Sylvia Angevin Thompson died peacefully at home on Friday, April 20, 2018, in Edgartown, surrounded by family and friends, trees and birds. She was 89. Born in Glendale, Ohio, on March 12, 1929, Sylvia lived always between the Midwest — first Ohio, then Illinois and Michigan — and Martha’s Vineyard.
Sylvia’s father, Ferris Marion Angevin, was the youngest captain in the last U.S. Cavalry, and later a milling machine manufacturer in Cincinnati. Sylvia’s mother, Marion Mills Angevin, was Bostonian, and from her Sylvia inherited a lifelong love of the ocean and of decorating. Her parents were among the founders of the Sheriff’s Meadow Preserve in Edgartown. As a girl on the Island during World War II, Sylvia, her sister Andrea, and great friend Stella Brown learned to spot planes coming across the Atlantic. Sylvia was an avid tennis and squash player, and would swim for hours in the surf. As a mother arriving with a station wagon full of children from Illinois, almost no time was too late or cold for an immediate dip at Bend in the Road.
Sylvia studied costume design, theater, and art at Sarah Lawrence College. She married William H. Rentschler, and in Lake Forest, Ill., raised her four eldest children and formed a lifelong circle of friends. She was a coveted doubles partner, a volunteer at the Allendale School for Boys, a photographer, and a guide at the Art Institute of Chicago. She was known to get laughing to the point of weakness, sometimes inappropriately.
Sylvia was a gifted and exuberant artist with a visceral connection to nature and pattern. An extraordinary colorist with a beautiful and sure line, her paintings convey her great pleasure in the everyday world around her, which she abundantly shared with those who knew her. She studied with Kwok Wai Lau, George Rocheleau, and Hubert Ropp, and showed at the Deer Path Art League and Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown, among others.
In 1970, Sylvia married the love of her life, George Wallace Thompson. The two eloped on his lunch break from Wilson and McIlvaine in Chicago, meeting at the justice of the peace before boarding a plane to Morocco. They moved to a farm in Geneva, Ill., where they raised beef cattle and crops, and created a haven for a merged and growing family. She tended enormous flower and vegetable gardens, foraged for wild asparagus along the fencerows, pulled calves while about to have a baby herself. Sylvia was also a phenomenal cook, and an early proponent of nutrition through whole foods. Striking in a ball gown, at ease at fundraising events and the Friday Club in Chicago, she was most often seen in a blue-and-white striped shirt, bandana, and Army jacket.
Sylvia was strong-willed, and in recent years remarkably brave through a series of physical traumas. She navigated extreme change with grace and humor. She enjoyed the Center for Living for eight years, and since 2012 lived — and danced — with the Long Hill community in Edgartown. Sylvia loved people, and expected and usually found the best in them. A loyal friend and correspondent, she gathered people together with great food, style, and generosity of spirit.
Sylvia is predeceased by her parents, Marion Mills Angevin and Ferris Marion Angevin; sister Andrea Lawrence Angevin; brother John Jay Angevin; nephew John Jay Angevin Jr.; daughter Sarah Yorke Rentschler; first husband William H. Rentschler; and husband George W. Thompson. She is survived by her children, Peter Ferris Rentschler and his wife Michelle, Mary Angevin Rentschler and her husband John, Phoebe Rentschler Cole-Smith and her husband Mike, Alexandra Angevin Thompson Cole and her husband Allan; stepchildren Lydia Thompson Whitehead and her husband Charles, Wallace Underwood Thompson; grandchildren Christine Angevin Rentschler, Peter Gadsden Rentschler, William Christopher Rentschler, Albion Angevin Alley, Sophie Angevin Cole, Henry Walker Cole; step-grandchildren Amanda Post Whitehead, Molly Thompson Love, Anna Merwin Miscoso Whitehead, Catriona Fell Whitehead; great-grandchildren Genevieve Sarah Kreutle, Sylvia Marie Rentschler; step-great-grandchildren Alicia Imani Love, Amil Mateo Love, Xavier Charles Castillo, Archer Josephine Pauline, and Josephine Amelia Castillo; and many nieces and nephews and their children.
A celebration will be held on May 12 at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury from 1 to 3 pm. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living Supportive Day Program, P.O. Box 1729, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.