West Tisbury: saying goodbye to Ernie Mendenhall


I just don’t know where to begin this week’s column. Nothing feels right, like the world is in total upheaval. Maybe it’s some weird effect of the full moon or the eclipse, although it was amazing to watch. Maybe it’s the feeling of shorter days, less light, impending winter. I don’t know, but I feel out of sorts, and everyone and everything around me seems that way, too. The house seems messier than usual, the dogs both need baths, I need to go grocery shopping, and one of our best friends has died. It all feels overwhelming.

The town did turn out in full for the memorial service for Ernie Mendenhall on Saturday. It was an extra-beautiful day, perfect early autumn weather. Ernie’s blue truck was parked right out front of the Ag Hall; vehicles of similar vintage and careful restoration arrayed in the circular drive. An honor guard of West Tisbury firemen and policemen stood respectfully at the hall’s entrance. Bill Logue, Kathy’s brother, welcomed everyone and introduced Ernie’s brother Lee, his oldest friend, George Wanner, son-in-law Erik Lowe, grandson Aaron Lowe, and son Brad Mendenhall, all of whom spoke with warmth and affection and humor. Erik and Cheryl Lowe, Megan Mendenhall, and Marie Betit, Ernie’s eldest granddaughter, sang and played guitar. Afterward, the potluck was astonishing. All in all, a tribute to Ernie and his family by members of this community he so well loved and served.

This week, another member of our community has died. George Hough was a thorough gentleman, dapper in the old-school way, with the beautiful manners and speech we all used to be brought up with. I remember getting to know him when he ran for a position on the library board, and I became quite fond of him and his wife, Mary Lu. He was devoted to conservation issues, served on the Sheriff’s Meadow Board for many years, and also as West Tisbury’s Land Bank representative. Mary Lu told me the family plans a memorial service at a later date. My condolences to Mary Lu and their family, and to their many friends.

Mary Lu also told me that her granddaughter had just called to announce that she and her husband are expecting twins. I look forward to writing about their arrival when the time comes.

Don’t forget the Living Local Harvest Festival and Antique Engine Show this Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Ag Hall. It’s always a great day.

I hope everyone got to see the plein air painting show in Vineyard Haven last week. It was quite wonderful. The artists had all gone to spots chosen all around the Island, and it was interesting to compare their different views of the same places. They had a lovely opening, where I met Kim McCarthy, who was here from Ojai, Calif., visiting her sister and brother-in-law, Valentine and Rick Estabrook. It was a fortuitous time for a visit, as Kim was a big help to Valentine and the other painters hanging the show and organizing the opening and related events.

The library’s Lego Club will meet this Saturday afternoon, Oct. 3, from 2:30 to 4:30. All ages are welcome.

Julie Prazich is the library’s artist of the month for October. She is a printmaker, making monoprints “inspired by her experiences with people facing life transition and the caregivers, professionals, and family and friends who support them.” She is a retired hospice physician. She will also be exhibiting fish made from wood or fused glass. Later in the month, she will teach a fish-painting class, and there will be an artist’s reception so we can all meet her and hear about her work.

I hope people read this early enough to attend Cape Light Compact’s information session today, Oct. 1, 5:30 to 7, in the Martha’s Vineyard Commission office at the Stone Building in Oak Bluffs. They will present their Energy Efficiency Program for the next three years. The EEPs are what homeowners, small businesses, and town governments use when they get audits and recommendations about tightening up their buildings. If you can’t make it, information is online at capelightcompact.org/eeplan. The contact person is Maggie Downey, at 800-797-6699 or mdowney@barnstablecounty.org.

Anyone wondering why Scotchman’s Lane was closed off part of Sunday or why they saw plumes of what appeared to be smoke along Old County Road, rest assured that it was nothing bad. Island firefighters were participating in a course, Pumps and Hydraulics, at Station 2 in West Tisbury. Their field practice was what you saw. Instructors from Massachusetts Firefighting Academy were on the Island to teach the weekend course. West Tisbury firemen who took the class were Kenny Mastramonaco, Russ Hartenstine, Eric Medeiros, Brynn Schaffner, Greg Pachico, and my husband, Mike Hull. Mike came home both days with tales of new methods and equipment, but one highlight (Mike said there were many) of the weekend was pumping 2,100 gallons per minute from Factory Brook. Kent Healy was on hand monitoring the water level, which at times looked as if it might run dry.

I suppose many of us spent at least part of the weekend watching and reading about Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. What a remarkable man. I had to laugh, though, at the image of myself on Friday evening as I watched him chanting the beautiful Catholic Mass in Latin at Madison Square Garden, my Sabbath candles lit and glowing on the table by my side.