. Here, three empty glass containers — Coke bottle, Ball jar, Mason jar — sit on a table beside a painted bowl heaped with eggs, each shell a different shade.

There is the serene feeling of coming indoors on a summer day, the dim room cool, while outside it is hot and sunny. Sculpted fruit — a green pear, plump plum, clustered grapes evoke the same country kitchen feeling.

There are brilliant blue hydrangeas; loose bouquets of lilies in china vases, so real looking their perfume seems to scent the air.

Ms. Farber enjoys still life painting and wrote that the women’s movement allowed her to explore self-expression using this “female” imagery to her “great personal satisfaction.”

Ms. Farber paints a stolid white barn with twin silos seen across the seasons, snow-covered, under a blue summer sky, with cows in autumn. The scenes have a familiar, intimate feeling: little wonder, for the Farbers raise beef cattle here.

Peter Batchelder "Up Island View" 30 x24Oil on Canvas
Peter Batchelder “Up Island View” 30 x24Oil on Canvas

For Peter Batchelder, a prolific New Hampshire artist who once wrote art reviews and operated a gallery on the Vineyard, New England’s coastal and rural landscapes provide inspiration and raw material for his paintings.

“I take creative license with locations,” he explained. “I don’t always want the pieces to be literal.”

He paints a building’s actual shape, but alters surroundings, adding grasses, removing trees for an ocean view. He may pluck a structure from its own environment, show it in a new setting, simplify the design’s elements.

Mr. Batchelder creates scenes so familiar we feel we must have driven by them recently. Or, we wonder, was it a dream or a childhood memory? But whether or not they look like Chilmark, Cape Cod, or the New England woods is not the most important. These canvases are visually arresting, breath-taking, their spare compositions of buildings, trees, fields depicted with lush, over-the-top, super-saturated colors that are far from spare.

Embodying the Summertime theme, Mr. Batchelder’s scenes are dramatically enhanced and defined by the intense light of high summer. He believes a sense of place is “as much about color and light” as it is the location. In love with color, he may pick the color he wants to use before choosing the scene.

A field of tall grass is washed in the thick yellow gold of twilight; a peaked roofed house on a hillside is bleached by white-hot noonday sun; a big barn glows bright red. Contrast is intense: deep purple shadows, vibrant turquoise sky.

Should a visitor crave more summertime views there is plenty to see in the gallery, highlighted by Ms. Gould’s photographs of sailboats in many waters, dynamic ships under sail by painter Frauke Klatt, and works by other maritime and coastal artists. This show continues through July 16. “Colorburst,” featuring five artists, begins July 17.

Louisa Gould Gallery is located at 54 Main Street in Vineyard Haven. For more information, call 508-693-7373 or visit louisagould.com.

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Ruth Epstein with some of her art dolls at her Retrospective: A Creative Life. — Epstein Family

Visitors spilled out onto the porch of the Pebble Gallery at Featherstone Center for the Arts Sunday afternoon, chatting and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Inside, art lovers and well-wishers surrounded Ruth Epstein, offering hugs and congratulations for this, her first gallery exhibition ever.

Sarah and Mike Shepard viewing Ms. Epstein's sculptures and quilts.
Sarah and Mike Shepard viewing Ms. Epstein’s sculptures and quilts.

A glance around the airy one-room gallery would suggest that this must be a four-artist show. There were four entirely disparate collections on display, four separate media, four absolutely different styles. But everything here — from fanciful costumed dolls to sleek, sophisticated alabaster sculptures and much more — was created by the remarkable and prolific Ms. Epstein over many decades.

Titled by her daughter, Lisa, “A Creative Life,” the impressive retrospective show chronicles works created by Ms. Epstein while she lived in her native Holyoke with her late husband, A. William Epstein, and raised four children. She made sculpture pieces at her winter home in Florida.

She recalls beginning to do artwork on her kitchen table in the mid-1950s (her first creations were collages using dried beans, to create cheerful wall hangings). And she is still at it 60 years later.

Ms. Epstein did her current collages, some lush and decorative, some bearing family significance, over the past six years, since she moved to Martha’s Vineyard after her husband died.

