Posted December 27, 2007

Ruth B. Hughes

Ruth B. Hughes served actively for the Town of Oak Bluffs for many years and in many capacities. She was town treasurer for 18 years and in various other departments including the accountants, assessors and treasurers offices. She was a member of the Oak Bluffs Park Department for nine years.

She was born on Dec. 22, 1914, on a ship at sea traveling from Southern Pines, N.C., to Martha's Vineyard where her mother wanted her to be born. However, she was born on the ship and was first docked at Providence, R.I., and thus her birth is recorded there. She was the daughter of William and Tessie (Schremeller) Blankenship. She graduated from the Oak Bluffs High School in 1933 and was valedictorian of her class. She attended Sargent College in Boston.

She married Robert H. Hughes, her childhood sweetheart, on June 18, 1938. She retired as town treasurer in 1977 and enjoyed her home on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs. For nearly 40 years she and her husband spent the winter months in Lake Worth, Fla.

Mrs. Hughes was a correspondent for the New Bedford Standard Times for more than 25 years. She covered the Rice murder case, which was one of the few to occur on the Vineyard. She volunteered for more than 20 years posting the nightly board for the Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.

She was captain of the Oak Bluffs Girl Scout Troop for many years, which with other projects included the Drum and Bugle Corps that led the Memorial Day and other parades.

Mrs. Hughes served on the board of directors of the Martha's Vineyard Community Services and chaired the fund drive for many years. She was also chairperson of the Martha's Vineyard Arthritis Foundation committee in Oak Bluffs and served on many charitable fundraising drives for cancer, heart and the American Red Cross.

She is survived by her loving husband Bob of 70 years; her brother-in-law, John Hughes; her nephew, Buzzy Blankenship; great-nieces, Beth Blankenship-O'Connor and Meredith Gallo and many other nieces and nephews.

According to her written wishes, no funeral or memorial service will be held. Instead of donations it would be appreciated if you do at least three exceptional acts of kindness each year for three years in her memory.

Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. Visit for online guest book and information.

John E. Holmes Jr.
John E. Holmes Jr. Click photo for larger version.

John E. Holmes Jr.

John E. Holmes Jr. of West Wareham died on Nov. 21 at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston, with his family by his side. He was 60 years old. He is survived by his daughter, Martha Abigail Kent-Holmes; his stepdaughter Tanya Koch and her family; and his sister Josephine Kennard, of Enfield, Conn., and her family.

Born on Nantucket in 1947, John was the eldest child and only son of John Sr., and Leona Holmes, who were both educators. He spent most of his life on the Cape and Islands, living at times in Provincetown, Falmouth, Martha's Vineyard, and most recently in West Wareham.

"Big John" was a talented engineer, welder, and metal fabricator. During the 1990s, he had his own fabricating business located at Maciel Marine in Vineyard Haven, and until his departure from Martha's Vineyard in 1999 he was the mechanical maintenance engineer for the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs. His impressive creations include a tugboat (Sheila Ann of Vineyard Haven), a pump-out boat, multiple barges, a racecar, several hot rods, and a plethora of railings and sign hangers.

In addition to being an expert craftsman, John was a knowledgeable and patient teacher. He taught welding classes on the Vineyard in the late 70s and early 80s, and mentored many other beginning welders throughout his life. He was "the man with the answers" - a natural problem solver and a well of useful information. An experienced carpenter and mechanic, he could build, fix, or explain the workings of just about anything.

John was fascinated throughout his life with American transportation history, particularly the railroad, shipping and trucking industries. He was a commercial truck driver for some time, and an antique truck enthusiast. He owned a 1953 GMC 630, which he fully restored and occasionally took to antique truck shows around New England. He enjoyed driving immensely, and loved to travel, either alone or with his daughter or friends.

He was a dedicated and loving father, a humorous and entertaining storyteller, a loyal friend, and an unforgettable character. He was an important part of many people's lives, and he will be deeply missed.

A memorial service for John will be held on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 3 pm, at the Portuguese-American Club, Holy Ghost Society, Vineyard Avenue, Oak Bluffs. For more information, e-mail

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the John E. Holmes Memorial Scholarship Fund, Attn: Valerie O'Donnell, Edgartown National Bank, 24B Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs MA 02557.

Joseph D. Stewart
Joseph D. Stewart. Click photo for larger version.

Joseph D. Stewart

Joseph David Stewart of Oak Bluffs died Sunday, Dec. 23, surrounded by his wife and two daughters at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital after battling lung cancer. He was 63.

He was the husband of Donna-Lee (Denning) Stewart for 41 years. He was the son of Gordon and Cecilia (Vespa) Stewart. He was born in Hartford, Conn., on Dec. 18, 1944, and grew up in East Hartford and attended the East Hartford High School.

Joe originally worked painting the many buildings for the West Hartford school system and started his own business in 1979.

Joe attended the Isabel O'Neil Studio Workshop for the Art of the Painted Finish in New York City. The school is credited with bringing the time-honored techniques of the masters of the Painted Finish into the 20th century. Unique finishes ranged from faux marble and faux bois to casein and Trompe L'oeil. This education afforded him the opportunity to have his painted furniture work displayed in Sotheby's catalogues and sold at auctions in the 1990s.

He took great pride and pleasure in finding flea market furniture pieces and refurbishing and creating one-of-a- kind pieces.

