Letters to the Editor
Ever changing - Seafarer's Friend shifts style and focus
To the Editor:
Contrary to the discussion since the decision many years ago to close the Seaman's Bethel that served seafarers for over one hundred years, Seafarer's Friend (formerly Boston Seaman's Friend Society) is not leaving the Island. Our goal for nearly 180 years has been to serve the needs of seafarers sailing on commercial vessels visiting the ports we serve. As the maritime industry has changed, so has our style and focus of ministry.
At one time, Vineyard Haven was a port visited by hundreds of seafarers each day. I am told the Gay Head lighthouse keeper in the 1850s logged more than 20,000 commercial vessels passing in one year, the majority stopping for safe harbor or provisions. The Bethel was a hub of activity. During the same period Boston harbor was equally active, and our inn for seafarers was full nearly every night. As the commercial maritime world changed, ships became larger, crews smaller, and the Cape Cod Canal made the presence of seafarers visiting both the Bethel and the inn in Boston nonexistent.
On the Island the nature of maritime life changed drastically, leaving fishing, charter and pleasure boats the primary users of the harbors. I will not continue the rest of the history; it is well documented, but the fact remains that, as important as maritime life is to this Island, it barely resembles the era when Harriet N. Goldberg left a third of her estate to keep the ministry to seafarers alive and active.
The number of seafarers who engage in a career that is extremely dangerous and immensely lonely as they travel away from family and friends for up to a year is extremely small. Those that enter this career are able to see the world, but spend little time on this Island. They are more likely to see Hong Kong, or visit Boston, than Vineyard Haven. As the maritime industry has changed, Seafarer's Friend has sought to keep alive a rich tradition of meeting the needs of seafarers and supporting them in spiritual, social, emotional, and physical ways. Despite eliminating staff at the Bethel many years ago, ultimately moving the chapel to the Island's hospital and seeing the other building become an American Legion hall, we will always have a presence in the history and life of this Island. After all, how can you leave a community in which your history is deeply embedded in the culture and fabric of life?
The decision over the past few months and agreements reached with the Permanent Endowment Fund, Martha's Vineyard Museum, and Land Bank Commission are means by which we will continue to be part of the Island in a way that will keep the maritime tradition alive, seek to encourage young people to consider a career in the merchant marine, and honor those who serve on the sea, as well as Harriet Goldberg and her passion for caring for others.
Our hope is these agreements are the foundation for ongoing partnerships rather than the old, heated discussions over money. Our intent is to build bridges of hope, rather than walk away in animosity. We want this to be a new era of collaboration for the benefit of seafarers, in the tradition of the Bethel and with methods and programs that meet the needs of commercial seafarers for years to come.
How will Seafarer's Friend remain part of the culture of the Island? The major partnership will be through the legacy of Harriet Goldberg. With the approval of the court, we have placed three-fourths of her estate with the Permanent Endowment Fund for the purpose of encouraging young people to enter the maritime world, primarily through attending a merchant marine academy. In addition we will continue to offer assistance to those pursuing Coast Guard certification for commercial maritime careers. The use of these funds as described in the agreement are focused in their purpose yet broad enough to allow for adapting to an ever-changing world.
Most will see this presence each year as we together offer the Harriet N. Goldberg-Seafarer's Friend Scholarships. Seafarer's Friend will remain part of the fabric of life here as we donated the entire collection of maritime artifacts that were part of the Bethel to the Martha's Vineyard Museum for care, preservation, and display. Through their creative programming, students will be opened to a world beyond this Island through careers in maritime life. They will hear about a maritime world that is international in scope and which opens a window to the world through multi-national crews serving together. Currently 90 percent of the seafarers served by Seafarer's Friend in New England ports are from cultures other than the U.S. We anticipate some from this Island will consider this a life for them.
Finally, we will have a continuing presence on the Island through the transfer of the Sailor's Burying Ground and small adjoining property. This will remain as a perpetual reminder of the maritime life that has historically been part of the life of this Island.