“I wanted to leave Holyoke,” she recalled of that difficult time. The perfect solution appeared when her daughter invited Ms. Epstein to move into her West Tisbury guesthouse. She is delighted with the change.

Vineyard Haven resident Chetta Kelley read about one of the pieces on display.
Vineyard Haven resident Chetta Kelley read about one of the pieces on display.

“The Vineyard is a perfect place to start over, to start your life from a different angle when you don’t have a spouse,” she said.

Ms. Epstein created a particularly moving collage soon after her husband’s death, in his memory. “The Journey” shows a woman, gazing off towards the sea, her new Vineyard home. It incorporates a poem describing the sense of chaos and powerlessness after a loss or wrenching change, with romantic images of flowers, ocean, and sky interspersed with photos of her husband, an image of the smiling young couple at their wedding years earlier.

“I felt better after I did it,” she confided.

Another dramatic collage is chilling in its significance, with faded, tattered letters, map fragments, and old-fashioned black-and-white photos telling a story devastating for the Epsteins and countless other families.

The graphic depiction of the Holocaust was inspired by a shoebox of faded Yiddish letters written by Ms. Epstein’s grandmother, Hava Mittleman, from Poland to her mother in the United States. The last was dated August, 1939. Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1. The grandmother and all her relatives were shot, killed, buried in mass graves.

West Tisbury resident Judith Birsh enjoying the art on display.
West Tisbury resident Judith Birsh enjoying the art on display.

“I made it for my family,” said Ms. Epstein. “I thought my children should know.”

Some of the collages are just plain pretty and delightful to look at. There is a garden of songbirds, arrays of lush, colorful flowers. “Angels Watching Over Me” features crowds of sweet-faced cherubs and “has a very calming effect,” the artist said.

“Big Mama” combines a white baby dress, lacy bonnets, tiny tie-up shoes, and an old-fashioned doll. There is a yellowed newspaper, The New York Tribune, January 3, 1861, only months before the Civil War began.

Snuggled on a couch and displayed on pedestals is a huge extended family of Ms. Epstein’s whimsical dolls. “All Dolled Up” reads the sign as they show off flashy garb, striking combinations of colors, textures, styles, each with a distinct personality. The artist made the stuffed fabric dolls beginning in the mid-1980s, dressing them in recycled garments and fabrics.

“The Healer” has wild red hair and many-hued New-Age style clothes. A pretty mermaid in iridescent ocean colors lolls languidly in a seashell, and there are many others.

But there was more! In front of a wide window, five graceful alabaster sculptures glowed softly in the afternoon sun, curved, sensuous, their smooth surfaces calling to be touched.

Ms. Epstein described to one fascinated viewer the power tools and techniques she used to mold and polish the alabaster. She created them during the 1990s in the Boynton Beach studio of the Stone Gallery, which offered the outdoor facilities needed for working with alabaster.

“It’s messy, but very satisfying,” she said.

Nor was that all. Flanking the window hung two soft ivory quilts, adorned with big lacy flower designs. Roughly textured decorative hangings were displayed on platforms and walls. Ms. Epstein recalled her beloved handmade Swedish loom she used to create them in the 1970s, and explained that she often used roving (raw yarn) for textural variations and inserted wires to add dimension.

Not surprisingly, the fashionable shawl that Ms. Epstein wore to accent her white outfit, reversible, multi-colored and stunning, was a piece she made herself.

A self-taught artist, Ms. Epstein was accepted to the Art Department of Syracuse University in the 1940s. But she felt the other students were too talented for her and studied merchandising and fashion design instead.

“I just have that fortunate ability,” she mused. “I like challenges. If I see something that intrigues me, I will research it and try to find out how to do it. That makes life more interesting, and allows you to grow.”

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Poet Annette Sandrock performed her spoken word piece during the fourth annual summer solstice celebration at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs on Thursday evening. — Michael Cummo

Although the official Summer Solstice would not take place until Saturday, a band of creative writers and musicians at Featherstone Center for the Arts could not wait another minute, and gathered to celebrate the new season on Thursday evening.

Dozens of people came to watch poets perform during the fourth annual Summer Solstice Celebration.
Dozens of people came to watch poets perform during the fourth annual Summer Solstice Celebration.

