The lives they led

Islanders we lost in 2019 (and late 2018).


We’ve decided to make “The lives they led” an annual celebration of the lives of Islanders who died during the year. We have included those who lived for at least some time on Martha’s Vineyard, or spent a significant amount of time visiting, and for whom information about their life here was available in their obituary, from which the following quotes have been taken. This week, we feature the first third of the year; next week, the second half. In addition, this week, we’ve included people who died at the end of 2018, but for whom we did not receive obituaries until after we ran last year’s series. 

Though we might have known a lot about those who were in the news — Tony Horwitz wrote Pulitzer prizewinning stories and played Chilmark softball, for instance — the obituaries of less well-known Islanders are filled with small but remarkable details you might not have known: a hairstylist who had a great love of the ocean, a singer with a penchant for bowties, a woman who used to walk her horse onto the ferry, another who started Longhill in Edgartown to care for our parents in their senior years, the town father who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, and the man who was the chief of police in Edgartown when Ted Kennedy drove his car off the Dyke Bridge. 

The obituaries, taken together, help describe our shared history, and underscore just how rich and varied one life well-lived on Martha’s Vineyard can be; they highlight what, at the end of someone’s life, they or their survivors considered the most important aspects of someone’s life were: walking on the beach, meeting friends at a local bar, clamming with family at Lobsterville.

Dec 8: R. Marie Edgar, 98, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

Dec. 9: Gretchen Michelle Wean, 46, Edgartown

Gretchen was a master hair stylist and owner of A Hair Affair Salon in Edgartown. She also practiced and taught yoga. She had a great love of the ocean, her many pets, beloved friends and family, but most of all her children.

Dec. 10: Nancy B. Gerstmar, 89, West Tisbury [PIC]

Dec. 14: James S. Combs, Edgartown [PIC]

Jimmy moved from his hometown in Ohio to Edgartown in February 2011, falling in love with the Island. He lived with his mom, Karen Newhart, and worked in several locations in Edgartown, including Donaroma’s, Dairy Queen, and the Mailroom, meeting many of his closest friends on the Vineyard.

Dec. 16: Eileen Walsh Cronin, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

She was a woman of deep faith and an active member of St. Mary’s Church in Melrose, St. Joseph’s Church in Wakefield, and St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven.

John G.C. Banks, 77, Westwood [PIC]

Later in life, [John] sang in the choir at the Federated Church in Edgartown and the Island Community Chorus, which were great sources of enjoyment and friendship for him. John was a volunteer driver for Vineyard Village at Home, and also served as president of the First & Third Luncheon Club, an affiliation that brought him great pleasure. He served as a deacon of the Federated Church, and was also a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Rod & Gun Club. His sense of humor, penchant for bowties, and wonderful bass voice will be missed by many.

Eleanor Colwell Barrie, 94, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

[Eleanor] was an accomplished artist, and painted landscapes of the White Mountains, Martha’s Vineyard, and Scotland, working in pastels, oils, and watercolors. Her paintings were a means of sharing her love of nature and beauty, values that live on in her sons and grandchildren … In her later years, she was a regular bridge player at the Tisbury Senior Center.

Dec. 17: Rob C. Berkley, 59, West Tisbury [PIC]

[Rob] served on the boards of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, and Noepe Center for Literary Arts.

As his final project in life, he worked with celebrated Martha’s Vineyard photographer Alison Shaw and designer Sue Dawson to publish a coffee table book of his work, “Birds I View.”

Dec. 19: Dee Moyer, 75, West Tisbury [PIC]

Dee’s career on the Island was eclectic. She was the second manager of the Black Dog Restaurant, soon after it opened in 1971. She started an employment agency with offices on Coastwise Wharf, and finally discovered real estate, which would become her work and passion for most of her life.

Dec. 23: Patricia Elaine Roddy, 90

Barry J. Carroll, 74, Vineyard Haven

A private pilot, [Barry] enjoyed flying his Mooney 201J to Martha’s Vineyard, all over the Midwest, New England, and the Caribbean with his trusty co-pilot, Barbara.

Dec. 27: Peter Grandfield, 67, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Since his birth in 1952, Peter spent every summer at his family’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. He learned to swim and sail at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, and was a popular tour bus driver for many summers in the ’70s and ’80s.

