Lillian Meleney


Lillian Rhame Meleney of Westwood and Vineyard Haven died June 24, 2016, after an extended illness. She was 94.

Lillian, or Lil as she was known to her friends, was born and grew up in Columbia, S.C., to Sellis and Lillian Rhame on Feb. 12, 1922. Sellis Rhame owned and operated the Lower Main Street Savings Bank in Columbia, and was noted for his quiet contributions to charity and irrepressible charm.

Lil attended the University of South Carolina, but due to the war, transferred to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she earned a certificate in aeronautical engineering. After graduation, Lil worked on propeller designs at Curtiss-Wright in Caldwell, N.J. While at Rensselaer, Lil met Jack Meleney, who was doing flight training in the area. They were married in January 1945, and thus began Lil’s long association with Martha’s Vineyard.

Jack was part of the Meleney family that has been summering on East Chop for over a century, and Lil soon found herself a regular visitor.

Jack went to work in New York with the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, where he remained his entire working career. By the end of 1950 they had two sons, and were coming to Martha’s Vineyard for ever-increasing lengths of time.

In 1957 they bought their first Island house, a small cottage on Brewster Avenue on East Chop. In 1968 they moved over to Hatch Road in Vineyard Haven to be closer to their sailing activities. Jack and their two sons were active in sailing at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, where Jack served as commodore.

Lil and Jack were active in curling during winters in New York, and Lil was a proficient bridge player at home and on Martha’s Vineyard. After Jack’s retirement in 1981, he and Lil moved to Columbia, S.C., where Jack pursued a Ph.D. in history and Lil reunited with her South Carolina friends. In 1997, the couple moved to Westwood, to have easier access to Martha’s Vineyard and to be closer to their family.

Lil was known for her intelligence and breadth of knowledge; an avid reader, she seldom went a day without reading an entire newspaper. She could mix Southern charm with insightful observations, and was known for her frank assessments of what she saw and experienced.

She is survived by her sister, Anne Rhame Bates; two sons, Christopher Coit Meleney and John Alexander Meleney; five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.