One final thought on the collaboration in support of seafarers that is unfolding. Through Harriet Goldberg, we will always be linked as one quarter of her estate will become a permanent part of our ongoing ministry to seafarers who visit New England ports. Her gift will enable us to visit and care for the 20 percent of seafarers who are detained on their ship for security reasons, but still have a deep need to call family they have not seen for months. Her support will allow others the chance to touch land, be transported to buy personal supplies, and yes, gifts for those at home. Her generosity will allow us to maintain a quality of compassion and care as we seek to offer hospitality and be in a sense ambassador to strangers who come to our shores.
Harriet was an Island resident, and through her you will be a part of the service we offer. More than that, we will continue to seek at least one member of our board of directors to be from the Island, to ensure that this ministry to seafarers continues to be a collaborative effort. You see, we can never leave the Island. We are too much a part of the history here. It is merely the focus of our presence and the nature of our collaboration that continues to adapt to an ever-changing world. It is my hope it can continue for decades to come, well after our 180th anniversary next year.
Rev. J. Loring Carpenter
To the Editor:
I am the mother of five children ranging in ages from four to 16. Over the years, I have observed my children participating in many school winter holiday concerts.
I thoroughly appreciate all the efforts of teachers and volunteers who make these concerts so special and am impressed with the talents of the children involved. However, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the content of the songs chosen to celebrate this season.
I thoroughly embrace my children learning all types of holiday celebrations, whether it be Hanukah, Kwanza, Native American or Christmas. My patience was tested, however, after watching my daughter perform at the West Tisbury School. Sadly, I thought to myself, where were the beautiful melodies and vocals of "Silent Night," or "We Three Kings," or "Away In A Manger?" Some of these songs are very beautiful and moving. Whilst they obviously celebrate Christianity, does not "Oh Hanukah" celebrate Judaism?
How is it that we have become so politically correct that we can have the majority of our Islands' population be Christian, yet our children can only sing songs that recognize other faiths?
Can we not sing a selection of songs from several denominations and embrace each during this season?
To the Editor:
Mom, we're going to miss you.
The family of Audria B. Tankard would like to thank our wonderful Island community for its support during the recent loss of our mother. So many of you took time out of your busy schedules to share in our grief. The outpouring of your sympathy, your gracious concern, and heartfelt words provided us with he necessary strength to endure our loss. As all of you who knew her are aware, our mother loved to share her wisdom and concern, especially with the young, whom she always had time to listen to.
One of her favorite things was sitting on her porch watching the comings and goings on her road, along with taking note of the many budding romances and their demise, which began across the street in the Campgrounds. She was sort of the unofficial greeter of Dukes County Avenue, with a wave for drivers and a kind word of encouragement for those walking by her house. Many of you expressed how much you will miss this. The sharing of this information with us in our time of grief is probably the most gratifying gift a family could receive.
You see, we always knew that she was special to us, but when you hear it from others, somehow it is more gratifying. We know that she lived well and that she is finally with God, where she will have no more pain or suffering. She will be missed dearly, but because of all of you who are giving us the love and support that we need it will be more bearable. Blessings to you all.
The Tankard Family
Please return Sheila's bike
To the Editor:
Our daughter had her bicycle taken from a spot at the beginning of Codman Spring Road where the neighborhood kids "park" them before they jump on the bus to school. It is a new purple Schwinn that Santa brought last year for Christmas. If anyone has information about the bike or could simply return it to its place we would be grateful and Sheila would be delighted. Thank you.
Connie and Leo McHugh
Hospital better for MVC process
To the Editor:
The following letter was sent to J. B. Riggs Parker, chairman of the Chilmark selectmen.
We don't understand what "current delays" you were referring to in your recent letter about the Martha's Vineyard Commission's review of the hospital expansion. There were no such delays.