Dec. 29: Roy B. Hope [PIC]

[Roy] returned to the Island from his duty in the service, and soon thereafter began his career with the utility company ComElectric as a lineman. Fortunately for him, in those days they didn’t have GPS, because the big yellow trucks could often be found parked at Linda Jean’s or the Airport Diner, or wherever they served hot coffee.

Dec. 31: Victoria Labbancz, 99, Edgartown [PIC]

Jan. 1: Jennifer Gardner, 54, W. Tisbury [PIC]

Jennifer touched many lives in her 54 years … She was a volunteer emergency medical technician for Tri-Town Ambulance for 10 years. 

She was a successful entrepreneur who ran Summer Solstice in Tisbury, while also raising two young children. She later segued to a successful career at Tea Lane Associates, where she cherished her co-workers and regarded them as family.

She loved Martha’s Vineyard, and knew every inch of this Island.

Jan. 5: Deborah (McCormick) Reed, 88, Edgartown [PIC in 1/10 folder]

[Deborah] died peacefully at her beloved 300-year-old saltbox home, which has been in Deborah’s family since 1945. 

[Deborah grew up] on Martha’s Vineyard, riding all around West Tisbury with her mother when she was young (back when the horses could just walk on the ferry!). She also loved sailing and racing with the Edgartown Yacht Club, or just being on the water or swimming at any of the Vineyard beaches. She loved everything there was about the Vineyard, from the people she knew in each community to knowing that each town was unique in its own way.

Edith Chinlund Brown, 82, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Edie summered on the Vineyard every year of her life with her family, and she and Brownie bought their home on Grove Avenue in Vineyard Haven in 1970. They moved to the Island full-time in 1974, and embraced their long-awaited year-round Island life. 

Edie enjoyed sailing on Chilmark Pond in their catboat, with long picnics across on South Beach. Their schooner, Good Fortune, was a fixture in Vineyard Haven Harbor for years, and they enjoyed many sailing adventures with Island friends.

Jan. 10: Margaret L. Sibert, Vineyard Haven

Jan. 11: Elaine H. Koppelman Eugster, 81, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Here, [Elaine] created a rich life centered on near-constant volunteer work, participation in book clubs, the Want to Know Club, and the Peter Luce Play Readers, travel, and attendance at many cultural events, particularly those offered by the Yard, the Vineyard Playhouse, and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society.

Jan. 13: Richard J. Andrade Sr., 93, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

In 1953 Richard began his career as the Prudential Insurance agent serving Martha’s Vineyard. He retired after 32 years, and spent his post-retirement years playing golf and working as a starter at Mink Meadows Golf Course.

He loved hunting, fishing, and golfing. The notches on his golf bag included three holes in one. His door was always open to all (especially at four o’clock, happy hour), and you never knew who might show up for laughter and libations.

Jan. 14: Daniel E. Harnen, 82, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

[Daniel] took on many hobbies, including woodworking, furniture refinishing, and cultivating bonsai trees. He was a founding member and past president of the Martha’s Vineyard Bonsai Club. He made many of his closest friends at the club, which is still very active today.

Jan. 19: James C. Cage III (“Jim”), 73, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

[Jim] would look forward to going to Offshore Ale to share stories with his friends and have a beer. May the memories of Jim be happy ones. Don’t be sorry; share a positive thought.

Jan. 20: Carmel M. (Reidy) Gilbert, 60, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

The past 11 years [Reidy] spent working as head of housekeeping at the Edgartown Inn. She made many close friends over her 32 years here on the Vineyard, friends whom she held dearly. 

Emil Rippcondi (“Rip”), 82, Brandenton, Fla. [PIC]

Emil was reassigned to Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod, where he met the love of his life, Janice Mosher of Martha’s Vineyard. Emil was transferred back to Keesler (family in tow!) as an instructor, where his aptitude and passion for educating others began to flourish. As his military career progressed, he was transferred again, to Patrick A.F.B., Florida, where he became a master instructor.

Jan. 22: William Anderson Farrissey (“Will”), 27, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

[Will] was very comfortable while at sea or when working with his hands. He was well-known around the docks of Martha’s Vineyard. Will knew the true value of family, and kept several close friends. 

