Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer
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Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, will speak at the Katharine Cornell Theatre on Saturday. — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Comm

This Saturday, July 26, join Amy Goodman and Charlayne Hunter-Gault at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven at a benefit for the WVVY 93.7-FM, the Island’s community radio station, and public broadcasting’s Democracy Now! The event is co-sponsored by Martha’s Vineyard Community Television, Channel 13, and the ACLU of Massachusetts.

Ms. Hunter-Gault, a Vineyard summer resident and renowned author and journalist will introduce Ms. Goodman, the award-winning host of Democracy Now! The largest public media collaboration in the United States, the pioneering show is broadcast on Pacifica, NPR, on public access, PBS, and satellite television, among other outlets including the Internet.

According to its website, Democracy Now!’s War and Peace Report provides access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the U.S. corporate-sponsored media, including independent and international journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and peace activists, artists, academics and independent analysts. It hosts real debates between people who substantially disagree, such as between the White House or the Pentagon spokespeople on the one hand, and grassroots activists on the other.

Ms. Goodman will sign copies of the book, “The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope,” which she co-wrote with Denis Moynihan, with a foreword by Michael Moore.

WVVY 93.7 is a community station on Martha’s Vineyard that began its low wattage broadcasts in 2007. It boasts an eclectic collection of shows featuring music and commentary, most produced by locals. An interview with Ms. Goodman by West Tisbury resident Rob Myers will be broadcast on WVVY daily at 8:05 am, 11:05 am, 4:05 pm, 8:05 pm, and 11:05 pm leading up to the event.

Amy Goodman and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Benefit for WVVY and Democracy Now! Saturday, July 26, 7 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $10, tickets available at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven, online at democracynow.org, and at the door.

There is a special pre-event catered reception from 5 to 6:30 pm, on the same day, with Ms. Goodman and Ms. Hunter-Gault at the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark. Tickets to the reception are $75 and include entry to the lecture.

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Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian David McCullough said libraries have shaped his career.

David McCullough thanks several main contributors the the library's success, including (from left) Tim Boland, Dan Waters and Beth Kramer. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The West Tisbury library board of trustees and the library foundation Sunday dedicated the new community program room of the newly renovated and enlarged West Tisbury public library to David and Rosalee McCullough. Hunter Moorman, chairman of the West Tisbury library foundation, thanked the McCulloughs and, in particular, Mr. McCullough for his four years as honorary chairman of the library foundation. A full presidential term, he noted, to laughs from the full house.

The McCulloughs, West Tisbury residents, were instrumental in raising funds to help pay for the $6 million dollar project. They were early donors to the project and in his role as honorary chairman of the foundation, Mr. McCullough, an acclaimed historian and author, drummed up support and funds; the library foundation ultimately raised over a quarter of the construction costs. The town picked up almost a quarter and almost half of the project’s cost was funded by matching funds from the state. The old 5,640-square-foot library was enlarged to 13,000 square feet and opened on March 22, after a 14-month construction period.

Mr. McCullough, a former West Tisbury library trustee, has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for “Truman” and “John Adams,” along with two National Book Awards, for “The Path Between the Seas” and “Mornings on Horseback.”

A narrator, historian, and lecturer, he is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award. Mr. Moorman cited the McCulloughsmany contributions to the library. These included a fundraiser for the library at the Agricultural Hall three years ago where Mr. McCullough, the guest speaker, spoke to a full house about his latest book, “The Greater Journey.”

“The McCulloughs gave the fledgling library foundation the faith and the courage to persist in what then seemed a daunting, uncertain task,” Mr. Moorman said. “They have lent their names, their fortunes and their warm and gracious encouragement to the foundation all along the way.”

In addition to the McCulloughs, Mr. Moorman thanked the library’s many other generous donors and praised the work of all who helped bring the project to its current stage, including library director Beth Kramer and her staff. He singled out the work of the library building committee and its countless hours of inspiration and work.

Mr. Moorman also noted the need for continued support from the public to complete unfinished details, such as the landscaping. He then introduced town selectman Richard Knabel and library trustee Dan Waters.

Mr. Knabel praised the McCulloughs — his neighbors — for their help with the library and for their contributions to the community as town residents.

“Our appreciation of their efforts and support for West Tisbury in general over many, many years, and especially for this library expansion project are deep and heartfelt,” he said. “Without their help we might not be sitting in this wonderful space. A jewel of a place such as this is a big part of the glue that holds our community together and is a necessary pillar for a functioning democracy.”

Mr. Waters, who guided much of the fundraising efforts, recalled a breakfast meeting with Ms. Kramer and the McCulloughs in the early stages of the fundraising drive. The McCulloughs told him they were prepared to give a sizable donation, the biggest donation they had ever given to an organization.

“They paid for breakfast,” Mr. Waters said, “and we thank them for that. On the way out the door, David tugged on my elbow and said, ‘this project will succeed.’

“He said that with that gravitas that only his voice has and it sort of sunk in. During the fundraising campaign we always had his words to fall back on, ‘this project will succeed.’ It was like a lesson from one of David’s history books.”