The sun took her sweet time sinking behind the trees, splashing the rich green lawns with vibrant patches of gold as revelers began arriving. They trooped up the amphitheatre slope bearing chairs, blankets, picnic gear, and extra warm layers just in case.

While one might have expected a jolly festival of rowdy dance, rollicking music, singalongs, and giggles, this celebration had a very different flavor, honoring the transitional spring-to-summer moment in a serenely thoughtful style.

Poet Ellie Bates, who organized this fourth annual Summer Solstice Celebration, welcomed the audience members, now settled comfortably on the grass, sipping and snacking, chatting, and marveling at the beauty of the still-sunny evening.

As the program went on she introduced a talented line-up of home-grown Island poets. Most, she reported, are members of the Martha’s Vineyard Poets’ Collective and the Cleaveland House Poets. Many had read at Featherstone, Pathways, and elsewhere; some had taught workshops, a few had one or more books to their credit.

Delighted with the audience turnout, and the large number of readers taking part, Ms. Bates said she felt the event was a perfect kick-off to the season and the Pathways, Featherstone, Noepe Center Summer Festival of Poetry held here in July and August.

Poet Clark Myers read a poem he wrote.
Poet Clark Myers read a poem he wrote.

Annette Sandrock’s sweet story-poem told of a daisy she picked in Spain, the happy day they spent – woman and flower: “I showed it birds, I saw the world from its point of view,… Me and Daisy, walking the path.” Her words gave the little blossom a personality, delicate and precious. We want to meet it.

Jill Jupen offered meditations on life, death, and their mysteries. In a flock of raucous crows she saw Cambodian elders, huddled, chattering: “everyone talking at once.”

Artist Harry Seymour paired his poems with paintings, modestly admitting this was his first attempt at poetry. No disclaimer was needed for his strong verses, including the powerful “Empty Swings,” a passionate cry-out against gun violence.

Barbara Peckham deftly moved from outrage in a diatribe against heartless politicians ignoring the poor and powerless (“while God’s children weep”) to a lusciously lyrical poetic seascape: “Miss Ocean wears her blue green dress embroidered with crystal beads…” We envision it appearing as a children’s picture book one day, iridescent illustrations to match the sparkling words.

Winonah Harrington tossed a bouquet of haikus, floating like bubbles, glittering spontaneous images suggesting stories. Clark Myers evoked old-fashioned family life in recalling his grandmother Ada.

Shellion Hamlett, left in jean jacket, and poet Winonah Harrington enjoying the performances.
Shellion Hamlett, left in jean jacket, and poet Winonah Harrington enjoying the performances.

There were more poets, and words kept on coming, rhymed and unrhymed, couplets, haikus, free form, evoking moods from dark to lighthearted, contemplative to zany.

Edgartown Poet Laureate Steve Ewing topped off the heady mix with his newly minted “Slow Roll,” describing memorable first-time treats with economical images: childhood ice-cream, chilled Campari in Italy, red poppies abloom in France. Then he described a magical sensation, a subtle shift as he sat outdoors at twilight: “The sun stopped setting and the earth took over.”

Also sharing their talents and poems were Ann Lees, Jennifer Smith Turner, Scott Crawford, William Waterway, Ms. Bates who offered a verse along with providing introductions, and Marianne Goldberg (whose poem, in her absence, was read by Annette Sandrock. 

Three easy rocking tunes by Lizzy Bradley and Mark Mazer, began with “Georgia on My Mind,” Ms. Bradley providing the sultry vocals and making a brilliant debut on electric guitar.

Christina Montoya jazzed up the atmosphere with a fiery, powerful, flirtatious poetry/dance performance, exuding joyful woman-energy.

At last the sun had all but disappeared when William Waterway took the stage, now shadowed under heavily leafed branches, ending the evening with haunting impressionistic tunes played on a simple Native American branch flute.

“The birds were singing – they gave me my direction,” he said afterwards.

Satiated with elegantly crafted poetry, delicious food for thought, the patrons slowly, reluctantly, headed home, driving down the hill beneath a still-light apricot tinged sky.

