M. Danielle (Yarbrough) Kish of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs died unexpectedly on Dec. 29, 2015, after a joyous Christmas weekend filled with family, friends, and celebrations. She was 90.
Born on Sept. 20, 1925, in Meridian, Miss., to Gladys McFarland Yarbrough and Lester Yarbrough, Danielle was a natural storyteller. From her childhood in the Deep South to her worldly travels, she had an uncanny ability to recount specific details. For this reason, Danielle and her stories approach the realm of legend. Always the center of attention at family gatherings, she was the family matriarch, queen of the Campgrounds, empress of style, and the very definition of sweetness.
Danielle had a youthful, lively aura paired with a philosophical, creative mind. An eternal optimist, she dismissed as trivialities the daily annoyances that bog down most people. Most who knew her had a memory or anecdote that was unique in one way or another, usually quirky, and always special.
To not share a few of Danielle’s stories would be a disservice, for these stories were the very fabric that defined her.
At the age of 9, she was in a school bus accident in which she was trampled by other children rushing to escape the chaos, which left her in full body traction for many months. As a result, the design of school buses was changed.
Not long after, she was headed home from school when a tornado materialized out of nowhere, knocking over a tree in front of the bus. She was able to get home safely, but the tornado took the lives of three of her friends in a nearby house.
At just 16 years of age, Danielle met Stephen Andrew Kish on the Chattanooga Choo Choo. This handsome young man in an Army uniform offered to buy her lunch in the dining car. She stuffed her homemade sandwich into the side of her seat and went with him. As she was getting ready to order a nice lunch, the young man sheepishly confessed that he only had enough money for two blue-plate specials. Over hot dogs and beans, a lifelong romance began. The early years of her married life to Steve were punctuated by long separations because of World War II.
The years brought four children and many more life experiences in Mississippi, Kentucky, New Jersey, Texas, the Philippines, and New York. Danielle delighted in the adventure of life, and did not hesitate to explore on her own. She would animatedly recount the harrowing voyage back from a trip to Hong Kong when her boat nearly capsized; however, she nonchalantly downplayed her traumatic journey and spoke instead of the treasures she procured while there.
Danielle and her family settled in upstate New York. Steve taught military science at Syracuse University, and attended seminary, becoming a Methodist minister. Danielle embraced her role in the religious community, and eagerly took on many new responsibilities which she loved, including teaching Sunday school and organizing events for the congregation.
In 1965, Danielle and her family vacationed in a gingerbread cottage in the Campgrounds of Martha’s Vineyard. Danielle was enchanted by the Campgrounds. She found a cottage for sale on Washington (now Victorian) Park, negotiated a price, and closed the deal. For the next 50 years, the cottage served as a summertime hub of activity. A welcoming refuge for her family and friends, it was also her playhouse. She delighted in hosting Illumination Night festivities, and frequently could be found on the porch playing several daily rounds of Scrabble with her friend Meta.
Loving, dignified, graceful, and fiercely independent, Danielle was a homemaker whose warmth and charisma made those around her feel at home. Appreciating life’s simple things, she was a fan of Lorna Doone cookies, a connoisseur of instant coffee, and a champion of Scrabble. She relished playing with her children, allowing them to put the mattresses on the stairs for a slide, and later, sitting gamely on the floor as her grandchildren crimped her hair and inexpertly applied makeup to her face. Embracing her youthful nature, she never hurried, rarely stressed out, and approached life on her terms.
Danielle was predeceased by her husband, Stephen Kish Sr., and her son Stephen A. Kish Jr. She is survived by her daughter Carole Walton and husband Richard of Oak Bluffs; daughter Robin Barrett and husband Michael of Enfield, Conn.; son David Kish and partner Mariko Kawaguchi of West Tisbury; and daughter-in-law Mary Lou Kish of Silver Spring, Md. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Stephen Kish III; Jennifer Schellhammer and husband Bob; Jonathan Kish; Abigail Okrent and husband Scott; James Walton and wife Rachel; Anna Walton; Catherine (Cassie) Walton; John Barrett; Daniel Barrett and wife Kara; William Barrett and girlfriend Rachel; and nine great-grandchildren: Ciera, Stephen, Diego, Lucy, Brian, Andres, Emily, Thomas, and Cecilia. She is also survived by Beverley Liddicoat, her “Australian daughter,” who was an exchange student living with the family in the 1960s and who has been a part of the family ever since.
A funeral service was held at United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard on Jan. 4, 2016, the Rev. Richard Rego officiating. Donations in Danielle’s name may be made to United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 2580, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, or to the Martha’s Vineyard Camp-Meeting Association (Tabernacle Restoration Fund), P.O. Box 1176, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.