Many months ago, the MVC and hospital worked out a detailed scheduled for the review of the application. This ensured full opportunity for public input and met the hospital's objective of completing the review before the year's end. Both parties worked hard and succeeded in respecting that timetable. We even found a way, within the original timetable, to allow the hospital to add consideration of a proposed parking lot across the street, though ultimately, the hospital decided to put this off until next year.
The review of the hospital is a good example of how MVC review can improve a project. It is only to be expected that project proponents focus mainly on their primary mission, be it building a profitable store, an efficient health-care facility, or affordable housing. MVC review ensures that other environmental and community considerations are fully considered as well.
The hospital was very open to a productive give and take, which resulted in many improvements to the original project. The changes better protect the water quality in coastal ponds, improve protection of open space and scenic values, improve road layout and parking, improve the building design, reduce risks to the hospital from the impact of storms, and mitigate impacts on abutters. Many of these improvements cost less than the original proposals, such as eliminating a second entry road bridging over wetlands and reducing the excessive width of other roads.
The result of the MVC review, and the hospital administration's cooperation and flexibility, is a better hospital project that should serve the Vineyard community well for generations to come. A thorough, public review of development proposals benefits the projects, the towns, and the Island as a whole; this review works best when applicants are open and collaborative.
and Doug Sederholm
Martha's Vineyard Commission
To the Editor:
Last week on a brilliantly sunny and crisp Sunday morning, my husband and I watched a magnificent flock of large, adolescent turkeys slowly make their way across our yard, searching for food.
We remarked that their coloring of whites, deep browns, and shiny bronzes was unusual and beautiful.
This large and healthy group began to make their way towards the curb. We said to each other that it was fortunate how well they negotiated our often busy road.
At that very moment, a red sedan barreled down Lake Street and plowed into the entire flock of 16, immediately killing one, which was flung to the side of the road. Undoubtedly, others were maimed. Flapping, scrambling, and calling, the remaining flock quickly headed for the safety of the woods.
Horrified by this purposeful recklessness, we ran out to get a license plate number, but the red American car had sped away. A call to the police proved futile because we had no identifying information.
There is no doubt in our minds that the driver knew that he/she was smashing into a flock of turkeys trying to cross the road. To the driver, we say that your complete lack of respect for wildlife enabled you to commit a senseless and cruel act, then speed off unconcerned about the damage. We pity your callousness and sense of morality.
Every resident of the Vineyard knows that turkeys coincide with our Island life and yes, they do cross roads sometimes unpredictably. It is our job therefore to be ever mindful of not only their presence on our byways, but other wildlife as well.
We carried that perfectly formed bird into the woods behind our house; and after laying it down, we apologized for your indecent and cowardly act.
Vineyard Haven and Sudbury
Heath hen history
To the Editor:
Thanksgiving is over now. Did anyone realize that the heath hens more than the wild turkeys kept the Pilgrims alive during the bitter winter of 1620-1621 in Plymouth?
The last heath hen "in the world" was declared extinct on Martha's Vineyard in the spring of 1933. This was at Jimmy Green's field in West Tisbury. The area is now owned by John Reed.
Each spring the male heath hens would perform their mating dance. The dance consisted of running, bowing and jumping into the air. The males would stamp their feet so hard that the ground would shake. Also they would inflate the big orange air sacks on the sides of their neck and give out a loud booming sound that could be heard over a mile away. The sound was similar to that of a distant foghorn. Some say that the Indians copied these activities in performing their pow-wow dances.
The Manuel F. Correllus State Forest really owes its existence to the heath hen. Its 5,000 acres were established as a sanctuary in an attempt to save the heath hen. We were lucky that the state made this forest a preserve because later we found out that this area was the main aquifer for Martha's Vineyard. Also it sure prevented another development on our Island.
The heath hen looked similar to the Western prairie chicken and the adult weighed about two pounds.