Allan Albee (“Al”), 78, Edgartown [PIC]

He spent several years on a fishing boat, scalloping off New Bedford and out of Edgartown, and eventually sailed over to Martha’s Vineyard on his friend’s boat, where he spent the remainder of his life, working mostly as a carpenter. 

Jan. 28: Kathleen McGlone Stewart, 68, Chapel Hill, N.C. [PIC]

In the mid-1970s, Kathy traveled to Martha’s Vineyard with a friend, and soon found herself living in a Volkswagen bus off Lambert’s Cove Road. She soon met and married Island resident Michael Stewart, and together they had two children, Jesse and Carolina, before moving off-Island in 1979. 

Jan. 29: Jason Anthony Aldo Leone, 47, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Romeo George Lambert, 95, Holyoke [PIC]

Joan Svetz, 89, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

Joan had an eye for the creative, and an extensive Santa Claus collection. She was highlighted in Vineyard Style magazine for her holiday decoration displays, referenced as Mrs. Claus on the Vineyard that Christmas season. 

Donald Gifford Mayhew, 87, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Donald’s wife delighted in the fact that he was descended from both Daggett brothers, not only the one who married the governor’s daughter but also his brother, who began what Islanders called the “bow and arrow Daggetts.” 

Donald had a keen memory. He could recite his most direct Mayhew lineage, as was the family tradition, although his ancestry went back to Thomas Mayhew Sr. in 32 different lines.

Jan. 30: Eileen O’Connell Brown (“Lady Ei”), 88, Morristown, N.J. [PIC]

In the summers, Eileen returned to her New England roots and became a resident and loving member of the Martha’s Vineyard community. She spent over 35 years as a volunteer and contributor to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Foundation, and was also instrumental in the development of the Farm Neck Golf Club mission, especially the tennis vision.

Jan. 31: Carole Wood, 78, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Carole was an important partner with her husband Woody. Together they operated an auto-parts business on the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for over 20 years.


Feb. 2: Janice Marilyn Meade, 78

Janice and her husband, Bill, lived on Martha’s Vineyard, where she gave birth to their two daughters, Cindy and Nicki. Their oldest, Peter, was happy to welcome his new sisters into the family.

Feb. 5: Paul Frederick Pimentel, 76, Edgartown [PIC]

Paul was dedicated to his community, serving on many committees and boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. His work helped give a voice to the voiceless, and provided for those who had less.

Guy Michael Webster, 79, Chilmark [PIC]

Guy Webster [was] a seasonal Chilmark resident and renowned portrait photographer.

Feb. 6: David N. Brown, 83, Edgartown [PIC]

He was a very talented artist, exhibiting and selling his beautiful works at the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown, the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury, and Desert Artisans Gallery in Tucson, to name a few. 

Feb. 8: Elizabeth Ellen Sandland, 75, Edgartown [PIC]

[Elizabeth] arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in 1985, and soon after began her mission; she opened an assisted-living facility where she cared for our parents and relatives for almost 30 years. 

At Long Hill in Edgartown, her second assisted-living facility after Brookside in West Tisbury, she selflessly provided a loving and safe space where dignity, grace, and comfort were in abundance.

Ruth V. (DeBettencourt) Metell, 93, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

Ruth was an active member of the Portuguese-American Club since she was 18. She was recognized at the State House in the 28th annual Heritage Day of Portugal celebration for her outstanding contributions to the community and being a role model.

Feb. 10: Jacob Tilton Lewis, 22, Edgartown

Feb. 12: Christopher Svend Laursen, 36, Vineyard Haven

Chris worked as a web designer and developer, creating many websites for Martha’s Vineyard and NYC businesses. He loved music, soccer, biking, hiking, video games, adventure, and playing volleyball at Lucy Vincent Beach.

Frank O. Gonsalves, 91, Vineyard Haven

Feb. 14: Douglas Wilbur Peckham Sr., 90, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

[Douglas] participated in the art life of the Island, serving at one time on the board of the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown. He was the recipient of many ribbons for his watercolor paintings, his pastels, and his photographs. He was named an Island Treasure at the All-Island Art Show in the Tabernacle, where he showcased his work every year. Two of his art pieces are in the permanent display of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Feb. 16: Betty Barker Hodges, 91, Oak Bluffs

[Betty] decided to move to Martha’s Vineyard to be close to her children and their families living on the Island and in Boston. She loved living on the Vineyard, and enjoyed the Island’s beauty and the making of new friends.