A personal history

After Mr. McCullough, with Ms. McCullough by his side, received a symbolic key to the library, he spoke about the time he was a library trustee, when the library was in the small building on Music Street across from the McCulloughs’ home. As a trustee, he had a key to the library.

“And for a number of years when we would have friends over for dinner, in our modest way,” Mr. McCullough said, “I would say, ‘would you like to adjourn to the library with a little brandy?’ And yes, we would cross Music Street and have a grand evening. It was a wonderful time.”

He spoke about his time living in West Tisbury. The McCulloughs now live in Boston for part of the year. He got a big laugh when he mentioned the time he drove his unwilling daughter to preschool in Edgartown. To cheer her up he began to sing, “I wish I were in the land of cotton.” She interrupted, “You would.”

Mr. McCullough emphasized his personal connection to West Tisbury and to libraries during the 35 years he has lived there.

“It would be unfair of me not to emphasize the degree to which the formative stages of both our marriage and my working life were all here,” Mr. McCullough said. “I am a library devotee. I believe in them. And of course they are also a part of my working life.

“I really believe in communicating with those to whom you’re writing, and I believe in giving credit to the many people who make the kinds of books that I and others write possible. One person gets a name on the dust jacket and that’s really not accurate or fair. And while I praise the existence of the institution of public libraries in our country, and I stress the importance of books above all as part of the learning process, I want to give credit where I think it is never sufficiently given, and that is to the librarians, the staff of libraries. I tell students I have worked with: don’t just go into a library because you are looking for some aspect of your research; talk to the librarians. Tell them what you want to do, what you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you don’t know because that is why they are there — to help you. And very often they know as much or more than many of the books that they are taking care of in the library.

“So I want to say to you, Beth, and to all who work with you: here’s to you, for the very important role you play not just in the town and in the Island community, but to the children, to the young people you are shaping in this library.”

Mr. McCullough talked about the effect that working in a library had on his career. He said that one summer while researching a paper in the Yale University library, where he was a student, he realized that he liked the work and for the first time begin to think there might be something like this he could do for the rest of his life.

“Every subject I have undertaken,” he said, “without exception, has been one that I didn’t know much about and if I knew all about it I wouldn’t want to undertake it, because for me the research, the detective casework of it, is the pulp. That’s the adventure. It’s going to a new continent you have never set foot on before and it builds, the more you do it. And almost all of my work has been in libraries.”

Mr. McCullough talked about his current project, the story of the Wright brothers from the small town of Dayton, Ohio — the first to fly. “They had a bicycle shop,” he said, “so they are commonly thought of as clever good ol’ small town mechanics who knew how to do anything, and of course they could figure out how to build something that could fly. And there is some truth to that, but it is far from what the reality was. Those two men were brilliantly educated, brilliantly motivated — geniuses — and they never finished high school.”

Mr. McCullough said that they grew up without any modern conveniences, in a small book-filled house. Their father, an itinerant minister who believed everybody should have books and should read, encouraged his sons to visit the public library whenever a book they needed wasn’t at home.

“The brothers were trying to figure out about propellers. Should a propeller be like a propeller on a ship? So they went to the public library, only to find that there was no theory about propellers on ships or on airplanes. There were no airplanes, so they had to work it all out themselves.

“Never doubt,” Mr. McCullough said, “that the public libraries have figured importantly in our history.”

He said that reporters would comment to Orville Wright late in his life, “‘It’s wonderful to think you grew up under such disadvantages’ and he would get quite angry. He would say, ‘no disadvantages. We had the greatest advantages anybody could ever have. We had access to books and a father who encouraged intellectual curiosity.’ What more does anybody need to get ahead in whatever it is they want to do?

“So, thank you, Beth, and thank you all who have helped keep this an emblem for what we believe in here in dear old, wonderful, exemplary West Tisbury.”

Owner Robert Colacray poses on his boat, Mad Max, which has not only comfortable seating outside but also a roomy indoor cabin. — Photo by Michael Cummo

In 20 years of sailing, the 60-foot catamaran Mad Max has carried over 100,000 passengers, averaging 5,000 a season, according to the boat’s owner, Robert Colacray.

Docked in Edgartown harbor, Mad Max is a state-of-the-art catamaran, a sailing boat consisting of two parallel hulls. Its mast towers 70 feet above a spacious deck which is almost 1,500 square feet, 60 feet long and 25 feet wide. “It was crafted for adventure with passenger safety and comfort in mind,” said Mr. Colacray. “The twin hulls are engineered to create smooth and graceful movement across the water.” The boat can carry as many as 49 passengers.

“We are proud of our safety record; we haven’t lost anyone,” he said. “We have helped create memorable moments for many people. I love to hear passengers say, ‘This is the best thing I have done here on the Vineyard.’ You get a totally different perspective of the Island from the water.”

Mad-max-full-sail.JPGMad Max sets sail twice a day at 2 pm and 6 pm for two-hour trips. On a good day with a southwest breeze, Mr. Colacray said the Mad Max can sail to Oak Bluffs and back. Another popular route is to follow Chappaquiddick out to Cape Poge, taking in the beautiful sights along the way.

Mad Max is also available for private charters for up to 49 passengers. The boat has its own marina in the harbor where other boats can dock.

Mr. Colacray started sailing when he was a student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “My first boat, appropriately, was a small catamaran, a Hobie 16,” he said. “I would sail it off the beaches of Malibu. It was wet and exciting launching through the surf and riding them back in.”

He later moved up to a Bristol 29′ which allowed him to sail to the Channel Islands off the southern California coast, and later, as he gained experience, from Los Angeles to San Francisco singlehanded. He was lucky, he said, to have some good teachers and mentors along the way.

While on the West Coast, Mr. Colacray got his captain’s license, after six months of study. When he returned home to the east coast he worked in the business world for about 10 years, saving enough money to buy a 35-foot sailboat.

One summer he got an itch to try something new and sailed to Edgartown. He docked at the Harborside marina and put up a plywood sign that read, “Sailing Charters.” Before too long he was taking up to six people out four times a day.

Each fall he would sail the boat down to Key West, where he continued to make money chartering his boat through the winter. It was here he got the idea for “Mad Max” after seeing large catamarans capable of carrying 49 passengers.

In 1993 he contracted Gold Coast Yachts in St. Croix to build a new boat.

“The name came from the ‘Mad Max’ movies,” he said. “It seemed to be a perfect fit for a big red catamaran.”

Last fall, the Mad Max was sailed to Maine for a complete overhaul and refitting to commemorate her 20th anniversary. New paint, new logo and graphics, new stays, and all hardware was replaced. “The boat has a new look and looks better than she did 20 years ago,” he said.

“Everyone along the way has been extremely supportive, the town, harbormaster, and we are lucky to have some great employees,” Mr. Colacray said. “I have been blessed over the years to do something I love and have the opportunity to follow my passion, to travel abroad in the off-season. It was on one of my journeys to Colombia four years ago that I met my soul-mate Yudy, and we are now married.”

“I hope to be doing this for many years to come. There is no need to retire. I have been semi-retired these last 20 years, working six months and having six months off. I am living the dream.”

For more information go to,www.madmaxmarina.com, call 508-627-7500, or stop by the boat in Edgartown. It is hard to miss.

— Photo by Michael Cummo

 

The Old Sculpin Gallery, across from the Chappaquiddick Ferry ticket office and Memorial Wharf in Edgartown, is the showcase outlet for The Martha’s Vineyard Art Association (MVAA), a group of about 60 member artists that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Jane Messersmith, a watercolorist and a retired art and science teacher from the public school system in Florida, became a member when the organization was only 10 years old. She and her late husband, Fred, first came to the Vineyard on the invitation of Ruth Mead, an artist and a charter member of the MVAA who knew Fred from Florida. Fred taught painting at Stetson University in Florida and Ms. Mead wanted him to teach a summer course in watercolor painting at the Old Sculpin Gallery.

“It’s been a wonderful part of our family,” Ms. Messersmith said. “We came here with six children in 1964. This is my 50th year. We fell in love with the Vineyard and the gallery. We even bought land here our first year. We bought our acre and a tenth that summer in the woods in Edgartown and have pretty much been here every summer since.”

In addition to teaching, Fred eventually became director of the gallery and was honored for his 30-plus years of service this summer when the Fred Messersmith Gallery was dedicated at the museum.

Ms. Messersmith also taught at the gallery for five years. Her son, Harry, a sculptor, and daughter, Patricia Turken, a former art teacher at the Lincoln Center in New York, are both MVAA members and have shown their work at the gallery.

“The MVAA has always had children’s art classes, adult painting classes and also life drawing classes. We also give scholarships, three this year to art students at the high school for the college of their choice.”

The gallery is an unusual building for today’s Edgartown. It is over 240 years old — few buildings of its vintage still exist. It is not painted white and would never be mistaken for a whaling captain’s house, and it seems top heavy with its distinctive shingled tower. The building has at various times housed a sail loft, a whale oil processing factory, a grain store, and a boatbuilder’s shop. It has wide, well-worn floorboards and hand-hewn beams. The building itself is worth the visit.

Incorporated in 1954, the MVAA opened for the benefit of the Island community to “increase facilities of art education, create interest in the arts, make an art center for the whole island, establish a permanent collection, and preserve an old landmark.”

About 30 of the member artists will be showing their work at the gallery this summer, along with pieces from the group’s permanent collection and, for the first time, work from non-member artists will also be included.

Six special events are planned to celebrate their 60th anniversary. A 60th anniversary traveling exhibit, featuring selections from the MVAA’s Permanent Collection of over 100 works of art, is touring Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Vineyard Haven, and West Tisbury this summer. The exhibit will be at the Vineyard Haven Library for the month of August and includes work from the following Vineyard artists: William Abbe, Francis Chapin, Mary Drake Coles, Julius Delbos, Gilberta Goodwin, Joseph Hazen, Patricia Reeve Mead, Ruth Appledoorn Mead, and Vaclav Vytlacil.

