Obituary : Luther Madison
Wampanoag medicine man Luther Madison dead at 84
Wampanoag medicine man, former selectman of Aquinnah when it was called Gay Head, school bus driver, and a celebrated pie maker, Luther Tacknash Madison died March 12 at Martha's Vineyard Hospital. He was 84.
Left without a voice by a childhood illness, Mr. Madison had a quiet presence. As an adult, he communicated his firm but gentle opinions in a powerful whisper and, doing so, touched many fellow Gay Headers, Wampanoag as well as non-Indian. Mr. Madison died of complications from cancer.
Mr. Madison never needed to raise his voice to command respect, his wife of 31 years, Anne Vanderhoop, said this week.
For 36 years, Mr. Madison was the revered medicine man for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, presiding over tribal ceremonies. It was a position he inherited from his father, Napoleon, who died in 1973.
During the fall and winter, for 35 years, Mr. Madison drove a school bus. He also served three terms as a selectman and held other posts in town government.
Ms. Vanderhoop recalled the generations of school children touched by her husband. "He drove the school bus for 35 years, and all those little ones grew up and married, and then he drove their little ones, lots of them, and they all remembered Luther - mostly because he didn't have a voice, and he could handle them without a voice. That was the amazing part of Luther."
Mr. Madison was also a landscape gardener and fisherman. But it was his skill as a pie maker that brought him a large following. For many years, he and his wife ran a small restaurant in the old Martha's Vineyard Airport terminal. It was friendly place, well known for the chowder and of course the pies.
Mr. Madison was also a mainstay at the Aquinnah Shop, perched on the Gay Head Cliffs, a family restaurant with a high and splendid outlook to the westward. His father established the restaurant in the 1940s. Mr. Madison took great joy in making pies for the restaurant, often up to 10 pies per day.
At a wake held Sunday, a woman approached Ms. Vanderhoop and told just how much she liked those pies. Ms. Vanderhoop recalled the conversation. "One woman said, I rode my bike all the way from Edgartown to Gay Head, just to get a piece of his pie. That was hilarious."
In addition to his wife, Mr. Madison leaves seven sons, Jeffrey Madison of Aquinnah, Stephen Vanderhoop of Boston, and Buddy, Eric, David, Matthew, and Brian Vanderhoop, all of Aquinnah; three daughters, Jeanne of Boston, Julie Vanderhoop of Aquinnah, and Kathleen of Boston; 17 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Mr. Madison's previous marriage ended in divorce.
Monday, Luther Madison was buried at the Aquinnah cemetery amid the songs and rituals of the native Wampanoag people he guided.
Donations may be made in the name of Luther Madison to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) Scholarship Fund, attn. Education Department, 20 Black Brook Rd., Aquinnah, MA 02535