Feb. 18: George Roberts Wallis (“Hey-Hey”), 87, Falmouth, Maine


Feb. 20: Charles A. Ratté, 91 [PIC]

While living on Martha’s Vineyard, Dr. Ratté often presented guest lectures and led geology and fossil-hunting expeditions to the Gay Head Cliffs and terminal moraine, sharing his delight upon finding some hitchhiker boulder from thousands of miles away. If his joy for surveying eroding mountains or patrolling long-evaporated inland seas had a rival, it would be the endless hours he spent at Tradewinds tossing tennis balls for his devoted golden retriever, Emmie. 

Feb. 24: Maurice E. Wallerson, Chilmark

Feb. 26: Evelyn Marie Simpson, 75, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

[Evelyn] enjoyed knitting and hosting a weekly knitting group at her house. She liked to go out to dinner and attend the dock dances at the Edgartown wharf.

Mar. 2: Erica M. Ponte, 45, Oak Bluffs

March 3: Dominic Arena (“Jim”), 89, Edgartown [PIC]

Arena had a long career in public service that extended to several off-Island places. [As chief of police in Edgartown], he also weathered the eyes of the nation during the Chappaquiddick Dike Bridge scandal involving U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

Barbara Cottle Child, Memphis, Tenn.

Barbara loved her community, and was an active member of the D.A.R., Martha’s Vineyard Antiques Club, and Martha’s Vineyard Doll Club, and was secretary for the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services board of directors. Barbara was an original member of the West Tisbury planning board.

March 6: Arthur J. Lenna, 88, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Arthur was well-known throughout the community as a friendly, kind, and generous people person. Arthur was a frequent patron of the Ocean View restaurant and bar. In 2006 he met Linda (West) Kurth at the Ocean View, and they were married in 2013.

March 9: Joanna Wakeman, 78, and Seth F. Wakeman, Stonington, Conn. [PIC]

A resident of Stonington for the past 18 years, Joanna and Seth previously resided on Martha’s Vineyard. Seth was a longtime and active member in the Rotary Club of Mystic for over 50 years, serving as past president, and a member and charter member of the Vineyard Rotary Club.

March 15: Rachael Houston, 47, Vineyard Haven [PIC]

Rachael was an avid animal lover; she rode horses at Featherstone Farm in exchange for cleaning stalls and paddocks, which she enjoyed as well. She dog- and house-sat for some wonderful people who lived Island-wide.

March 16: Dorothy (Rockwood) Bolster, 86, Providence, R.I. [PIC]

She spent her childhood and early adult years summering on Trinity Park in Oak Bluffs. She met her first husband, the late Charles Rockwood, at the beach, and enjoyed her time with family and friends at the East Chop Beach Club, and playing tennis at the East Chop Tennis Club.

March 22: Joseph E. Kennedy, 92, Oak Bluffs

Joseph G. Parham Jr. (“Chuck”), 69, Oak Bluffs

[Chuck’s] affinity for Martha’s Vineyard never waned, and he always looked forward to visiting the Island. 

Myrtle Case, Vineyard Haven

After raising her two daughters, and seeing them marry and move to other countries, Myrtle dispersed her possessions, condensing her life into two large cases, and flew to America to begin a new chapter. She eventually settled on Martha’s Vineyard, where she lived for nearly 25 years. Here she became widely recognized around Vineyard Haven’s downtown shops and waterfront, touching many people’s lives.

April 5: Jerry Davies Millett, 80, West Tisbury [PIC]

As a young man, he enjoyed fishing, gardening, and raising prize poultry on the Island. During his summers at Glimmerglass, Jerry worked for Louis Greene at Hillside Farm, the Fishers at Flat Point Farm, and the Fergusons at Arrowhead Farm, Indian Hill, and Everett Poole of Menemsha.

April 7: Fred B. Morgan Jr. (“Ted”), 91, Edgartown [PIC]

Morgan … was known for his service during World War II. Morgan was a member of the 82nd Airborne’s 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and a veteran of combat jumps in Sicily, Holland, the Battle of the Bulge, and Normandy.
He was also highly regarded for organizing the Fourth of July parade in Edgartown each year, though he stepped aside from that role in 2012.

