Obituary : Penelope H. Dickens
On the evening of March 8 Penelope H. Dickens was driving from Boston attempting to make the last boat when her car went off the road; she died instantly in a single car crash.
Born August 9, 1952 in Springfield Ohio, Penelope is the daughter of Anthony and Janet Dickens. She graduated from Concord, N.H., High School in 1970, studied in France and Greece, and received her BA from Trinity College in Burlington, Vt., in 1984. After high school Penelope trained as a Surgical Technician and worked in New York and Vermont between 1984 and 1990. Before moving to Martha's Vineyard, she worked as an account executive with the Cape Cod Newspapers. Most recently, she created her own line of jewelry and had secured her certification to teach English as a second language.
To know Penelope Dickens is to remember Penelope Dickens. Her majestic influence touched many Island people and organizations since her arrival on Martha's Vineyard 20 years ago aboard the sailing vessel Zora. She was loved by many for her warmth, her genuine friendliness and care for people, and her interest in getting to know people. She took the time to make many, many friends. She will be remembered with fondness and love.
An advocate for housing, healthcare, children, and the disadvantaged, Penelope worked to provide relief and opportunities whenever it would benefit those in need. She was the Director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority for three of its most formative years, and was instrumental in convincing local Island banks to work collaboratively to create a down payment fund for new home ownership. Penelope assisted State Housing officials during construction of two special needs homes on the Vineyard, in addition to writing and administering grants totaling more than $2,000,000 for many nonprofits Island-wide.
The Island community recognizes Penelope as a distinguished contributor to many social events. Whether it was her flair for fashion, the perfection of a covered dish, the playfulness of her voice, or the magnetism of her glance, Islanders welcomed Penelope's presence. Wherever local musicians played, the appearance of Penelope Dickens on the dance floor was a cause for celebration.
Volunteer activities have been numerous, including Martha's Vineyard Women's Health Network which raised over $100,000,00 for uninsured and underinsured women to have necessary medical screenings; Big Brother Big Sister of Martha's Vineyard where Penelope was instrumental in preparation of the annual Valentine's Dinner fundraiser; the Island Affordable Housing Fund's Islanders Helping Islanders Campaign Committee, 2001-06; the Boston Pops Fundraiser for the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs; Katrina Fundraiser in 2005, where she organized and ran a fundraiser at Lola's Restaurant that raised $18,000 for homeless and battered women in Louisiana; and the 2006 Gumbo Festival to raise money for the homeless musicians and restaurateurs of New Orleans.
The last three and a half years have been a lesson in strength, faith, soul-searching, and community for Penelope Dickens as she battled breast cancer and the BRCA II gene mutation. Miraculously, Penelope was on the road to cancer recovery and had been developing classes to teach English as a second language when her life ended tragically.
The Vineyard community, which Penelope so loved and contributed to through her involvement and dedication, has been an Island of Angels for her.
She's survived by her mother, Janet Dickens of Ft. Myers Fla., her sister Amy Dickens of Pittsfield, N.H., and brother and sister-in-law Erik and Nancee Dickens of Estero, Florida.
Let us gather at The West Tisbury Congregational Church on Saturday, March 27 at 1:00pm to honor the life of Penelope H Dickens. A celebration of Penelope's life will follow at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury. Please bring a covered dish to share. For more information, contact Chris Wright at 508-560-1592, or visit the "Events Tab" on Facebook at Penelope Dickens Celebration of Life.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Penelope's memory to Vineyard Healthcare Access; PO Box 1298, West Tisbury, MA 02575; 508-696-0020.