In celebrating the lives of Islanders who died in 2020, we have included those who lived for at least some time on Martha’s Vineyard, and for whom information about their life here was available in their obituary, from which the following quotes have been taken.
Though we might have known a lot about those who were in the news, or widely known — Lee Fierro had an important role in the movie “Jaws,” Dick Walton was a long-time attorney in Oak Bluffs — the obituaries of less well-known Islanders are filled with small but remarkable details you might not have known: John Moffett was also involved in Jaws, hosting the cast and crew at his Kelley House; Grace “Swan Song” Holman was a proud member and elder of the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Tribe; Bob Schumann found his true home on the Vineyard, and his lifestyle reflected the way of the Island: the relaxed pace of life, the fertile soil, the calming effect of the ocean around; among his favorite places were the Cliffs and beaches of Aquinnah and Menemsha. Tom Furino brought driver’s education to the high school after tragically losing his son in an accident. Paul Allen Medeiros was a top-notch electrician who was dedicated to quality work and determined to “put a spark in your life”; Betty Eddy lived to be 100 and loved Martha’s Vineyard as much as any place on Earth.
The obituaries, taken together, underscore just how rich and varied life, well-lived on Martha’s Vineyard, can be; they highlight what, at the end of someone’s life, their survivors considered to be the most important aspects of someone’s life: fishing, volunteering, catching fish, creating art that might be shown at Featherstone, and the consistent threads that runs through most of these final reports: a love for the Island, an appreciation of all that the land and sea around us offers, and the joys that come from gathering with family and friends.
Ann (Pantalone) Sullo
John Stewart Moffet, Edgartown
A highlight of John’s Kelley House years was hosting the cast and crew of Universal Studios as they filmed the movie “Jaws.” A lifetime of friendships was formed that summer of 1974. Later on, while vacationing in Hawaii, he rekindled friendships with Universal Studios employees, which led him to working on the TV show “Magnum, P.I.” As difficult as it was to spend winters on Martha’s Vineyard, it was unsettling to live out of a suitcase, going back and forth between islands.
April 2: Peter Albin Johnson, 82, Newport, N.H.
Peter was often found on the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard enjoying a walk along the beach or fishing. He was well-known for sharing his extensive knowledge of fishing and lures with fellow fishermen. Peter was a longtime member of the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcaster’s Association and the 2017 recipient of their sportsmanship award. He was well-known as a contributor to charitable events on the Island, including the Wounded Warrior program.
April 3: Karen Jean (Belisle) Child, 72, West Tisbury
On the Island, Karen worked for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as an administrative assistant and the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group. After having her children, Karen worked as a daycare provider for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and then preschool teacher at Green Gates Day School. In 1990, Karen began assistant teaching in the morning and afternoon kindergartens at West Tisbury School. She later worked in third and fourth grade classrooms as a one-to-one aide. Her final career was as an assistant manager at the Chicken Alley Thrift Shop, where she continued to touch the community through her passion for seeking undiscovered treasures.
April 5: Grace Holman, 95, Oak Bluffs
Grace enjoyed early morning coffee with neighbors and annual summer lobster parties with her beloved “School Street Family.” You could often see her strolling down School Street to pick up the mail and grab some groceries at Reliable. Grace was always ready with a witty comeback and a giving heart. Grace “Swan Song” Holman was a proud member and elder of the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Tribe.
Lee Fierro, 91, Cleveland, Ohio
In 1974, Lee was convinced to audition for Jaws. She turned down the offered role of Mrs. Kintner because of the character’s heavy use of curse words. The screenwriters rewrote the script for her, which she then accepted. That iconic performance, including the infamous slap of Chief Brody, played by Roy Scheider, gained her loyal fans from all over the world who continue to adore her to this day. Lee is known and loved on the Vineyard for her 40 years with Island Theater Workshop. As Associate Artistic Director and later Artistic Director, she worked with over one thousand students during the summer with Children’s Theater and during the academic year with Apprentice Players. Year after year she penned scripts and composed lyrics for the students and was always careful that each child had a speaking role.
April 6: Thomas Leonard Furino, 63
At 17 years old, Tom’s son David died in a car crash with his friend Kevin. Tom decided to give something back by bringing driver’s education into the high school during the day. He also brought a Skid School program here to help teens stay safe. Bumper stickers “Buckle up for KJ and Deebo” are seen all around the Island.
