Obituary : Lucy (Bideau) Hart Abbot
Lucy (Bideau) Hart Abbot had a tremendous capacity for giving. Her back door, covered with the decals of many organizations to which she contributed, gives a good indication of what kind of person she was: ACLU, NAACP, AMVETS, Paralyzed Vets, Wilderness Society, Madre, Physicians Without Borders, PAWS, Rosie's Place and the Southern Poverty Law Center. She gave five or ten dollars a month to all these when she was working as a cleaning lady for eight dollars an hour.
She housed Displaced Persons after World War II; she started SPAN, a day camp for city kids in Connecticut; she volunteered her energy and spirit to many Island organizations including Community Services, the public schools and Meals on Wheels. She gave a room to women at risk; she babysat and read to children whose mothers needed a break. With a generous spirit and a proclivity to see the best in people, she lent money to countless people who just needed a little help.
She was the head teacher at the Pre-Start School for children with handicaps where she showed her love for each and every child. During the turbulent sixties, she was a quiet revolutionary, befriending those who were in distress, including some members of the Black Panthers from New Haven. Her house was always filled with people who came to enjoy the good company they found in her home; Judy Collins sang on the couch; Chandler Moore popped in through a window; one of the Harlem Globetrotters stood in the kitchen talking to Margie Packish. Bideau, as she was known, baked pies for the Mooncusser Cafe. She never turned anyone away who needed a place to stay, whether a hapless teen or a homeless puppy. She lived simply, sharing what she had. When she could, she started every day with breakfast and a book in bed.
Bideau was raised with a group of cousins who all shared a remarkable sense of humor. They sailed and rode, put out an amazing newspaper, and generally had a great time. The close relationship continued to the day she died. They lived in family enclaves in New Britain, Conn., and in Hart Haven in Oak Bluffs. Their parents' conservatism was tempered and undermined by the remarkable influence of the very liberal headmaster at the small private school that was founded by the family
Bideau spent her married life with her husband Frank in Connecticut but was always happiest on the Vineyard. She moved to the Island in 1969. She worked as a teacher, hostess, waitress, bartender and cleaning lady, all while going to school part-time.
When she was in her fifties, Bideau began traveling to England, taking summer courses at Oxford University and eventually buying a small house in Woodstock a short distance away.
Bideau always loved Oak Bluffs and was a loyal denizen of the PA Club. She loved music, literature and art, and every house she owned was filled with all three. She had boundless energy and liked to run at night between Hart Haven and the seawall. When her heart made that impossible, she still walked everywhere. She mowed with a hand mower and chopped wood into her eighties.
Her son Christopher remembers: "My mother essentially adopted my wife Diane as another daughter when we were just kids... She would attend concerts of the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood and Symphony Hall with us... When my young family moved to the Island for what we thought would be a spring and a summer, she allowed us to build an apartment onto that amazing barn house on Look's Pond in West Tisbury, home to teepees and sundry guests as well as siblings. My son Sixten grew up in this extended family."
Her grandson Sixten remembers: "She disdained fantasy, perhaps because she was so dedicated to truth: never one to attempt to disguise mistakes, her own or those of others. I would say that her entire nature was Zen. When she chopped wood, she chopped wood; when she cleaned, she cleaned, and nothing else. We should each of us hope to live so honestly."
Her grandson Jesse recalls: Our conversations often drifted, easily and heartily, toward two subjects: politics and religion... She was endlessly patient with me, offering a counterpoint of thoughtful openness to my youthful hardheadedness and religious certainty. I remember realizing at my last visit with her that her beliefs had migrated from a one-time skeptical agnosticism ...to perhaps the most vividly lived form of Christianity I have seen. Never caught up in any type of sectarian views, she was nonetheless a longtime and respected parishioner of a specific vital community: the Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association... The vast informal community of which she was a quiet leader will not let her life be forgotten."
Her grandson Seth recalls: "She was an extraordinary woman with a rare gift for passing on knowledge, variety, decency and old Yankee values of modesty, frugality, charity, honesty and caring for the downtrodden to others, particularly her loving family who, as these testimonies show better than anything else, benefited from the intellectual fruits of her labour."
Bideau was predeceased by her son, Kim. She is survived by her brother, Stan Hart; her four children, Lucy, Genevieve, Chris, and Martha; five grandchildren: Jesse, Sixten, Crispin, Ben, and Seth, and a great granddaughter: Tasya. If everyone who shared our house or who was the beneficiary of Bideau's bounty were to write in, the names would fill this paper. She will be greatly missed.