There will be three MVAA member themed shows this summer: “Reflections: Celebrating our MVAA Heritage,” “Island Bounty: From Food to Art,” and “Our Golden Age.” A list of artists on display is available on their website, marthasvineyardartassociation.org.

“Painting the Vineyard,” MVAA’s 2nd annual plein air fundraising event will be from July 15 through the 20th, in partnership with the Preservation Trust. Artists will be painting outdoors at some of the Vineyard’s most iconic and favorite places. This event marks a turning point in the organization’s history. It is the first time non-members will be invited to paint alongside members and to exhibit their work in the gallery to sell. The gallery will show the paintings from this event from July 19 to 25.

The first Old Sculpin community show with works by non-member artists as well as member artists will be curated by Edgartown artist Margot Datz beginning at the end of August.

In June, the MVAA dedicated the Fred Messersmith Gallery honoring the former director’s 30-plus years of service to the organization. Also in June, Flatbread held a benefit night with proceeds going toward academic art scholarships, awarded annually to local students.

The Old Sculpin Gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 am–6 pm, and on Sundays, 12 noon–5 pm, in season. There is no charge for admission. Dock Street, Edgartown. Call 508-627-4881 or email oldsculpin@gmail.com for more information.

Sandra Lippen of Tilton Rentall. — Photo by Michael Cummo

When Vineyarders have needed a tool, maybe a log splitter or a floor sander, impact driver or a floor nailer, or even a cement mixer, Tilton Rentall has been the place to find it, for the past 40 years. Sandra Lippens has run Tilton Rentall and Tilton Tent and Party Rentals at the corner of Barnes Road and Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road for more than 30 of those years.

Ms. Lippens, known as Sandy to most, is a hands-on owner who usually answers the phone or meets customers at their cars when they drive in to pick up a tool. One day last week Ms. Lippens, looking nowhere near her 74 years, leaned down and grabbed one side of a cement mixer she was renting to a 200 pound, 6-foot-tall man who grabbed the other side. Her knees were bent, her back acceptably vertical. The two lifted the mixer into a pickup truck. She didn’t break a sweat.

She keeps her inventory in her head. She will quickly answer any question about whatever tool anyone might request. She knows the condition of the tools, how to use them, and how to repair many of the hundreds of tools she keeps on hand.

wave.jpgOn the tent and party rental side of the business, she provides everything a party might need, from tents to chairs, tables and table cloths, dishes and cutlery, and also will help customers plan parties. She will, if asked, suggest venues, caterers, and is adept at helping customers navigate the sometimes tricky ways of the Vineyard.

Tilton Rentall was started by M. Thurston “Tebby” Tilton in 1974 who began renting equipment he had used in his construction business along with a few things he had built himself, such a log cutter with an unprotected blade that measured more than two feet in diameter.

In 1980, Ms. Lippens moved to the Vineyard from Worcester where she’d worked for a printing company for 20 years, to begin a job as a massage therapist. Soon, she began helping Mr. Tilton. “I loved my work as a therapist and I met a lot of Vineyarders and learned my way around making house calls,” she said.

“When I first came to help Tebby, there was no party business and we didn’t have many tools,” she said. “The number of tools we had would almost fill one column on a sheet of paper. Most of the tools had MT Development Corporation painted on them, Tebby’s business name. He was an Island builder who built the first few homes in Sea Glen before he quit building to rent out his tools and go fishing for scallops and conch.

“I started to advertise – that was new concept – and people would call and ask for things. ‘I need a…do you have a…’ And Tebby and I would sit down and decide if we could afford to buy the tools people would ask for, if we didn’t have them.

“I used to tell people if you want me to get something, have six of your friends call and I’ll see if I can get it in here. I have always tried to satisfy the needs of the community.

whiteparty.jpg“It became clear to me early on that if I were to be a part of this community I had to respect those people who were earning a living. I don’t want to be in competition with people who have certain tools, especially big equipment. I used to say ‘if you ride on it or tow it behind I do not have it.’” She does have a couple of cement mixers that are tow-behinds, but other than that the rule stands. “I don’t want to be in competition with the landscapers or the builders.

“I am more tuned to the homeowner, but I have pumps and generators and many small tools that big construction companies need one more of, or only need occasionally or when something breaks down. Our company has participated in building most of what you see on this Island in one way or another.”

She said it was at some point during her first year at Tilton’s that an Edgartown family wanted to know if she had what was needed for a wedding. “We didn’t have anything,” Ms. Lippens said. “I went out and bought everything they needed for their wedding. They wanted a yellow and white-striped tent. I bought a yellow and white striped tent. That was the start of the party rental side of Tilton’s. Everyone up-Island wanted white tents. Now we have white tents.”

She said the tent and party rental part of the business is now more than 50 percent of the business: “We try to provide a full range of assistance to groups and people putting on parties.”

A car drove in and a woman said she needed a lawn mower. Ms. Lippens found a lawn mower, explained the basics. Told her how to start it and helped her load it into her car.

“I really hope that people consider Tilton Rentall to be a part of the community,” she said.

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The 90-foot wooden scow had to navigate state bureaucracy and Beach Road.

