Mary Fuller remembered


To the Editor:

It’s been two years since Mary Fuller’s passing. She was my beloved mom, but there are still around some friends and folks who remember her as the beloved director of the Vineyard Haven Public Library, from 1980-1990. She had stated long before that there was to be no obituary. In grief and confusion two summers ago, I complied. As time has moved along, however, I have felt led to reach out to the Vineyard community, in response to many who have subsequently wanted more than our private West Chop service afforded.

I’ve thought so much about this so many times, and how inadequate almost any attempt could be. Having the privilege of living and working on the Island from 1990 to 1999, there are so many memories — the suppers she made, the wonderful conversation that always flowed about matters great and small, locales near and far. I remember our times with her beloved cat, Tisbury, so lovingly treated by the wonderful vet, Dr. Michelle Gerhard Jasny.

To see her at her desk long before the library’s current incarnation, so willing to help her public, do research, assist in public issues, and to recall her good friends that were so helpful when she arrived full-time 30 years ago — Peg Cunningham and Barb MacInnes. I am sadly forgetting others she would want mentioned. Certainly foremost, even to the end, were the faithful Pam Shultz, especially. Also, Madelyn Blakely Heath, Clara Rabbitt, and Joan Didato.

When someone is irreplaceable, well, so many know in their own lives and families. She loved Felix Neck walks. It’s been about 18 years since we last did that together, but on June 10, 2008, my wife and I retraced her favorite path. She had grown up at Hillside, the Watson place in Plymouth. Her wonderful dad, who I knew until I was ten, introduced her so caringly to nature. What better place than the Vineyard to fulfill this love.

She finally found true and devoted love here, though he passed away after a few years. In the 1980s, I saw the birds sing for her so many times, just as they did the May morning two years ago outside the window as her spirit departed. And time has stood still and been so hollow for me since. But there surely is a heaven above, and she’s there if anybody is.

There were the four libraries she graced, starting when I was about seven. Long before the Americans with Disabilities act of 1990, she was concerned about the challenged. She fought to put a safety railing that helped many in Southwick, Conn. She became the mom many of my classmates missed when she worked at my grade school library. She helped them with their research, and when she left, it became a model school library. She honed her skills and truly became a leader in Westfield.

Mary rose to the challenge on-Island and loved every minute, even the hands-on repair and board meetings of the Vineyard Haven Library, the Shakespeare garden, the mural that still graces the portico, and now the lovely glass horse that hangs in the window near where the office was, presented by the skillful Dunkle family, Island artists extraordinary. Thanks, director Amy, and thanks to Julie Hitchings, for arranging for her collection of archaeology books and replicas to go to the West Tisbury School, where I so enjoyed teaching units with Julie. Mary fought for higher wages for her staff also.

She could field-strip a pistol blindfolded, fly a plane, and she saved her husband’s life when their car veered off the road after he fell asleep. Although John Hersey, Bill Styron, Carly Simon, Walter Cronkite and others of our perennial luminaries were close acquaintances or good friends, it was the year-round patrons that mattered most to her, and she loved to serve.

Whenever I feed the birds and pat a pussycat, I smile, seeing her there. She loved me unconditionally and set a personal and professional example, without pressure, that I can only live up to, in God’s grace and strength, and hope of seeing her again. “Bye and bye,” as my grandmom always said.

Some thought her a tad slow and reclusive, but they will never know the loss and pain she had suffered by age 30. Much never got really easier — a leg and ankle broken never healed right; pain for 40 years; losing her folks early, her best friend, her husband; and her family far away. She was lonely, but really just more alone during eight years enjoying Havenside’s view.

If you remember, will you celebrate a life well lived, with me.

Keith S. W. Fuller

Middletown, Conn., and Florida