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All roads and walking paths led to the Oak Bluffs Campground Sunday afternoon as graduates, family, friends and well-wishers converged on the Tabernacle for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s 55th Commencement Ceremony. Even before the Tabernacle came into view the unmistakable sounds of happy voices, laughter, and the band tuning up filled the air.

Blessed by sunny skies, summery temperatures, and an Island community that had cheered, supported, and watched them grow, the seniors of 2014 giggled with anticipation as they adjusted white and purple robes and tasseled caps.

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Superintendent of Schools James Weiss addressing the graduates.

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Hartley Sierputoski receiving her diploma from Assistant Principal Andrew Berry.

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Avery Lazes was stylin' underneath his gown.

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Football Coach Donald Herman and Dawn Feinsmith.

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From left, Dori, Alex, and Tim Clark.

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From left, Claudia Taylor, Mariah Campbell, Jessica Campbell, and Ina Thigith.

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Hockey teammates Haven Huck and Callie Jackson capturing the moment.

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Isabel Smith, left, and Caroline Gazaille.

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Lily Lubin, left, and Anna Marques.

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Michael Ducatt and Keira Mercier.

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Class Essayist Nathaniel Horwitz.

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Patty Culkins, left, with daughter Sophie Ulyatt.

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From left, Master of Ceremony Sam Permar, Salutatorian Barra Peak, and Class Essayist Nathaniel Horwitz.

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Rick Bausman, left, and son, Hudson Bausman.

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Sarah Dawson hugs Vice Principal Andrew Berry

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Sarah Ortlip-Sommers, valedictorian.

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Shane Metters, left, and father Garry Metters.

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From left, Hartley Sierputoski, Isabelle Wadleigh, and Miranda Tokarz.

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Teo Azzollini (left) and Haven Huck.

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Taylor Brasefield (center) with aunt and uncle, Denise and David Brasefield.

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Chorus members Claudia Taylor, Sarah Dawson, Lorraine Menezes, Mikayla Tinus, and Emelia Cappelli.

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Juniors Elie Jordi and Emily deBettencourt were the marshals for the ceremony.

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Alistair Morgan, John Henry O'Shaughnessy, and Sarah Parece.

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Keith Dodge had advice for the students.

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Lucas Amarins and Charlotte Benjamin.

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Acting principal Matt D'Andrea presented an award to G. Galen Mayhew.

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Renata Lacerda, Edney Teles, Keilla Geddis.

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Sam Permar was the master of ceremony.

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Hats off to you grads!

Inside the Tabernacle benches began to fill early, everyone jockeying for a seat with a view. Black-robed faculty clustered at the entrance waiting to lead the procession, as giddy as their students.

Even the solemn march down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” could not keep the seniors’ excited smiles and the sparkle in their eyes from shining bright. Girls in white, boys in purple, they stepped purposefully ahead while brave parents teetered on benches, cameras and iPhones held aloft. Even when the students were seated, the atmosphere still bubbled with exuberance, infectious and sweet.

Graduating senior Sam Permar emceed with style, befitting his plans to study acting at NYU Tisch. Welcoming the standing-room-only crowd, he graciously introduced speakers, songs, the Pledge of Allegiance, and kept the program moving smoothly. He issued a special welcome to Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone who was in the audience, as well as several elementary school teachers who had been influential in earlier years for the Class of 2014.

Salutatorian Barra Peak, on her way to Harvard, offered well-researched reflections on the history of public education and the ideals of school crusader Horace Mann.

“I think Horace Mann would be very pleased by The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School,” she said proudly, citing its public support, resources, tolerance, diversity, dedicated, highly trained faculty, and the fact that it is free and open to all.

“Wherever you go, I hope you will seek out new knowledge and new experiences and never close your minds to learning,” she said.

In his upbeat speech, Class Essayist Nathaniel Horwitz gave generous accolades to his classmates, singling out nearly three dozen for achievements in academics, athletics, community service, and the arts. Engaging and witty, the Harvard-bound grad had no qualms about poking fun at himself — his football career with one touchdown in three seasons, his crush on a female field hockey and lacrosse star.

“Every member of this class has been special to me, and to everyone,” he said, “Thank you for a perfect four years.”

Superintendent of Vineyard schools James Weiss, crediting a book by David McCullough Jr., exhorted students to remember they are “works in progress,” to seek a passion — “to do something for no other reason than because you love it.”