Mark Barros held up a utility line as the Seeker moved up Beach Road. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Just after sunrise Tuesday, Bob Hayden and his crew of three from Hayden Building Movers of Cotuit managed the seamless move of the 32-ton, 90-foot-long schooner scow Seeker from the lot owned by Ernie Boch Jr. near Five Corners in Vineyard Haven where it has been under construction for the last three years, to temporary quarters on Ralph Packer’s property about a quarter of a mile east on Beach Road.

As the early morning sky lightened Tuesday July 15, a team of movers backed the Seeker off the Boch lot where she has been under construction for almost three years.
As the early morning sky lightened Tuesday July 15, a team of movers backed the Seeker off the Boch lot where she has been under construction for almost three years.

After weeks of fits and starts over permitting requirements, the Hayden crew arrived in Oak Bluffs from Falmouth on the 4 am Patriot. Minutes after Mr. Hayden and his crew drove up to the Boch lot and announced, “We’re here,” the rumble of an engine broke the stillness of the morning.

Dale McClure of Watercourse Construction in Vineyard Haven started up his 10-wheel tractor that was already hooked up to an I-beam trailer that had been constructed beneath the unfinished boat. It wasn’t yet 5 am.

The sun was scheduled to rise at 5:18 am, but the overcast sky was already slate grey at 5 am when a state police officer directed a Tisbury policeman in a patrol car to close Beach Road at Five Corners. Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) Vineyard supervisor Edward Panek blocked the other end of the road with his truck.

It took a little time to maneuver the 24-foot-wide boat back and forth out of the lot where it had sat for almost three years. Once on Beach Road the Seeker moved along smoothly like a float in a parade, the blue flashing lights of the state police car leading the way.

Members of the moving crew used long fiberglass poles to lift low-hanging utility wires above the boat as it moved down Beach Road at a brisk walking pace. The spectacle attracted a crowd of about 20 spectators. Many recorded the move. Two bystanders had small video cameras strapped to their heads.

Mark Barros held up a utility line as the Seeker moved slowly onto Beach Road.
Mark Barros held up a utility line as the Seeker moved slowly onto Beach Road.

Prior to the move, Vineyard videographer Dan Martino placed a small video camera on the upper rail of the Seeker to add to his 100-plus hours of video documentation of the project.

By 5:25, only 25 minutes after it began, the move was complete.

Mr. Hayden said the load weighed in at 40 tons, including the trailer. The boat will remain on the trailer until it is ready to be launched.

Boat owner Ted Box built the boat as a teaching project. He said the plan is to create a teaching boat aboard which children can learn about boats and the sea.

Mr. Box was pleased that the move went so smoothly. He said he has not been granted much time before it must be moved from the Packer lot. His plan is to complete as much of the hull as he can before launching the Seeker into the Lagoon.

Mr. McClure said Mr. Packer has plans to move the boat down to the Lagoon boat launching area by the end of August.

Tuesday morning workers began cleaning the Boch lot of leftover debris.

Bob Hayden of Hayden Building movers, left and Dale McClure of Watercourse Construction, center, helped supervise the move. Mr. McClure drove the truck.
Bob Hayden of Hayden Building movers, left and Dale McClure of Watercourse Construction, center, helped supervise the move. Mr. McClure drove the truck.

The move began in earnest last month when Mr. Boch told Mr. Box that he must vacate the lot he had occupied for three years and Mr. Boch, a seasonal Edgartown resident, offered to pay for the move.

Mr. Hayden’s crew began preparing the scow for its move, but they ran into a reef of permitting hurdles. DOT policy limited the width of a boat to be moved on a state road to 16 feet. The Seeker is 24 feet wide.

Last week, DOT said it would allow an exception and granted a permit but scheduled the move to begin at 8:30 am. A sign was placed in front of the lot that cautioned people to expect traffic delays beginning at 9 am.

Concerned about the disruption of traffic flow at that time, and the arrival of the 9:30 am ferry into Vineyard Haven, local officials pressed DOT to reschedule the move at an earlier hour.

DOT Island superintendent Edward Panek spoke to his superiors and convinced them that an early morning move would be the best scenario. And that is how it all worked out.

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A 1965 painting by Thomas K. "Tokey" Barnes of David playing at Munroe's on Circuit Avenue in the early 1960's. The women behind David, at the piano, is David’s mother. Tokey is the man in the checked jacket with a cigarette. Restaurant owner George Munroe, is wearing the chef’s hat. — Thomas K. Tokey Barnes

Pianist David Crohan is celebrating his 70th birthday and 50 years of performing on Martha’s Vineyard with a benefit concert that will include some of the most important people in his long, storied musical life. The concert at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs on Sunday, July 13, at 6:30 pm is planned as a tribute to those he learned from. It will benefit The Perkins School for the Blind and the New England Conservatory of Music, two of his alma maters, Island Elderly Housing, and the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group.

Island favorite David Crohan turns 70 this month and celebrates with a benefit concert on Sunday, July 13, at the Tabernacle.
Island favorite David Crohan turns 70 this month and celebrates with a benefit concert on Sunday, July 13, at the Tabernacle.