His house painting company contracted with the Key West School system to paint the school buildings there, allowing Joe and Donna to relocate to Key West, Fla. for several years. This also gave him time to concentrate on gold-leaf, gilding and glazing techniques.

But Joe found life far from being just business; he restored a pontoon boat for family picnics aboard her while snorkeling and swimming in the waters off Looe Key in the lower keys of Florida.

During the summer months Joe and Donna traveled to Martha's Vineyard. Once on the Vineyard, it was obvious this is where they wanted to live the rest of their lives and eventually helped both daughters move here from Connecticut.

Joe was a wonderful, easy-going, lovable kind of a guy, who shared his incredible zest for life with his family to whom he was completely devoted and loved very much. His granddaughter was the highlight of his life. He will be missed dearly.

He is survived by his wife, Donna-Lee Stewart; his two daughters, Kelli-Ann Stewart and her partner Louis Smith, and Kathleen Stewart Brasefield and her husband, Marc; his granddaughter, Ashley Jordan Brasefield; and a step-granddaughter, Taylor Jane Brasefield; three sisters, Marie Thompson and her husband, Allen, Teresa Szeluga and her husband, Ray, and Ersilla Brazalovich. Also his mother-in-law, Lorraine A. Denning; his sisters-in-law, Kathleen Dyer and her husband, Ted Torrey, and Terri-Ann Breton; and his brothers-in-law, Dan Denning and his wife, Jo-Ann, and Ken Denning and his wife, Diana, as well as many nieces and nephews, all of whom were like his own family.

His memorial funeral mass will be held at 11 am on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008 in St. Isaac Jogues Church (where Joe and Donna were married Jan. 7, 1967), located at 1 Community Street, E. Hartford, Conn. Donations may be made to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, or to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, P.O. Box 1477, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. Visit for online guest book and information. 

Janet W. Gibbons
Janet W. Gibbons. Click photo for larger version.

Janet W. Gibbons

Janet (Elliott) Whitehill Gibbons of Oak Bluffs died Wednesday, Dec. 19, at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital after a brief illness. She was 91.

Janet was born in Watertown on April 6, 1916, the only child of James D. and Louise (Paine) Elliott. She grew up in Newton, graduated from Newton High School in 1934, and attended the Boston University home economics program.

The Depression sent Janet to work as a clerk at the Come and See Shop. There she met her future mother-in-law who suggested her son would be willing to teach Janet how to ski. While she learned to ski, it was never her favorite activity. It didn't stop her from marrying her ski instructor, Duncan K. Whitehill, in July 1942 while he was in dental school. The following year she followed him around the country as he prepared to go overseas, courtesy of the army. When he returned from the war they lived in several communities, Natick, Framingham, and Holliston while Dr. Duncan practiced dentistry in Wellesley Hills and finally Plymouth, N.H. She served as his receptionist for many years.

In 1956 they purchased a little old country house in Campton, N.H. appropriately named Camp Siberia after the Pogo cartoon strip where gangs of "Cheerful Charlies," friends and relatives, congregated for hiking and skiing.

In 1984 Janet and Duncan retired to Hendersonville, NC. Duncan died shortly after their move. While attending a Hospice support group, Janet met her second husband, Edward P. Gibbons, and they were married in 1988. Mr. Gibbons subsequently died in 1993.

Janet returned to New England after Sept. 11 to be closer to her family. She lived in Providence for several months and then relocated to Woodside Village on Martha's Vineyard in 2002.

Janet was creative and artistic. She enjoyed painting, called herself a "frustrated architect," and designed doll houses including electrical wiring, shingling, making the furniture based on antique construction, and designing the interiors. She taught herself how to sew and made many of her own clothes on a sewing machine that only went forward. She was also an accomplished organist, taking lessons as an adult, faithfully playing for services at the Assembly of God in Plymouth, N.H.

While on the Vineyard, Janet became a member of the Vineyard Assembly of God, attended a weekly prayer meeting, and spent two days a week at the Anchors Supportive Day Program.

She is survived by her two daughters, Julie Whitehill and her husband, Tony Scheller, of Oak Bluffs, and Laurie Whitehill Chong and her husband, Stanford Chong, of Pawtucket, R.I.; four grandchildren, Leah Lyons and her husband Tom Lyons of Bangor, Maine, Seth Coleman of Boston, Benjamin Steinsieck of South Portland, Maine, and Bethany McGreevy and her husband Gregg of Oakland, Calif.; and four great-grandsons, Timothy Wildanger, Anthony Moore, "Trey" Lyons III, and Finn McGreevy.

Her memorial service was held on Monday, Dec. 24, at the Vineyard Assembly of God on State Road in Vineyard Haven. Donations may be made in her memory to the Anchors Supportive Day Program c/o Island Council on Aging, P.O. Box 1729 Vineyard Haven, MA 02568. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. Visit for online guest book and information.

Douglas S. Woodward

Douglas Scott Woodward, 36, of Palm Desert, Calif. died on Dec. 22 at his home. He was the son of Robert and Phyllis (Sargelis) Woodward of Reidsville, N.C. and Edgartown. His funeral Mass will be held on Thursday, Jan 3, 2007, in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 11 am. Burial will follow in the New Westside Cemetery in Edgartown. Visiting hours in the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home will be Wednesday at times to be announced. Please call or visit for online guest book and information.