“Of course, you, the graduates of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for 2014 are special,” declared Mr. Weiss, citing the seniors’ unusual Island upbringing, their multiple achievements and commitment to helping others.

“It is my hope that you will continue your education beyond this commencement, trying new things, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but always learning, growing and exercising your passion,” Mr. Weiss said. “It is also my hope that you will move from here, allowing the world to know what we have already come to understand — that you are the Vineyard’s special gift, our very special graduates.

“Congratulations and thank you!”

Then, lauding her achievements in art, dance, academics, and school activities, Mr. Weiss presented the Superintendent’s Award for Academic Excellence to Valedictorian Sarah Ortlip-Sommers, who will attend Stanford.

Choral performances gave a moment to breathe and reflect: “Defying Gravity” and “Choose Something Like a Star,” the haunting senior song, Robert Frost’s poem set to music by Randall Thompson.

Praise and advice

Acting Principal Matthew D’Andrea gave high praise to Andrew Jacobs-Walsh, who will attend the University of Maine, and Jade Pine, heading to Framingham State University. Listing their many achievements, he presented each with the Vineyarder Award. The annual award honors one male and one female graduate for showing outstanding growth throughout their four years of high school.

For his outstanding leadership skills both in and out of school and “a disciplined approach to life in everything he does,” Mr. D’Andrea presented G. Galen Mayhew with the Principal’s Leadership Award.

“Princeton University will be fortunate to have him as a student next year,” Mr. D’Andrea added.

Student Council President Mary Ollen began her speech with a loving shout-out to her father, John Ollen, who was watching the ceremony from Massachusetts General Hospital via Skype. After resounding applause from the compassionate audience, she gave heart-felt thanks to high school Technical Director Woody Filley for arranging the Skype.

Ms. Ollen expressed appreciation for the Island’s generosity, from filling the seats at school plays and athletic events to contributing more than $700,000 in scholarships.

“Thank you to both Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the Island community for supporting us,” the Wellesley-bound Ms. Ollen said. “We owe you everything.”

“Everything you do matters,” said Sarah Ortlip-Sommers in an inspiring valedictory send-off, encouraging her peers to do something positive for society. “Every good intention is important in the process of living a good life. Small kindnesses make a difference to everyone around you. So make sure that every day you do something that brings some small joy to even one person.”

She too acknowledged the uniqueness of the Island, “a community that takes care of people in need, celebrates people’s lives and looks out for one another… the sense of community and shared traditions will provide us with a source of strength for the rest of our lives.”

Retired English teacher Keith Dodge told a cautionary tale of his misspent early college days, counselling seniors to make the most of their lives and educations, and not be afraid of change and “never stop learning.”

The popular former teacher’s tips included: travel, buy property, save money, plan ahead.

“Please don’t live accidentally,” Mr. Dodge urged. “Try to know where you’re going and even make a list.”

At long last the big moment arrived. One by one the students made their way to the stage, received their coveted diplomas from Regional District Committee Chairman Colleen McAndrews, handshakes and hugs from smiling school officials.

Camera-wielding relatives pressed ever closer to the stage. Applause and cheers were nearly deafening after each name was called, well-wishers unable to contain their delight despite the program’s futile request: “Please reserve your applause until all diplomas have been awarded.”

Then it was back up the aisle to waiting hugs from proud family and joyful friends, bouquets, group photos, an evening of parties, and finally, the rest of life waiting just beyond.

Tomorrow would begin a short summer, packed with work and preparations, then transition to new lives filled with challenges and uncertainties. But for today this class of 2014 could bask in the secure love, caring, and admiration of family, friends, and its small yet formidable community.

Off to the future

Outside the Tabernacle on the sunny lawn happy pandemonium reigned, the traditional post-commencement chaos. Relatives, friends, and graduates searched for each other in the swirling crowd.

“I don’t know where my family is!” mock-wailed one pretty blonde grad.