Lucy L. Costa, 79, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

Lucy was an avid darts player at the P.A. Club, and won many trophies for her league play over the years. She was an auxiliary member of the V.F.W. Post No. 9261. She also enjoyed bowling in a league at the old bowling hall; later at Windemere, she advocated for a Nintendo Wii to continue to bowl.

April 8: Thomas E. Burke, 89, Edgartown

April 13: Angela Katherine Waldron, 72, Aquinnah [PIC]

Angie, like her mother, was an avid reader. Her readings gave her a worldly vision, but she was a West Tisbury girl through and through. Her soul never strayed far from the town she loved. Angie loved the Agricultural Fair. She spent each day of every year at the fair. She loved to enter one of her many animals and flowers in hopes of winning a blue ribbon.

Joyce R. Duarte, 85, Waterford, Maine [PIC]

Every summer the family spent the whole season with her parents back on the Vineyard at the family home. The family had camps up at Lobsterville Beach, and Joyce loved to spend hours walking along the beach with her children and later her grandchildren. They searched for fossil shark teeth and shells. Joyce had sharp eyes, and always found the biggest and best shark teeth.

April 15: Lisa Marie White, 59, Edgartown [PIC]

[Lisa’s on-Island job] allowed her the flexibility to cart her two kids all over the Island for their sporting events, and gave her the opportunity to be at every single game. Her children were her greatest achievement, and she relished being surrounded by them and their growing families.

April 16: Edie M. Radley, 80, Edgartown

[Edie] was co-owner of a craft and gift shop, and volunteered as an emergency medical technician. She also became very involved at St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown. Serving on the vestry, singing in the choir, and most notably creating the Mission Shop, which sold gifts, cards, and items of a religious nature, Edie very much enjoyed giving back and supporting the church as well as other Island charities.

April 19: Steven Chaffee (“Brooks”), 40, Edgartown

[Brooks] loved the sea and ponds of Martha’s Vineyard and the native culture of the Island. He spent many summers working at Adam Cab and Wheel Happy Bike Shop. He enjoyed kayaking and shellfishing in the tranquil waters, sailing Optis, Lasers, and 420s through the Edgartown Yacht Club as a child, and hiking through the sunlit forests and trails of his native home.

Thomas Rogers (“Floggy”), 83, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

[Floggy] loved fishing and hunting, especially the M.V. Derby, and enjoyed eating fresh bay scallops and quahogs caught by his son, Boise. He built a custom boat, Excavator, which he loved fishing on with family and friends. 

April 22: Jane W. Shelley, 93, Naples, Fla. [PIC]

Each summer [Jane and her husband] returned to Oak Bluffs, and stayed at Mr. Shelley’s parents’ cottage on Tuckernuck Avenue. In 1965 they purchased their home in the Vineyard Highlands. Once Henry and Jane retired, they split their time between their homes on Martha’s Vineyard and in Naples.

April 23: Arlene Louise Bodge, 80, Peabody [PIC]

Arlene fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard Island, and ended up purchasing Webb’s Camping Area in Oak Bluffs in 1971, which she and a business partner owned and operated for the next 34 years. Arlene had a deep appreciation for nature, particularly wild birds, trees, and the other local wildlife of the Island.

April 24: Lily Paula Godek, 88, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

[Lily’s] favorite times at Stanley’s were when famous celebs and politicians would walk through the door and she could come out of the kitchen and talk up a storm, and snap a pic with them. For 21 summers the ship stayed afloat, and everyone in check. Lily was a proud restaurateur with family at her side.

April 28: Anita E. Combra, 98, Oak Bluffs [PIC]

Alita M. Prada, 84, Edgartown

Ervin Lowe Jr. (“Lee”), 84, Brooksville, Fla. [PIC]

Lee was a jack-of-all-trades, and was skilled at homebuilding, building several homes from the ground up. He was hired to do maintenance at the Colonial Inn, Pequot House, Lampost, Hot Tin Roof, and Wesley Hotel

April 30: Rene Louis Blanc, 90, Oak Bluffs [PIC]