On May 22, 2004 a boulder and remembrance plaque were dedicated to the last heath hen in the world. This remembrance is about one and a half miles from the airport entrance and on the right going towards West Tisbury. A fire lane starts there and also the bike path turns right there and goes around Jimmy Green's field where the last heath hen was seen.
The last heath hen was named "Booming Ben" and he called in vain each spring for his girlfriend. Some people have placed toy or wooden birds at the base of the boulder to memorialize the last heath hen. There is ample parking off the highway at the site. You should stop by again and enjoy this piece of world history.
Robert H. Hughes
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to Richard S. Binder's Dec. 7 Letter to the Editor. Included in Mr. Binder's invective is the following: "It is amazing, the restraint that has been shown to these people at Gitmo; many of them are ignorant of anything except their precious Koran."
Western culture has a long and sordid history of Islamophobia that dates back to the Crusades. Mr. Binder's recent musing, reflected in the quote above, demonstrates this observation quite well.
The Koran is the holy word of God for Muslims, in the same way that the Bible is the holy word of God for Christians. When you refer to Muslims as ignorant and proceed to ridicule their scripture, you send a message that bigotry is alive and well in our hearts. Unfortunately, you also send a gift to extremists who can use your words as evidence that the Western world is engaged in a new crusade against the Islamic world.
Lots of helpers,
lots to thank
To the Editor:
The preparation for the Oak Bluffs Tree Lighting was about 10 times longer than the event itself. However, what it lacked in duration, it made up for in spirit, enthusiasm and a little touch of magic.
To start with, the Vineyard Classic Brass ensemble created a holiday spirit for children of all ages. With an extensive repertoire and the ability to play from the heart, the players wore able to transform the Oak Bluffs Post Office Square into a holiday wonderland.
The magnificent tree, donated by Paul Mahoney Jr. of Jardin Mahoney's Garden Center, and the lights, lights and more lights hung by the highway department crew throughout our town, were just dazzling.
The Game Room was converted by Eric White and his wonderful helper Robin into a warm and welcoming place for Santa and his helpers. Celebrants were treated to plenty of hot chocolate, cookies from the PTO parents, and an abundance of festive toe-tapping tunes by Oak Bluffs School music teacher Brian Weiland and his talented musicians.
The anticipation of the yearly arrival of Santa Claus built to a crescendo as the band played "Here Comes Santa" causing a few moments of wild cheering as the jolly guy arrived at the Game Room door atop a flashing fire truck. There were hugs and ho ho ho's for all and then, just as quickly as he came, he and his helpers loaded the Food Pantry gifts onto the fire truck and away they flew!
Thanks to all those who helped to make this night so special, including members of the Highway Department, the Fire Department, the PTO, Paul Mahoney, the Friends of Oak Bluffs, Eric White and Robin at the Game Room, the Oak Bluffs Association, Frank DunkI and the Classic Brass Ensemble, tree lighter Selectman Duncan Ross, Brian Wieland, his band and last, but certainly not least, the wonderful teacher Alex Palmer who arrived with boxes filled with reindeer antler headbands for all the children.
Oak Bluffs Association
More details needed
To the Editor:
Certifying the high school budget, an annual exercise, is certainly newsworthy, but in the 20 or so column-inches devoted to reporting that event in last week's issue, I searched in vain for any mention of how much spending that budget calls for, how it compares to last year's budget, or any relevant discussion of the allocation of costs among the six Island towns.
Is all that information a secret? I suspect rather strongly that the voters
would find it of value.
Civics are alive and well
To the Editor:
Last Wednesday, my wife Anne and I attended the Martha's Vineyard Civics Conference, held at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. After listening to Richard Dreyfuss and his associates, you could draw the conclusion that civic instruction in schools had practically vanished.
Let me assure the citizens of Martha's Vineyard that this is not the case on Martha's Vineyard. A case in point - as we settled into our seats at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, Ena Thulin, a young social studies teacher, leaned over and enthusiastically said, "Mev, we are doing the Magna Carta tomorrow." I said, at "12:15"? She replied, "No, that her class was going to lunch at that time, but the year 1215 would be discussed in her class after lunch".