The concert features both Mr. Crohan’s stellar mix of classical and jazz piano with guests and a special second set with some of his Island musician friends playing popular music with some folk and rock thrown in. The show will include the spectacular voice of teenager Caroline Sky and David’s son, Phillip, on guitar.

Among the musicians joining Mr. Crohan are Wade Preston, who played in the Broadway show “Movin’ Out” featuring the songs of Billy Joel; Henry Santos, Stephen McGhee, David Hinds, Caroline Sky, Tom Billotto, Merrily Fenner, and Hugh Taylor.

Harry Santos, Mr. Crohan’s music teacher at Perkins, taught him to play the first movement from Robert Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A” during his senior year of high school. The 86-year-old Mr. Santos, who Mr. Crohan later learned was the Reverend Martin Luther King’s roommate at Boston University and who has been an advocate of little known 19th century black composers during his career, will accompany Mr. Crohan on the Schumann piece on a second piano. It will be the first time in 52 years they have played together.

Mr. Crohan said he has a particular appreciation for turning 70 since not one of his three older siblings lived to be 70. His actual birthday is July 11.

Mr. Crohan was the former proprietor of and nightly pianist at David’s Island House, a restaurant and bar on Circuit Avenue that he operated during summers from 1978 until 1997. During the winters, he played at top-shelf Boston hotels and restaurants, including the Copley Plaza, the Parker House, Hotel Le Meridien, and the Bay Tower Restaurant.

Mr. Crohan now lives in Lake Worth, Fl., and has played for 12 years at the tony Cafe L’Europe in Palm Beach. He spends July and August on the Vineyard and has played at The Boathouse in Edgartown, Wednesdays through Saturdays, for the last five years. He usually has at least one concert performance on the Island every summer.

Blind since birth, Mr. Crohan was born in Providence, R.I., and spent 13 years as a boarding student at The Perkins School in Watertown, the oldest school for the blind in the United States, where Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, taught.

He showed musical promise before attending Perkins, being able to pick out popular tunes he heard on a piano before turning four, but it was at Perkins that his musical gifts grew. He then spent eight years at the New England Conservatory earning three degrees while performing in Boston and on the Vineyard.

“In those days the only important things for me and my friends were girls and music, and sometimes the music came first,” he recalled.

In 1962, after graduating from Perkins, the 17-year-old Mr. Crohan was invited to spend a week on the Vineyard with an aunt and uncle who had a house in the Campground in Oak Bluffs.

“The first night we were there I took a walk with my uncle to Circuit Avenue,” he said. “There was a piano in what they called the Topside at the Ritz. No one was playing so I sort of took over for that Friday and Saturday night. The third day I was there we went for dinner at The Boston House, a place more commonly known as Munroe’s after the owner George Munroe. It was June and the pianist they hired hadn’t come yet. So I played.

“Mr. Munroe said, ‘I can’t hire you this year because I have already hired someone else. I would if I could. I’m not going to pay you for tonight but I am going to give you an unlimited gift certificate but I am dating it next year.’ He said he hoped I would think about playing the next summer.”

Mr. Crohan’s mother thought he was too young to take a job like that so she had him wait for another year, until he was 19.

“It was the summer before The Beatles took off,” he said, “and I was playing the popular music of the time. There was a big mix of ages at Munroe’s and I was playing a wide variety of music including my usual classical music. There was a sing-along almost every night. That was the start of 50 years of magnificent times and great joy, and everything that can be said good about my life on the Vineyard.”

Mr. Crohan does not consider himself a composer, but he and his wife rent a house on the Vineyard from a friend who accepts payment in the form of an annual song he writes for the friend. The house is big enough for his extended family to visit. “It’s a great deal,” he said. “Each of us thinks we are getting the best end of the bargain, and it allows me to afford to play on the Vineyard every summer and to spend time with my family.” His three grown sons and five grandsons all live in the Boston area.

Music: David Crohan in Concert, 7:30 pm, Sunday, July 13, Tabernacle, Oak Bluffs. Doors open at 6:30 pm. $30 benefits Island Elderly Housing, M.V. Cancer Support Group, The Perkins School, and New England Conservatory of Music.

Wila Vigneault, 15, is one of 20 other students entered in a U.S. State department summer scholarship program.

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School freshman Willa Vigneault missed the last two weeks of school, but with good reason. The 15-year-old student left the Island on Monday, June 16, to travel to Amman, Jordan, where she will study Arabic for the summer on a United States Department of State National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarship.

The daughter of Sarah Vail and David Vigneault of West Tisbury, Willa is one of only 625 students selected nationwide to study less commonly-taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. She is one of 20 students and two supervisors in the Jordan program. She is living with a local host family during the 45-day program, until she returns home early in August.

“I have studied French for three years,” Willa wrote recently in an email to The Times. “I am interested in Arabic because my father is part Lebanese and because I’m interested in foreign relations and hope to do something with that in my career.

“The U.S. needs better relations with Arab-speaking countries. I thought it would be a good place to start. There is a lot of conflict in the Middle East.”

