Leslie J.R. Elish


Leslie Jane Rubin Elish, a long-time resident of Vineyard Haven, died Sunday, June 19, 2011 after a protracted illness. She was 76.

The only child of Abe and Anna Rubin, Leslie spent her childhood in the Lancaster, Penn., area before attending Syracuse University, where she earned Phi Beta Kappa. In an early indication of her intrepid nature, Leslie was admitted to a special program at the Harvard Business School before it formally allowed women to matriculate. There, she pursued studies in management and met her husband of 15 years, Herbert Elish.

Leslie spent the 1960s living outside of Washington, D.C., raising her two sons, Harry and Dan. Her enthusiasm for life and her extraordinary curiosity led to some of the most creative birthday parties and Halloween costumes ever seen in those parts. An extremely talented visual artist, Leslie was a superb painter, sculpture, and embroiderer. She had a unique and highly regarded eye for interior design. In Washington, Leslie volunteered in the early development of Head Start. As a result of a one-year residency in Princeton, N.J., Leslie became friends with Vineyard resident Lucy Hackney, her closest friend for many years.

Upon moving to New York in the 1970s, Leslie’s horizons expanded substantially. She worked in a series of positions at nonprofits and companies, including executive positions at the Fund for the City of New York and Cinema Five. She also began her fascination with foreign cultures, traveling well off the beaten track in Central America, Europe, and Asia. To Leslie, the more obscure the location and the less likely that tourists visited, the more desirable it was!

With her children grown, Leslie moved to the Vineyard full time in 1990. Here, she found a community of great friends. She loved her reading groups, gardening, being a member of the Hebrew Center, and participating generally in the life of the Island. She also threw herself into being a great long-distance grandmother to Andrew, James, Cassandra, and John. Finally, she ventured further afield, going to Bhutan and other obscure corners of the globe.

Leslie’s fight against her illness was truly a cooperative effort. Without the support of her many friends on the Vineyard, it would have been a lonely and less successful venture. Her ability to remain at home, in view of her gardens, was a great source of strength. Harry and Dan, their wives and children, want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the friends, care givers, and doctors who were so good to Leslie over the past decade. We hope that you can join us at a service in her honor at the M.V. Hebrew Center on Wednesday, June 22, at 11 am. Burial will follow in the M.V. Hebrew Cemetery, W. Spring St., Vineyard Haven. If you are inclined to make a charitable contribution in Leslie’s name, please support Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.

Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. Please visit www.ccgfuneralhome.com for online guestbook and information.