Cameras and cell phones were everywhere, handed back and forth so everyone could get in the shot. Mothers and fathers thrust lush bouquets at white-robed girls. Graduates were deluged with hugs and slaps on the back then corralled into place for family photos. Some still wore their robes neatly, others had already divested themselves, leaving graduation garb, like high school itself, gladly behind. Everyone laughed, some cried too, caught up in emotion. It was hard to tell whether it was the ecstatic graduates or their proud parents who were smiling the widest and brightest.

Caroline King smiled joyfully for the camera, standing between her dad, Sandy King, and stepmother, Rose Walsh. But the first chance she got she dashed off to catch up with waiting friends.

Not yet college-bound, Caroline is looking forward to a year off “to figure out what’s next,” according to Ms. Walsh. She added that she is glad Caroline is taking the opportunity to explore while she is young.

Isabel Smith, headed to Elon University in the fall, was receiving hugs, greeting well-wishers, and making plans. She was excited to be hosting a party soon at her home along with two close friends, Mary Ollen and Sarah Alexander.

Teo Azzollini had party plans too. Enjoying a moment with her mother, Roberta Kirn, dad, Nicky Azzollini, and her sister, Marta, a May UMass grad, Teo, who will also attend UMass, said she had attended eight parties on Saturday and was counting on at least three more later in the afternoon.

She said her day’s highlights were Mary Ollen’s speech “and celebrating with my family.”

John Henry O’Shaughessy was all smiles, surrounded by male friends and wearing a colorful scarf patterned on the Irish flag around his neck. His next step is Westfield State University.

Also grinning from ear to ear was Keira Mercier, posing for photos with her sister, i-coming senior Taija Browne. Keira reported she is joining the U.S. Army and will head for training to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. She follows in the steps of relatives and a close family friend who have served in the military.

“Walking across the stage, knowing I’m done with high school,” was the best part of the ceremony for her, she said mischievously.

Smiling just as broadly was her mother, Lindsey. “I’m very proud!” she said, holding her daughter’s flowers while the exuberant grad flew off to hug classmates.

“I’m very excited!” said Molly Wallace about her plans to attend Northeastern University’s Pre-Med program. Her goal: to be a pediatric neonatal cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Family resemblance was unmistakable as she posed for the camera with her mom, Patty.  Big brother Jordan stood patiently nearby, taking care of Molly’s big bouquet.

While brimming with pride, Ms. Wallace admitted she would miss her daughter’s cheerful presence at home. “I’ve already made hotel reservations for a September visit,” she said happily.

“I think this was one of the nicest graduations ever,” said Megan Alley of Oak Bluffs, here to celebrate and congratulate track star Jeremy Alley-Tarter, her grandson who will be attending Assumption College. “The speeches were wonderful and I heard a lot of love.”

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Valedictorian Sarah Ortlip-Sommers, who is headed to Stanford in the fall, told her class, "small kindnesses make a difference to everyone around you." — Photo by Ralph Stewart

All roads led to the Oak Bluffs Campground Sunday afternoon as graduates, family, friends and well-wishers converged on the Tabernacle for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s 55th Commencement Ceremony.

Sam Permar, left, MC'ed the ceremony. Barra Peak, center, is the class salutatorian and will attend Harvard in the fall, along with Nathaniel Horwitz, right, the class essayist.
Sam Permar, left, MC’ed the ceremony. Barra Peak, center, is the class salutatorian and will attend Harvard in the fall, along with Nathaniel Horwitz, right, the class essayist.

Blessed by sunny skies, summery temperatures, and an Island community that had cheered, supported, and watched them grow, the seniors of 2014 giggled with anticipation as they adjusted white and purple robes and caps. Even the solemn march down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” could not hide their excited smiles and the sparkle in their eyes.

Graduating senior Sam Permar emceed with style, welcoming the standing-room-only crowd, graciously introducing speakers.

Sarah Shaw Dawson, headed to UVM  in the fall, gets a hug from vice principal Andrew Berry.
Sarah Shaw Dawson, headed to UVM in the fall, gets a hug from vice principal Andrew Berry.

Superintendent of Vineyard schools Dr. James Weiss  urged students to remember they are “works in progress,” to seek their passion – “something you do because you love it.”

“You are the Vineyard’s special gift, our very special graduates,” he concluded. “Congratulations!”

“Thank you to both Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the Island community for supporting us,” said student council president Mary Ollen. “We owe you everything.”