Willa has a longer-range goal of learning many languages, and she is interested in studying engineering and foreign relations and international politics in college. “Engineering may be a way to make life easier in developing countries,” she said.

Willa said she is excited to meet the other students as well as live and learn in Jordan. All 20 students in the Jordan program are United States citizens, Willa said, and some have multiple citizenships. “I’ve counted eight languages in total that we can speak,” she said. “Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Croatian, and of course, English.” They will be adding Arabic to the list.

The group has taken several tours to see various parts of Jordan. “I was amazed with how many people can speak English,” Willa said, “and how willing everyone is to help us learn their language and culture and to ask us about ours.”

Her host family has two children. “Zaina, my 11-year-old host sister, has lent me her room during my stay. It has a great view and it’s pink and covered with flowers and a Barbie bedspread,” she wrote on a blog she is keeping, ”My host mother and sister speak almost no English, and we are relying quite heavily on charades and Google Translate to communicate. They tried to teach me an Arabic card game and I won even though they gave the directions in Arabic and I had no idea what they said.”

Willa’s father, director of the Dukes County Housing Authority, said he and Willa’s mother have concerns about their daughter traveling to a part of the world where safety can be a concern, but the fact that the state department is overseeing the trip allayed their fears.

“It’s her world, an international world that our children are growing up in,” Mr. Vigneault said. “The decision to support her educational travel was easily made. We felt comfortable that the program is being run by the State Department rather than a private group.”

A friend’s daughter was involved in the same program in the Middle East a few years ago, and the State Department made a last-minute change in her destination due to security concerns. “That made us comfortable thinking that they are actively on top of it,” he said.

The NSLI-Y program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly-taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs, according to a press release. The program gives students the chance to study Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian, or Turkish overseas.

Launched in 2006, the program seeks to increase the number of Americans who can engage with native speakers of critical languages by providing formal instruction and informal language practice in an immersion environment. The goals of the NSLI-Y program include sparking a life-long interest in foreign languages and cultures, and developing a corps of young Americans with the skills necessary to advance international dialogue and cross-cultural opportunities in the private, academic, and government sectors.

Applications for 2015-2016 NSLI-Y programs will be available at www.nsliforyouth.org in the early fall. For information about U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange programs, visit exchanges.state.gov.

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Virginia Dautreuil is the new superintendent of the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. — Michael Cummo

Virginia Dautreuil, 35, is the new superintendent of the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. She fills the position left vacant by the unexpected death of John J. Varkonda in late December at the age of 55 after 26 years in the job. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) appointed her to the job following two interviews.

Ms. Dautreuil is only the third person and first woman to hold the post. The first was Manuel F. Correllus, for whom the forest is named.

Ms. Dautreuil, a native of Newtown, Conn., is an experienced naturalist with knowledge of the Cape area. She currently lives in South Yarmouth with her husband. She said she has a lot to learn.

“At this point I’m looking with open eyes,” she said, “taking it step-by-step and hoping to learn about the forest and the Island. I am looking forward to getting involved in the Island community. I spent all of my summers growing up on Cape Cod and had an internship at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, studying whales.”

Ms. Dautreuil cultivated an early interest in nature and conservation. From the age of 12 until she was in her early twenties she worked as a seasonal volunteer at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. She earned an undergraduate degree in wildlife science at Virginia Tech.

After college she did surveys assessing freshwater stream health for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and worked as a technician in West Virginia, in a forest used for logging, studying salamanders. She also studied the effects of hydroelectric dams on freshwater fisheries projects in Virginia. Ms. Dautreuil worked in Texas for five years as a civilian field biologist with the Texas National Guard, dealing with wildlife and fire management. She received a masters degree in aquatic biology from Texas State University where she studied the effects of wildfires on aquatic life.

The state forest was created in 1908 as the “Heath Hen Reserve,” in an attempt to prevent the bird’s extinction. The last heath hen was seen in 1932. Today it is managed for passive recreation, mostly hiking and cycling on its 14 miles of bike paths.

“We’re excited to move to the Island and are looking for a place to live,” she said. “My husband, Marc, and I both love to fish and go claiming. We like to hike, camp out, kayak, bird watch, and bike. Really almost anything outside.”

She said she is in training for the new position. “I’ll be shadowing other supervisors, learning about the department, doing orientation, that kind of thing,” she said. One of her first jobs, she said, is working with a regional resource manager to learn about the forest and to meet with the local fire control people to get up to speed on the Island’s fire fighting and prevention plans.

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A moving crew jacked up the 32-ton scow, fabricated a steel frame under it, then inserted a dolly to carry it when it is moved. — Photo by Michael Cummo

There was a flurry of activity this week surrounding the Seeker, the unfinished wooden scow schooner that has taken shape slowly on a vacant lot on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, a stone’s throw from Five Corners. Told by lot owner Ernie Boch Jr. that he must vacate the lot he has occupied for three years, boatbuilder Ted Box has been preparing to move the 32-ton vessel about a quarter of a mile east to land owned by the R. M. Packer Company on the Lagoon side of Beach Road.

