Obituary : Isabel W. West
Isabel White West, by any accounting a major Vineyard figure, died at the Long Hill Assisted Living Facility in Edgartown on June 9. She had celebrated her 97th birthday on May 16. She was the daughter of Ruth Eldridge White and Wilfrid O. White, both well-known and admired Islanders, and wife of Francis "Pat" West, all of Vineyard Haven. Her maternal grandfather was the chartmaker George W. Eldridge, who developed the "Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book," now it its 135th year of publication.
Mrs. West was born in Braintree and raised in Waban, with summers spent at the family's compound on Lake Tashmoo. She was a graduate of Newton High School and Cornell University, and attended the Simmons School of Social Work. For two years she was a social worker with Family Welfare in Cambridge. Later, she received a teaching certificate from Hofstra University and taught fifth grade on Long Island., N.Y., followed by several years of substitute teaching.
She and Mr. West retired in 1971 and moved from Long Island to Vineyard Haven, converting a barn on family property into their year-round home.
Mrs. West had many interests and she brought enormous energy, vision, conviction and dedication to many good causes on the Island. She was a co-founder, with the Unitarian Universalist Church, of Friends of Family Planning of M.V., an organization designed to increase community awareness of the services offered by Family Planning. She was a 50-year member of the League of Women Voters, founder of Tisbury's Neighborhood Review Study Committee to bring understanding of the importance of town zoning and development, worked with Friends of Tisbury and, with Dale McClure, revived the annual Tisbury Town Picnic at the waterworks on Lake Tashmoo - a 100-year town tradition.
For 10 years Mrs. West wrote the Tisbury column in the Vineyard Gazette, and over many years she contributed feature articles on family and Vineyard history. In 2004 the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society published her book, "Riv & Ruth, A Vineyard Saga of Love and Vocation," based on the lives of her parents on the Vineyard. She also painted watercolors for most of her life, in recent years exhibiting in the annual Family Planning Art Show.
For 50 years Mrs. West sailed Vineyard waters, and from New York to Maine, with Captain West on the family's sloop, Venture. Together they figured prominently in the founding of the Holmes Hole Sailing Association. The Pat West Gaff Riggers Race is an annual fall event in Vineyard Haven Harbor and Vineyard Sound.
Surviving Mrs. West is a son, Nathaniel "Dan" West of Friendship, Maine; a daughter, Christine Goessweiner of Vienna, Austria; five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. She will be remembered in a private memorial service at a later date. Contributions in her name may be made to Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard.