Virginia Hackney died peacefully in her parents' home in Vineyard Haven early in the morning of Oct. 5, finally succumbing to pancreatic cancer after a courageous battle of more than a year. She was 49 years old. Virginia moved to the Vineyard, long her family's summer home, nine years ago from Princeton, N.J.
Despite her lifelong mental handicap, Virginia lived an independent, fulfilling, and busy life on the Island she loved. Above all, Virginia treasured the independence that she worked so hard to achieve, and the warmth, caring and security of the Vineyard community that allowed her to have it. The most visible sign of her independence, and her most prized possession, was her bicycle, which she insisted on riding whenever she could, without regard for rain, snow or the frightening traffic of Five Corners, much to the consternation of her family.
Virginia had not one but several families here on the Island. First and foremost was Chilmark Chocolates where she worked part-time for many years under the supervision, and with the friendship, of Mary Beth Grady and Allison Berger, the two remarkable women who own and operate Chilmark Chocolates. Appropriately, it was Mary Beth and Allison who were sleeping on the floor next to Virginia's bed when she died.
Virginia relished the month of July because that was her month at Camp Jabberwocky in the always ambiguous role of camper/counselor, free to participate but also free to come and go as she pleased. She particularly enjoyed the musical play that Jabberwocky did at the end of the session each year, dressing in all sorts of ridiculous outfits for her parts.
Virginia was also a fixture at Grace Episcopal Church, where she sang in the choir and was in charge of the weekly chore of assembling and folding the programs for Sunday services. She attended choir practices and Sunday services religiously.
Ice skating was another of Virginia's passions. She was warmly welcomed by the Martha's Vineyard Figure Skating Club, and she benefited from the personal coaching of Beth Blankenship. Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Virginia loved appearing in costume in the annual ice skating shows. She also participated in numerous off-Island skating competitions, after which she always called her family to report that she had won the "Gold" again.
Consistent with her love of the limelight, Virginia also has a long list of theatrical credits to her name. She appeared in many productions at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse, under the tutelage of M.J. Munafo, including a memorable role as Old Crow in the production of "The Snow Queen."
Virginia had an unbelievable recall of names and dates. Her family depended on her to come up with the forgotten names of acquaintances, and the dates of important family events, that had somehow slipped out of the mind. She loved to be around people, particularly children. Joking and teasing were natural modes for her. Her famous admonition to all of her friends was to "behave." She was legendary for remembering and commemorating birthdays and other special occasions with gifts and cards. This also, unfortunately, sometimes caused her to overdraw her account at the bank. She was involved in many activities and was always looking ahead and planning for the next great event on her schedule. She was a fixture at the Black Dog restaurant. Her family will be forever grateful to the kind people who work there and became Virginia's friends. She also frequented Seasons restaurant on Karaoke night, where she was often called upon to open the proceedings with her spirited rendition of Madonna's "Material Girl" or one of the other staples in her repertoire. She loved to travel. She always insisted on making her own plans and reservations. Her favorite trip was her yearly jaunt to Princeton, where she stayed in the Nassau Inn, and celebrated her birthday with her family and old friends from her Princeton days.
Virginia received tremendous support from the Vineyard community and especially from the Disability Services program at Martha's Vineyard Community Services. Kendra Yale of that program was given the unenviable task of finding Virginia an acceptable job on the Vineyard. Despite heroic efforts, no job, other than Chilmark Chocolates, ever seemed to fit into Virginia's busy schedule, or avoid clashing with her unflaggingly social personality.
Virginia was born in Norfolk, Va., on April 29, 1958. She spent most of her youth in Princeton, N.J., where she attended the public schools. At age 14, she left home to attend Elwyn Institute in Elwyn, Pa., where she learned many of the skills that helped her to lead a full and independent life. She graduated from Elwyn in 1978. Thereafter, she moved to Princeton, where she lived independently. She worked first at the Educational Testing Services, and then at the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles, where her gregarious ways made many friends but also got her into occasional trouble with her boss. She also worked in dining services at Princeton University. In 1998, she moved to Martha's Vineyard to her second floor condominium at 180 Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
Virginia will be remembered for her indomitable and independent spirit. Her friends and family will forever hear in their minds her challenging question, "Are you behaving?"
Virginia is survived by her parents Lucy and Sheldon Hackney; her brother and sister-in-law, Fain and Melissa Hackney; her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Brian McBride; her nieces and nephews, Samantha, Z. Declan, Larkin, Jackson, Annabelle, Lucy, and Madison; and numerous other friends and relatives. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Virginia's name be made to: Martha's Vineyard Community Services, 111 Edgartown Road, or Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1197, or Camp Jabberwocky, P.O. Box 1357, or Vineyard Playhouse, P.O. Box 2452, or Martha's Vineyard Figure Skating Club, P.O. Box 2062, all in Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, and all of which were a huge part of Virginia's life.
Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online guest book and information. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole, and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs.
J. Dennis Gwynn
J. Dennis Gwynn, 62, longtime of Vineyard Haven, died Saturday at his mother's home in Harwich Port, following a long illness.
Dennis was born in South Boston, the son of Jackie B. Gwynn and Marion (Benson) Barrett, and was raised and educated in Dorchester. He graduated from Medway High School and joined the United States Marine Corp and served his country in the Vietnam War. When he returned home from Vietnam he settled in Brighton, and worked in Quincy. He later moved to Attleboro. He settled in Vineyard Haven in the mid-1990s. He worked for the Vineyard Harbor Motel in management, and moved to Harwich Port recently due to his ill health.
He loved to shoot pool, listen to the Blues, fish with his brothers, and read in his free time.
Besides his mother and step-father, Edward F. Barrett Jr., he is survived by his four children, Justin, Mallory, Kristin, and Joshua; six grandchildren; also by his two brothers, Kevin of Vineyard Haven and Chris of Attleboro; also his four sisters, Jacquie Attubato of Medway, Michelle Vergona of New Jersey, Kimberly McDonald, of Harwich Port and Angela Post of Pennsylvania. He was predeceased by his father and his sister, " Tina" Gwynn, in December of 2006.
The funeral will be held on Thursday Oct. 11, at 9 am at the Coutinho-Boisse Funeral Home, 678 Main Street in Harwich followed by a procession to Holy Trinity Church for a Mass of the Christian Burial at 10 am. Burial services with military honors are at 12:30 pm at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne on Thursday.
Donations are suggested to the Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center c/o the Cape Cod Hospital Foundation, 27 Park Street, Hyannis MA. 02601. For directions and private guest book visit cbfuneralhome.com.
Leonard Jason, Sr.
Leonard Jason Sr., of Chilmark died on Oct. 6, at Martha's Vineyard Hospital. He was 92. His funeral was held at Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home on Oct. 10. Burial followed in the family lot in Abel's Hill Cemetery in Chilmark. Memorial donations may be made to Vineyard Nursing Association, P.O. Box 2568, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. A complete obituary will appear in a later edition of The Times.
Anna L. Hoglund
Anna L. Hoglund of Edgartown died on Oct. 8, at Martha's Vineyard Hospital. She was 97. A service will be planned at a later date and time to be announced. Arrangements are under the care of Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home. A complete obituary will appear in a later edition of The Times.