The lives they led, part two

Islanders we lost in 2019.

From top left, Judith Phillips Neeld, Lucy Lee Abbot, William E. Carroll Jr., Marilyn Theresa Maciel, Barret Platten Naylor, Frederick W.J. Thifault.

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 second third of the year (May through August), along with some people who died earlier in the year, but whose obituaries came in later; next week, we will publish the last third. 

Though we might have known a lot about those who were well-known — Tony Horwitz won a Pulitzer prize in journalism, Judith Neeld was a prizewinning poet, Primo Lombardi made our pizza then taught us yoga, for instance — the obituaries of less well-known Islanders are filled with small but remarkable details you might not have known: Fred Thifault was instrumental in acquiring the Seaman’s Bethel building and moving it to its present location; John Chirgwin imported Thai silk bikinis for his Golden Door store in Edgartown; and Kin Ping Lee bought land in West Tisbury after climbing a tree to make sure she’d have a water view.

The obituaries, taken together, help describe our shared history and underscore just how rich and varied a 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 that life: volunteering for a board at the Campground, teaching art to all the Island children, riding a bicycle around East Chop.


April 18: Judith Philips Neeld, 90, Vineyard Haven

Devoted to her own writing, Judith enjoyed wide recognition, and in 1984 received the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America for her poem “Her Topography.” She also saw six books of her poetry published, including a most recent anthology of her life’s work, compiled by her Island poetry group, the Cleaveland House Poets. She and her husband moved to the Vineyard in 1982, summering in Menemsha and wintering in Vineyard Haven. Although an avid traveler, she always considered the Vineyard home. Judith’s other interests included birding, cooking, leading wildflower walks, and watching tennis or the Boston Red Sox.

May 1: Lucy Lee Abbot, 73, Oak Bluffs 

While living on the Vineyard, [Lucy] helped her mother, Lucy (Bideau) Abbot, renovate her Campground cottage in Oak Bluffs. And she had two businesses here: Genny’s Garden, and Take a Seat.


May 7: William E. Carroll Jr., 83, Edgartown 

In retirement, Bill enjoyed spending time sharing his grandchildren’s activities with them, volunteering with the American Legion, improving his golf game, and spending leisurely days on the Island with his wife Tarzie.


May 8: Marilyn Theresa Maciel, Tisbury 

After the death of her mother, Marilyn moved to Martha’s Vineyard to work with her cousins, Ron and Peg Jackson, at the Ocean View Restaurant. Over the years she worked several jobs, including Lift van driver, tour manager for Island Transport, and substitute teacher at the Tisbury and West Tisbury schools.


May 9: Frederick W.J. Thifault (“Fred”), 90, Vineyard Haven 

[Fred] was an active member of the Legion Pumper crew for more than 20 years in Tisbury, continuing the tradition begun by the veterans of WWI. He remained deeply connected to the Tisbury Fire Department for his remaining years, and was the last surviving member of the Legionnaires for Engine 3. Fred served as commander of American Legion Post 257 for five years, and was instrumental in acquiring the Seamen’s Bethel building and moving it to its present location. He was one of the initial officers who organized the Holy Name Society at St. Augustine’s Church, and was a communicant and collector at the 8 am Sunday Mass for well over 50 years. He served two terms as selectman for the town of Tisbury, from 1969 to 1975. He served as Tisbury DPW commissioner for many years, and on the Finance Committee and as assessor for the town of Tisbury.


Barret Platten Naylor, 57 

The places you could most often find BB were Norton Point Beach on Martha’s Vineyard with his family and friends in what he called “the Circle of Love,” golfing (he was very proud of his hole in one at Pine Valley), or cheering on the New England Patriots with his wife Kim, who he referred to as “Coach” when the games were on.


May 10: Dr. James A. Tuck, 78, Vineyard Haven 

[James] retired to the Vineyard, coming full circle, to join his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, who were residing here. He was quiet, and befriended local archaeologist Dick Burt, and reacquainted himself with Dr. Richardson and Stuart Bangs. He was very excited to develop the prehistory and history of Martha’s Vineyard. 


May 13: Chip Anthony Leonardi, 70, Chilmark


May 15: Yvette E. Canha, 85, Vineyard Haven


May 16: Joyce Marie Freeman, 72, Edgartown

Joyce and Les moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1970 when he assumed management of the Island’s MSPCA. Joyce loved the Vineyard, and enjoyed her time working at Lawry’s Seafood restaurant and her role as bookkeeper at various Island businesses and banks.


