Mary Jane Carpenter


Mary Jane Carpenter of Edgartown, Mass., died suddenly on August 19, 2020, from kidney failure caused by the tick-borne disease babesiosis. 

Mary Jane was born in Mercer, Pa. on August 27, 1943, the daughter of Elmer Scheidhauer and Mabel (Masters). Her father was a storekeeper, while her mother, a chemist, worked in a munitions factory during World War II. Mary Jane graduated from Mercer High School in 1961, and with honors from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., in 1965 with a B.A. in English. She was appointed a graduate assistant in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh that year, where she received an M.A. in 1966.

That year she met her husband, Glenn, a fellow graduate student in the department who had recently completed his active-duty service in the Marine Corps. They married on her 23rd birthday, and the two both spent a year teaching English at the Pennsylvania State University campus in Altoona. In 1967 they moved to Mount Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where Mary Jane taught high school before her sons Bob and Bill were born. In Pittsburgh, Glenn started a career with Gulf Oil that would take his family first to Texas in 1980 and then to England in 1981. She was a loving, enthusiastic, and active mother, who taught Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to her sons on a long school break with her own study guide, discussion questions, and writing assignments.

Having returned to Pittsburgh, and with her sons older, Mary Jane went back to school at the University of Pittsburgh to receive a paralegal certification in 1987. When the family moved to Edgartown in 1988, she found a job as a title examiner with the law firm of Reynolds, Rappaport, and Kaplan. This was an ideal career for her, incorporating documentary research, architectural history, genealogy, and Vineyard history. She gained a reputation for being able to unravel the most complicated land title problems on the Island, tracking land transfers back to the mid-17th century in many cases. She retired in 2009.

In addition to a rewarding career, Mary Jane found on Martha’s Vineyard a supportive and active community. Mary Jane and Glenn were members of the Federated Church for more than two decades, stalwarts of the choir, and pillars of the church. Whether it was an annual pledge drive or capital campaign, they could always be counted on to open their house and their hearts to events supporting these efforts. They were an integral part of the church’s choir tours to England, Scotland, and Wales, then to France and Switzerland, and finally to Italy. They sang in many old European churches, and were the day’s choir for the Sunday service of the American Church of Paris. The bus rides between stops were always filled with song. She was the island’s resident expert on residential real estate, especially Edgartown, from her many years of doing title work. Once Anne Vose would identify the houses that would be on the annual Federated House Tour, Mary Jane would prepare the background on each, most often from memory, and would do the opening presentation to kick off the tour. She was the clerk of the church on and off for many years, including this year, keeping careful track of all of the official business of the church council. They both unselfishly served on any number of church committees over the years, including search and call committees to bring in new settled pastors. She and Glenn were also early supporters of and participants in the Island Community Chorus. 

Mary Jane endowed her many talents, energy, and infectious enthusiasm on the Friends of the Edgartown Free Public Library for more than 10 years. As president, she led the Friends organization through many successful fundraising efforts in support of the library’s building project. Mary Jane’s effortlessly positive leadership style and can-do attitude infused the Friends with an energy that only strengthened over her tenure as president. She was exceedingly generous with her time, and more than one member can count her as the person who both invited and welcomed them into the group. 

The Friends, as well as the Edgartown Public Library, received the honor of being chronicled in a book both researched and written by Mary Jane, titled “The Edgartown Free Public Library, 1891 – 2016: A Brief History of the Library and its Friends.” The book presents a rich history of the origins of the Edgartown Public Library, as well as the creation of the Friends of the Edgartown Free Public Library, tracing the group’s history and growth as an organization tirelessly dedicated to supporting the library and its programming.

Mary Jane’s work, talent, kindness, passion, and contributions as a member of the Friends of the Edgartown Free Public Library made an indelible impact on the library, its staff, and trustees, an impact that will resonate forever. In addition to her work with the library, Mary Jane served on the board of the Edgartown Council on Aging.

The death of her older son Bob in 2016 and of Glenn in 2017 were difficult blows for Mary Jane that were softened by the arrival of her little dog Teddy; by her strong relationship with her son, daughters-in-law, and granddaughter; and by the friendship of so many who appreciated her laugh, sincerity, appreciation for good books, local history, and love of a good bargain. 

Mary Jane is survived by her sister, Jean, of Littleton, Colo.; her son, William, and his wife Ellen, of Falls Church, Va.; and her daughter-in-law Amy and granddaughter Jane of Pittsburgh, Pa. She was predeceased by her husband for 50 years, Glenn; her son, Robert; and her brother, John Scheidhauer, of Mercer, Pa.

A memorial service will be held in the future when her friends and family can gather again. Donations in her memory may be sent to the Federated Church of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 249, and to the Friends of the Edgartown Public Library, P.O. Box 5249, both in Edgartown, MA 02539.

Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs. Visit for online guestbook and information.