Lily Lubin and Anna Marques give the thumbs up to graduation.
Lily Lubin and Anna Marques give the thumbs up to graduation.

Soon would come an all-too-short summer packed with work and preparations, then transition to a new life filled with challenges and uncertainties. But for today this class of 2014 could bask in the secure love, caring, and admiration of family, friends, and its small yet formidable community.

Tallula Brodsky listens to the speakers.
Tallula Brodsky listens to the speakers.

“Everything you do matters,” said valedictorian Sarah Ortlip-Sommers in an inspiring send-off to her classmates. “Every good intention is important in the process of living a good life. Small kindnesses make a difference to everyone around you. So make sure that every day you do something that brings some small joy to even one person.”

Lucas Amarins and Charlotte Benjamin.
Lucas Amarins and Charlotte Benjamin.

At long last the big moment arrived: the awarding of diplomas. One by one the students made their way to the stage, received the coveted diploma with warm handshakes and hugs.

Graduated!
Graduated!

Applause and cheers were nearly deafening after each graduate’s name was called, well-wishers unable to contain their delight despite the program’s futile request: “Please reserve your applause until all diplomas have been awarded.”

Then it was back up the aisle to waiting hugs from proud family and joyful friends, bouquets, group photos, an evening packed with parties, and finally, the rest of life just beyond.

Avery Lazes might win the prize for most interesting under-gown outfit.
Avery Lazes might win the prize for most interesting under-gown outfit.

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A wellspring of energy and an “Elders Bill of Rights.”

The Vineyard population is aging rapidly, bringing an array of challenges and concerns, but Islanders aren’t taking the unsettling news lying down. When the Rural Scholars, students from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, reported last October that the senior population of Martha’s Vineyard would swell dramatically in years to come, Island activists formed the Healthy Aging Task Force (HATF) to strategize ways to head off the challenge. The task force was developed as a sub-committee of the Dukes County Health Council.

A public meeting in November drew some 65 participants from across the Island, representing several dozen service agencies and providers. That session saw the creation of seven work groups along with a 20-member coordinating committee. Each group was charged with researching and developing responses for a single aspect of senior living.

A morning-long meeting last Thursday, May 22, at the M.V. Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven brought the groups together along with other interested community members to share their findings and map out action plans for months and years ahead.

Facilitated by HATF chair Paddy Moore, who is also a Dukes County Health Council member, and Peter Temple, executive director of the MV Donors Collaborative, the fast-moving meeting was carefully organized and kept to a precise schedule, employing slide presentations to emphasize facts, figures, and findings.

Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs Ann Hartstein capped off the 3½-hour session, offering acknowledgement and inspiration, answering questions, raising ideas, and conveying the assurance that state government supports such local healthy aging initiatives.

“This is a wonderful celebration,” said Ms. Moore with a bright smile as she welcomed the crowd of nearly 100, pointing to the “wellspring of volunteer energy” and the progress underway.

“I believe that timing is all.” she added, saying this is the perfect moment for Vineyarders to prepare for challenges to come as the percentage of senior citizens grows.

Ms. Moore set the tone by introducing the task force’s “Elders’ Bill of Rights.” The nine-point document calls for seniors to enjoy a life that includes appropriate and affordable housing and transportation, the ability to fully participate in community activity, the choice of living at home or in a facility setting, receive high-quality care and make other decisions in later years, all in addition to being respected and valued by their community.

Mr. Temple recapped the warning from the Rural Scholars that the percentage of Island residents over 65 is growing rapidly. According to these projections, from 16 percent in 2010 the Island population of seniors will rise to 32 percent in 2030. The Island’s increase in older population is much more rapid than that of the U.S. or Massachusetts.

Projections show that the Vineyard’s percentage of elder residents will soon be surpassed only by that of Cape Cod, an area called by one observer, Mr. Temple reported, “Medicare by the Sea.”

Many of these older residents have low incomes and are living in homes that are isolated and not well designed or appointed for potentially changing needs and abilities.

Impacts will be felt everywhere, from the increased pressures on medical and mental health care to town services such as senior centers and EMTs. Adding to the challenges, Mr. Temple said, it is difficult to attract health care professionals and home care workers to the Island due to high living costs and limited housing options.