It will be no small undertaking. The Seeker is close to the width of two traffic lanes. Mr. Box said he will move the boat as soon as he receives a state permit authorizing the move which will require state police supervision to temporarily close Beach Road. Mr. Box said he expects the move to take less than one hour.

In summer heat and humidity last week, workmen from Hayden Building Movers jacked up an I-beam frame welded in place under the scow, which will be moved on two eight-wheel dollies. Watercourse Construction of Vineyard Haven is also assisting in the move.

At some point, a tractor truck will haul the boat to its new location.

Mr. Packer, a longtime supporter of the project, said the boat will be placed parallel to the road in front of one of his warehouses to facilitate a final move to the town launching ramp in the Lagoon for the christening when the boat is ready to float.

Plug is pulled

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Ernie Boch Jr. plans to improve the long moribund lot along Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.

The scow project, which began in 2011, is well overdue. Originally, it was expected to take one year to complete.

After several delays and deadlines, Mr. Boch, a seasonal Edgartown resident and the chief executive of Boch Automotive Enterprises, literally pulled the plug on the project. Electrical power was turned off to the lot. At a meeting in Norwood, location of the Boch main offices, Boch representatives told Mr. Box that he would have to move the boat and clean up the property.

Mr. Box said he was told that Mr. Boch was unwilling to continue to pay for the liability insurance to cover the project on his land. Mr. Boch offered to pay to move the Seeker.

Mr. Box said he paid only a nominal rent to use the lot and that he was grateful for the support he has received from Mr. Boch.

“I take as a sign of Mr. Boch’s support for the project that he offered to pay for the move,” he said. “Their point is well taken. I have seen kids climbing around the boat at night.”

Mr. Box said that short of enclosing the project with a fence there is no way to make it completely safe.

Boch representatives also asked Brian Abbott, co-owner of Gannon and Benjamin boat builders adjacent to the Boch property, to move anything of theirs off the Boch property as well. “They told me their insurance company freaked out when they saw the condition of the property,” Mr. Abbott said.

No end in sight

In a telephone conversation with The Times Wednesday, Ernie Boch described his support for the project. “I love Ted and I love his mission. I have supported him the whole, entire time,” Mr. Boch said. “I’ve supplemented his rent. I’ve taken extension upon extension but it just seemed to me that there was no end. I wasn’t crazy about the conditions there. I didn’t think they were that safe. So Ted and I talked and he decided to move the boat.”

Mr. Boch said he would like to improve the property, which includes a long derelict building. “I would like to develop the property. That whole area will be developed eventually. I would like to do something that everybody agrees with and everybody would like, a nice beautification program and make it a nice place.”

Mr. Boch said that he has no specific plan in mind and is willing to work with interested groups to do something everyone would like. “I am just checking it out now,” he said as he prepared to visit the lot Wednesday afternoon.

Long haul

Mr. Boch first asked that the land be vacated last September. Mr. Boch told The Times then that he wanted to clean up and develop the long vacant waterfront lot, beginning with the demolition of the derelict Entwistle building.

Mr. Box subsequently dismantled the structure that sheltered the project and announced he planned to move the unfinished hull to another lot owned by Mr. Packer next to the Tisbury Shell station, also on Beach Road. That plan was thwarted when Tisbury building and zoning inspector Kenneth Barwick told Mr. Box that the lot was too small to allow for the necessary setbacks and would create a safety hazard.

Mr. Box was unable to find another place to move the boat and continued his work on the hull until he met with the Boch representatives last week and Mr. Packer made his latest offer.

The Seeker project has missed several completion dates set by Mr. Box. His latest scheduled launch date of this August, three years since the start, has now been delayed by the impending move, he said.

“I would like to finish as much of the work on the boat as I can while she is on dry land,” he said. He said a launch date of next spring would be ideal, but he doesn’t know how much time Mr. Packer will give him. When asked by The Times, Mr. Packer did not give a deadline.

The Seeker project has nonprofit status but has been financed primarily by Mr. Box. “I would not have gotten as far as I have without donations of labor, materials, and other support — including the help from Mr. Boch and Mr. Packer and other members of the community,” Mr. Box said.

He plans to use the boat as an educational vessel to teach children about the sea and boats.

The project began in 2011 with a case of mistaken identity according to Mr. Box. Mr. Boch’s friend Livingston Taylor of West Tisbury asked if another friend could work on his boat on the lot. Soon after that request, Mr. Box, knowing nothing about the previous request, presented his plan to build the Seeker to the Boch office. It was accepted.

“They thought I was someone else. I was an innocent imposter,” Mr. Box said, “Even after the mistake was recognized, Mr. Boch stayed true to his word. I admire his generous spirit.”

The project began under a temporary wood-frame, plastic-sided shed with a corrugated steel roof, big enough to hold the Seeker. Most of the work was contained to the shed but the unfenced lot filled up in short order with an array of tools and timber — a band saw large enough to rip whole trees, equipment to move whole trees, and massive tree trunks and piles of lumber.

The lot is now clean and the Seeker is ready to move.