May 20: Barbara Tyack Hull, 95, West Tisbury 

Bobby fell in love with the Island, and very soon she and Richard vowed to one day retire there. They started building a summer house in the meadow sectioned off from the Slocum House in the 1970s, retiring there for good in 1980.

They had collected antiques for decades and decided to set up an antique shop and appraisal business in 1984. Hull Antiques was located on the West Tisbury–Edgartown Road in West Tisbury and became an icon with its blue chair hanging from a tree, always with a basket of flowers under their sign.


Primo A. Lombardi, 70, Oak Bluffs

The former pizzamaker told The Times that he didn’t think of teaching and running a yoga studio as work. He sought to continue to be a student of Anusara yoga himself, as well as a teacher. “It’s heart-oriented yoga,” he said. “It’s about getting in touch with the best part of ourselves. You see the whole, but you look for the good first, rather than have the 2 percent run the 98 percent.”


May 23: James W. Luce, Oak Bluffs


May 25: John Thomas Chirgwin, 83, Edgartown

The Golden Door, the unusual retail business [John] created in Edgartown (and briefly on Nantucket) from 1965 to 2009 (at its many locations from Dock Street to North Summer Street) was filled with a fascinating selection of objects collected over the years, from the highly sought-after Jim Thompson Thai Silk bikinis in the ’60s and ’70s to the more extensive recent collection of African tribal art.


May 26: William J. Dias Jr. (“Billy”), 77, Vineyard Haven


May 27: Tony Horwitz, 60, West Tisbury 

Horwitz was a frequent contributor to Islanders Write, an annual event sponsored by The Times that highlights writers with connections to the Vineyard. He was also a contributor to Martha’s Vineyard Arts & Ideas. “My brother had a lifelong love affair with the Vineyard, going back to our childhood summers outside Woods Hole,” his brother Joshua Horwitz said. “He was proud to be a year-round resident, an ardent advocate for historic preservation and conservation, and a ferocious outfielder at the Chilmark softball game.”


May 29: Barbara Mae Schoeneberg, 88, Edgartown
In 1980, Barbara and her mother Gladys purchased land in Edgartown and built a summer home. Each year they would spend their summers on the Island and winters in Laughlin, Nev.

May 31: Eugene O. DeFelice, 98, Oak Bluffs 

After retiring, Eugene moved permanently to Martha’s Vineyard. He continued to be an active member in the American Legion and the VFW. He was very proud to have served his country. Memorial Day was a very special day for him. He marched every year in the Memorial Day Parade.


June 2: Eric Thorsin Farrish, 59, Edgartown 

Thor’s love of fishing and Martha’s Vineyard drew him to settle on the Island in the late 1990s. He managed to work remotely and in flexible ways, giving himself the ability to pursue his interests in fishing, piloting his Cessna 182, riding his Harley with a sidecar, and spending time with family and friends around gourmet meals and exotic drinks. Many were lucky enough to avoid his fiery hot crayfish parties, yet enjoyed his blackened swordfish and famous pig roasts. Thor could create out-of-this-world delicious culinary experiences.


June 4: Steven E. Ruley, 64, Oak Bluffs


Kathleen S. Stevenson, 83, West Tisbury


June 5: Judith Lynn Green, Oak Bluffs 

The Island was her home. Judy spoke nostalgically about summer days on Lucy Vincent Beach and on the docks of Menemsha. In her adult years, she spent many summer evenings squidding from Memorial Wharf in Edgartown or casting off State Beach. Judy also loved to kayak, garden, and cook for those she cared about; the longer it took to prepare, the more she liked you.


June 14: Kin Ping Lee, 92, West Tisbury 

Mrs. Lee was a longtime resident of West Tisbury, and for many years the proprietor of a popular women’s clothing store on Main Street in Edgartown, Kin Ping’s Boutique. She and her husband bought land in West Tisbury in 1965, after Kin Ping climbed up a tree, ascertaining that there was an ocean view. She later designed and built a home on the site, with a wall of windows facing the ocean. 


June 15: Doris Aloha Long, 84, Oak Bluffs 

[Aloha and her husband] loved everything about the Vineyard and the Campgrounds. They both became immersed in the Campground community, serving on boards, designing, installing and maintaining the Tabernacle gardens, and participating in the many Campground activities throughout the summer. Illumination Night in the Campgrounds was a family affair, with four generations along with family friends enjoying a gourmet meal before lighting the lanterns and relaxing together on the porch while the grandchildren, and later the great-grandchildren, played in the yard.