As we recall, it was on June 15, 1215 that the barons of England forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, the great charter. The Magna Carta was not a democratic document, but it did dilute the power of the king and is often referred to as the cornerstone of English and American civil liberties.
As a substitute teacher at the high school for several years, I have had a firsthand opportunity to not only to observe how the study of civics is woven into the fabric of global studies and history courses, but also participate in class discussions. In addition, all seniors are required to take a course in "U.S. Government and Politics." Several years ago, to further inform students about their local government, several seminars under the leadership of Corinne Kurtz were held with local officials discussing the role of selectmen and finance committees, to name a few areas of government that were discussed.
The Vineyard can be very proud of the high school history and social studies department, ably headed by Elaine Weintraub. The other members of the department are Eric Alexander, Quinton Bannister, Joel Graves, Olsen Houghton, Laurie Halt, Corinne Kurtz, Ena Thulin, and John Tirrel.
The next day, after the Katharine Cornell meeting, I had an opportunity, at the high school, to show Mr. Dreyfuss how quickly this high school department reacts to events, by presenting him with a copy of the just released Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group Report, courtesy of Laurie Halt. Our students were already reviewing the report and preparing their comments.
There has been some mention that Island teachers begin training over the summer with the National Constitution Center and Museum in Philadelphia. This could probably be a wonderful experience for our teachers to keep current and share their deep knowledge and experience with other teachers.
The study of civics is alive and well on Martha's Vineyard.
To the Editor:
The second annual "5K for KJ" cross-country run was once again a tremendous success. Held over the Thanksgiving weekend, 210 entrants from more than 15 states turned out to run and walk the 3.1-mile course through our state forest. Smiles, best wishes, fond memories, and many laughs were shared on that morning, and once again it is thanks to our community members who made such an event possible. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year, and don't forget to bring a friend!
The run benefits a memorial scholarship fund dedicated in the name of former MVRHS runner Kevin Johnson, and was sponsored by the MVRHS Boys and Girls Cross Country Booster Club. However, we could not have done it alone. Word was spread via every imaginable format. Our publicists included the Martha's Vineyard Times, the Gazette, Plum TV, Coach T on Tank Talk, and interviewer Heather Curtis of WMVY Radio. Our thanks go out to the MVRHS for access to the facilities, Peter Hall of Basement Designs and Claire Lindsey for the much sought-after T-shirt design and printing. Also to Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank, The Toy Box, John Clarke of Island Water Systems, and Basement Designs for contributing to the printing of the T-shirts. To Cronig's, Pepsi, and Cumberland Farms for supplying our water and fruit stations. To Marylee Schroeder for deciphering handwriting while registering entrants, and to Chilmark Chocolates for the delicious chocolate turkey pops at the finish - what every runner desires. Thank you all for your support, both before and after the event.
MVRHS Boys & Girls Cross Country Booster Club.
Peace is the way
To the Editor:
The Iraq Study Group's recommendation for broad regional diplomacy, including with Iran and Syria, shows realism and courage. The group's Democratic and Republican members are also demonstrating an effort to find peace in the Houses of Congress. Peace is the way, or our United States will continue to build its global reputation as a warlord with extended boundaries. Diplomacy will engage the regional sectarian groups instead of exacerbating old hatreds. James Baker, the Republican co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, got it right when he said, "You talk with your enemies."
Now, with the shift in political dominance away from the Republicans, it is time for us, the American people, to find the courage to speak our truth to the powers in Washington, encouraging them to stand up for the higher principles of American democracy. Which values does America represent now to the global community? Is it the selfish, ruthless greed to reach global dominance that we have been demonstrating? Or is it a commitment to consider the needs and rights of the total global population, as we build a new world based on valuing and working for peace. Each of us has a voice. Here and now is the time to use it, after six years of living with the intentional intimidation of the American people.