Before the worrisome predictions could cast a pall over the crowd, Ms. Moore introduced the work group presentations, providing varied responses to the challenges raised. Representatives of each work group outlined updates on findings and progress. Reports were clear, concise, rich with detail and optimism.

Reports made recommendations as common-sensical as exercise tailored to seniors, as useful as a centralized information system, and as ambitious as building a new, revolutionary type of nursing care facility and campaigning to change town zoning.

The work groups discovered, as the Rural Scholars did, that the Vineyard already possesses numerous services and programs that address seniors’ needs. In some cases, recommendations were for coordination, education, and adjustments so existing services would be better used.

The Community Engagement and Prevention group honed in on preventing falls, which are prevalent among older adults and can have far-reaching negative impacts on health and well-being. The group plans to institute of “A Matter of Balance” trainings on the Island. The peer-lead programs aim to lessen fears of falling, teach fall prevention and exercises to improve balance, strength, and confidence.

“Falls are the fourth biggest cause of death among the elderly, and our evidence-based workshop training on Matter of Balance can actually save lives,” Ms. Moore said.

Citing the importance of exercise, especially walking, and working with MV Commission staffer Chris Seidel and with support of the MV Chamber of Commerce, the group will soon make available online maps of all walking trails and pedestrian-friendly ways titled “Getting Around Martha’s Vineyard.”

A proposed “Seniors’ One-Stop Referral Service,” a centralized, web-based system, would provide comprehensive information on resources to guide and support elders, providers, and caregivers. Along with gathering and posting complete resource information online, the plan calls for establishment of an office with a staffer available full time to respond to telephone inquiries.

“Transportation is the thread that ties everything together,” said Leslie Clapp reporting for the Transportation Work Group. “If you’re isolated and lonely you’re not going to be very healthy.”

After surveying every mode of Island public transport and some on the Cape, the group aims to educate seniors on what is available. They also will strive to remedy several gaps that exist, such as travel to certain off-Island specialists and veterans’ services.

The Aging in Community group explored a new and promising model for small scale, personalized nursing facilities designed to look and feel like private homes. Fitting into residential neighborhoods, the Green House model offers private rooms, care based on a patient’s wishes, frequent direct staff contact, and could alternatively accommodate rehabilitation or assisted living programs.

According to the report, the Town of Edgartown has raised the possibility of including a Green House in a pending affordable housing development. With the aim of allowing seniors to remain at home whenever possible, the work group also will promote use of existing volunteer programs.

The Affordable Elder and Workforce Housing group intends to consult with town boards across the Island and push for zoning changes to allow accessory or “in-law” apartments which could accommodate an elderly family member, or a caregiver to help an aging homeowner.

Work is also underway to find ways to educate contractors on several simple design adjustments (e.g. wider doorways and halls, easy no-threshold doors, first-floor living potential) which could make new or retrofitted homes accessible, safe, and livable for older, wheelchair-bound, or handicapped residents.

More than one-third of Vineyarders now provide care on an informal basis to an older family member or friend, a number projected to rise to 55 percent by 2030. The Caregiver Support Work Group is exploring how to provide varied resources for those informal helpers from skills development to medical oversight and respite opportunities.

Funds will be needed to bring many of these ideas to fruition, but progress is underway. Ms. Moore announced a $5,000 M.V. Hospital Community Health Initiative grant towards the One Stop program. Anonymous gifts include: $2,500 for the Green House Feasibility Study; $1,750 for Matter of Balance Training; and $10,000 to fund a two-day consultation with the Altarum Institute’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness. The MV Donors Collaborative has contributed time of its executive director and other proposals are pending.

As the meeting ended Ms. Moore urged participants to share all they had learned with neighbors and friends, offer ideas, and consider volunteering.

“There is a lot of work to do,” she said.

Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, Ann Hartstein, spoke to the group, and her remarks are here.

For complete slides from the May 22 presentation and additional information visit:

dukescounty.org/Pages/DukesCountyMA_HealthCouncil/DCHATF

or

mvdonors.org/documents/PresentationMay22.pdf

For information or to volunteer, contact Paddy Moore: mooreii@aol.com or 508-693-1627.