June 16: James H. Brownlow, 85, Vineyard Haven


John Blanchon, 86, West Yarmouth

When the children were young, [John, his wife Lorraine, and their children] spent time every summer at Old Silver Beach, Falmouth, as well as Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Lorraine’s hometown.


June 24: Eugene W. Baer, 92, Vineyard Haven 

Marrying Islander and fellow artist Jackie Lair in 1954, Gene moved to Martha’s Vineyard year-round in 1959 and taught art full-time for 30 years in the Island’s public school system. He initially divided his time between all four down-Island schools (including the high school) as the Island’s only art teacher, eventually working solely for the Tisbury School. He retired in 1990.


June 25: Jerome Paul Kenney, 77, West Tisbury

Jerry’s passions also extended to renovating several historic homes on Martha’s Vineyard where his family vacationed year-round. Gifted in spatial relations, he could easily see in three dimensions and as a hobby loved poring over architectural drawings to improve structures. In 2003, Carol and Jerry received a Vineyard Conservation award for their restoration of the 1719 Tilton house on Middle Road in West Tisbury.


July 3: Elizabeth Kirwan Dowley (“Lal”), 94, Vineyard Haven 

In 1990, Lal and Bob moved permanently to their most treasured spot in the world, East Chop, where they designed and built their year-round home overlooking the water. Lal was a familiar figure on the tennis courts, and with her racquet slung over her shoulder riding her bicycle to and from the East Chop Tennis Club until 2013, when health issues intervened. She loved the game, and was on the courts for over 80 years. She could also be seen in the late afternoons in summer and fall at the East Chop Beach Club, coming down to take a dip at the end of a hot day and stopping to chat with friends for a while on the porch. It’s probably fair to say that Lal was the only octogenarian riding her bicycle around East Chop. She kept this up even as she turned 90, but decided after a fall that it was time to put away the wheels.


July 9: Michael Anthony Joakim, 73, West Tisbury 

Over many decades, Mike and Betsey enjoyed many travel adventures, both domestically and internationally, with their growing family. Mike’s fondness for the sea continued into his married life as he and his young family discovered the beauty of the Island of Martha’s Vineyard in 1971. After building their M.V. homes in West Tisbury during the 1980s, the Joakim family enjoyed years of relaxation and fond memories at their Island retreat. Mike delighted in spending his retirement years in both Connecticut and Massachusetts, while Betsey continues her nursing career, working for the Martha’s Vineyard Public School System.


July 12: Martin L. Berger, 87, Edgartown 

In the fall of 1975, Martin and Carole accepted an invitation from their close friends Jim and Hilly Luther to come to Edgartown for a weekend of striped bass fishing aboard Jim’s SeaJay. The bountiful fish, the beautiful village, and the warm people were all it took. The next spring, with the help of his friend Steve Gentle, Martin bought a summer home on Fuller Street that he would enjoy with his family for years to come. He often described that decision, to make Edgartown his summer home, as the best decision he ever made.


Vivian Culin, 96, Louisville, KY 

In 1973, [Wendy and her husband] retired to Martha’s Vineyard where together they built a solar-heated house of Nem’s design and Wendy grew award winning organic vegetables.


July 18: Robert F. Jewett, 73, Vineyard Haven 

The Jewett name is synonymous with sailing excellence on Martha’s Vineyard, and Bob continued that family tradition with characteristic humility, combined with a competitive edge. He crewed and skippered Solings for over 40 years, distinguishing himself early on as crew on the family boat, Epee, winning the first Atlantic Coast Sailing Championship. He is remembered for his legendary success on his red Soling, Andiamo, which followed years of sailing accomplishment and service at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club.


July 19: Rosemary F. Csapo, 89, Oak Bluffs 

After raising her six children (and unofficially some others), Rosemary worked on Martha’s Vineyard for M.V. Community Services as a home health aide, and formed lifelong bonds with many of her clients. Dorothy West of Oak Bluffs and James Houlahan of Edgartown were her most cherished friendships.


Elke Sunshine Klein, 24 

[Elke] grew up at the Island’s libraries. She could be quite clever; she discovered she could render her favorite books discards by ripping off the labels. Oops! She spent most summers from age 10 attending Camp Jabberwocky, and made amazing friendships. Indeed, the camp was instrumental in helping family and friends pull together a service for her on State Beach in July that was dubbed “Elke’s Volcanic Sunset,” attended by all her friends across the Island, wearing fairy wings.


July 21: Helen Csenge Dropick, 100, New Britain, Conn.

