Pulling for Wendy

Dancing
Responding to the tunes provided by Mike Benjamin and friends, folks got up and got moving. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Whit Griswold - August 30, 2007

When I pulled up to the Ag Hall for Sunday's brunch for Wendy Weisman Jenkinson, I thought for a minute that the Fair was still on. The big field next to the barn was half full of cars and there more lined up waiting to get in.

I ran into one old acquaintance walking in from the car, and a couple more around the front porch. Who wasn't there, I wondered?

And everyone was smiling, glad to be there, glad to see one another, glad to be pulling for Wendy, who late this spring was diagnosed with brain cancer. Since then she has been undergoing aggressive treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The owner of Periwinkle Catering, Wendy has two children, Marguerite and Wyatt. She is married to Pat Jenkinson Jr.

Hillary Clinton, Wendy Jenkinson, Suzy Weisman and Joan Jenkinson
With Hillary Clinton at her side, Wendy leaned on her mother, Suzy Weisman, while getting some hands-on support from Joan Jenkinson, her mother-in-law, and others.

Her family, friends, and clients have been scrambling to support Wendy over the last couple months, so no one was shocked when they decided to cook up something special for her when she got a break in her treatment. Urged on by Chilmark summer resident Mary Steenbergen, a long-time client of Wendy's who's become a close friend, Nicole Cabot, Tina Miller, and Laura Entner went to work on a community gathering in support of Wendy. Billed as A Musical Brunch, Sunday's gathering was that and so much more. The turnout, the outpouring of support, the out and out good vibe - were over the top.

Pat Jenkinson
Pat Jenkinson thanked those who had organized the musical brunch and all those who attended.

As many as 600 folks attended Sunday's gathering - a huge crowd. Not surprising, maybe, considering that up-Island, almost everyone knows Wendy or Pat, her outgoing husband who runs Up-Island Automotive in West Tisbury, or other members of the extended Weisman and Jenkinson families. Tina Miller, a current caterer and former restaurant owner, organized some 30 other caterers and restaurateurs Island-wide to provide food for the event - good food, delicious food. Laura Entner organized a swarm of volunteers, many of them grade school kids, to help serve food, park cars, and clean up. Mike Benjamin was in charge of the music, his usual combo spiced up by the addition of three horn players.

Dozens of other people also pitched in. Nicole Cabot put her finger on what moves people to step up at times. "When something happens like this, you just bond with people," she said.

The food and tunes were both great draws, but the prime attraction was Wendy who looked strong and lovely, greeting people and reflecting their support right back on them.

After attention was briefly diverted by the arrival of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who came with Mary Steenbergen, the crowd quieted down to listen to comments from a few friends and family members.

Wendy Jenkinson with Bill Clinton, who is flanked by Wendy's children, Marguerite and Wyatt
Wendy shares a light moment with Bill Clinton, who is flanked by Wendy's children, Marguerite and Wyatt.

Hugh Weisman, Wendy's father, talked about the shock of the news of Wendy's diagnosis in June, and the stresses of carrying on since then. "What's gotten us through this, is mostly Wendy," he said, citing her determination. "Her strength has given us the strength to support her."

He added that funds raised at the event would be aimed in two directions - to help the Jenkinson family defray some expenses, and to fund a new fellowship in Wendy's name at the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Hugh Weisman
Hugh Weisman, Wendy's father, spoke of Wendy's determination and courage.

Next, Pat added his thanks to all those who had helped make the event happen, and to the swarm of us who had come out to support Wendy. His mother, Joan Jenkinson, followed with a brief thank-you.

After an unplanned moment of silence, which gave some of us the chance to pull ourselves together, Jen DeVivo grabbed the microphone, said it was time to look forward and up, and with a nod to Mike Benjamin, broke into a full-throttle, no-holds-barred rendition of Van Morrison's upbeat anthem, "On the Bright Side of the Road." Most bodies, no matter the age nor the dancing ability, started to move. And smiles broke out everywhere.

Once again, the strength that this small, intimate community has at its core showed itself, in spades. Pulling together to pull for someone in need is getting commonplace around here, but this was no re-run. It was fresh, compelling, memorable. Nicole Cabot summed it up this way: "This kind of event reminds me why, even though it can be expensive and difficult to live here, I wouldn't trade it for anything."