[Helen] spent 10 happy retirement years in Oak Bluffs, enjoying daily walks in the clean, fresh air. She was a member of Good Shepherd Parish, and very devoted to the kind clergy and friends she knew there.


July 22: William E. Kennedy, 77, Edgartown


Grace Duart, 101, Edgartown 

Since November 2016, Grace lived with her daughter Louise and son-in-law Squire Rushnell in Edgartown. Every Christmas she would prepare her homemade ravioli and pizzelle cookies for family and neighbors, and found joy in sharing with others her experiences in living 101 years. When asked her secret to longevity, she simply said, “I am loved.”


July 24: Robert Salamone, 69, Edgartown 

While living on Martha’s Vineyard, which was always his dream, he became a member of the Mink Meadows Golf Club. He was also the surveyor of the Meetinghouse Cornerway Road Association for more than 10 years, and volunteered at the annual Beach Cleanup Day and the Possible Dreams Auction.


July 30: Joseph Jones, 29, Vineyard Haven 

During his childhood years [Joey and his friends] would adventure through the woods, downtown Vineyard Haven, the Tisbury School, and the cemetery.

During Joey’s high school years he played football, and started to explore his art. Joey was a tremendous artist. He was also a genius at mathematics. He loved chess, and won several championships. He loved to inspire and lead — a true humanitarian.


Kenneth James Francis Jr., 54, West Tisbury and Fredericksburg, Va.

[Kenneth] looked forward every year to the Agricultural Fair, and as a young kid he was allowed to be involved in organizing the parking for so many cars. He loved the authority. Another early job was as a Lambert’s Cove Beach attendant. Kenny monitored the foot traffic at the entrance from a beach chair, giving permission only to legitimate passholders. He took his position very seriously.


July 31: Veronica Elliott, 93, Oak Bluffs 

For several years, Saturday morning was spent volunteering at a nonprofit on Martha’s Vineyard, where clothing, toys, and furniture are exchanged for small donations. [Veronica] delighted in seeing these contributions, and imagining how the new owner would be pleased or how a child getting a bike or doll would feel.


August 2: Lucille Elizabeth Thatcher 


August 8:  Jane Sweet, 54, Hyannis

She was a summer visitor to Martha’s Vineyard for 25 years. She loved the natural beauty of the Island and spending her days on South Beach listening to music, especially James Taylor, with her family.


August 9: Barry Dennis Roy, 73, Chilmark 

The sunsets are not quite as vivid and the moon not quite as bright over the Vineyard Sound without him, but lives are fuller for all who knew him.


August 10: Maureen Jean Anderson, 80, Oak Bluffs 

[Maureen] lived her entire life in Oak Bluffs, the town she loved. She loved hosting dinner parties, socializing with other couples, going out to dinner, traveling with Bill, walking all around Oak Bluffs, and going out to lunch with her girlfriends and then cruising the down-Island towns with them.


August 13: Robert G. Copeland, 82, West Tisbury


August 15: Alfred Eric Street, 78, Estoril, Portugal 

In 1965 he married Margot Barnes, who introduced him to Martha’s Vineyard, which, with his affinity for the sea, was to become his second home. On any given day in summer, you could hear his guitar calling out, warm and inviting, from his studio on William Street in Vineyard Haven.


August 17: Will Luckey, 68, West Tisbury 

“He was all about music, the sea, and freedom,” Will’s son Ben said. The music was his life, and the sea was his release. He was never happier than when he was out in his boat with his family fishing for stripers off West Chop, or clamming in Tashmoo.


August 19: Gary Stephen Smith, 66 

Recently Steve’s love of the outdoors led him to own his own thriving lawn business on Martha’s Vineyard, the Lawn Ranger. 


August 21: Gerald A. Maciel, 85, Edgartown 

[Jerry] had many jobs during his life, but the one he loved most was school bus driver — he loved the kids, and they loved him back. He was a janitor at the high school, prepared the field for football season, worked the games, took the teams to off-Island games and on field trips. When he retired from the high school in June 1998, he drove a bus for the Vineyard Transit Authority for 12 years.


August 22: Dr. Paul Kimberley Ling, 66, Sharon and Edgartown

Paul (known to his family as Kim) was an avid fisherman. He enjoyed many fishing trips off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, and digging for clams with family and friends there each summer. The Vineyard was a place he and his wife loved, and from which they drew solace and rejuvenation.


August 27: Christine P. Fisher, 89, West Tisbury 


August 31: Lorraine Averill Leonard, 69, Ayer

[Lorraine] grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, loved horses, spending long days at the beach, and spreadsheets.