April 8: Martin S. Fox, 95, Chilmark
Martin was a summer Vineyard resident who was well known among the fishing community. He won first place for shore-caught false albacore in the MV Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby in 1991, and earned second place twice for shore-caught bonito. From 1980, when he first bought his Chilmark home, up until his early 90s, Martin could often be found at his favorite fishing spot — the Menemsha jetty.
April 9: Audrey E. Leaf, 89
Audrey was a homemaker, raising their four children, and was very active in church and community affairs. She was a communicant and past senior warden at Grace Church, Vineyard Haven. She helped setup and run the early years of lobster roll dinners at Grace Church; served many ice hockey families at the Puck Stop and at the Tisbury Street Fair. She volunteered at the hospital and Thrift Shop, where she always brought home more than she donated.
April 12: Nancy Ann Butler, Wareham
April 14: Lee Huston McCormack, 75, Vineyard Haven
Lee was an artist in paint, sculpture, music, but most fervently in poetry, which was his true love. In July 2012, Lee was selected by the Martha’s Vineyard Poetry Society as the first Martha’s Vineyard Poet Laureate. Over his 48-plus years living on the Island he loved, Lee authored hundreds of timely, stirring, funny, thought-provoking and, yes … sometimes even dark poems that cause the human soul to dig deep to reach its meaning.
April 15: Robert J. “Bob” Schumann, 69, Oak Bluffs
In 1987, Bob moved to Martha’s Vineyard. It was there that Bob found his true home, and his lifestyle reflected the way of the Island: the relaxed pace of life, the fertile soil, the calming effect of the ocean around. Among his favorite places were the Cliffs and beaches of Aquinnah and Menemsha.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Brown Bayer, 92
Betsy participated in contradancing, played music, enjoyed learning about both the natural and human history of the Island, and contributed to conservation efforts. Above everything, though, what sustained and invigorated her soul were the walks she took along the Vineyard’s trails and beaches, usually in the company of her husband, one or more children, a grandchild, or a dog.
April 18: Wilmon B. “Chip” Chipman, 88, Aquinnah
Chip’s three ‘F’s’ were family, friends, and fishing. Many years ago he purchased a beach home on Dogfish Bar, Martha’s Vineyard, which enabled him to gather family and friends, and pursue his favorite pastime, fishing.
April 19: Ann Marie (O’Connell) Long, 74, Simsbury, Conn.
In 2002 Ann Marie and her husband built their family home, Aisling Beag, on Cummings Way, “the sweetest little street in Edgartown.” They enjoyed many good times with family and friends on Cummings Way. Ann and Mike were members of Good Shepherd Parish, charter members of the Boathouse, and members of EYC.
April 21: Susan L. Rogers, 70, Oak Bluffs
April 23: Sophie “Shelley” (Katz) Cohen, 95, Yarmouthport
From 1949 and through the 1950’s Shelley and her husband Ben and their children spent the summers in Oak Bluffs to operate what was then a seasonal business. In the 1960’s, the family made Oak Bluffs their sole location for their businesses, began operating them year round and added a furniture component and a motel. The “G & B” retail building on Circuit Avenue, which now is comprised of many long time retail tenants, remains under family ownership, the last 25 years under Shelley’s management along with her children.
April 24: Stephen Greeley Wilkerson, 79, Oak Bluffs
A master of logistics, Steve put these skills to good use every chance he got. During summer trips to Martha’s Vineyard he somehow managed to stack a Sunfish sailboat, a luggage pod and 5 bikes atop the red Volvo wagon for the fast-paced drive to the ferry. His family was dubious but he was confident — and usually successful. Many of these vacations were spent with close friends and extended family, creating lasting memories and nurturing the close connections Steve loved.
April 26: Mary Jane (Looney) Cleare, 90
Mary Jane earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from Antioch New England Graduate School and provided psychotherapy services at Community Services of Martha’s Vineyard until her retirement in 2010.
April 28: Harold Hayden Sears, 84, Falmouth
Harold’s love for the Vineyard and friends brought him into new businesses on the Vineyard, which he maintained up to the day of his passing.
May 1: Tracy C. Sharples, 64, Edgartown
Tracy moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1987 with his wife and young children, and worked for Edgartown Marine for several years, until he began fishing commercially for conch. He was a conch fisherman for many years, along with working as the dredge foreman for the Edgartown dredge. He loved working on the water. He then became interested in oyster aquaculture in 2005, and started farming and operating his own oyster farm, P & T Oysters, in Katama Bay, until his illness.
May 4: Sidney B. Counsell Jr., 67, West Tisbury
Sidney was a top basketball player when he was at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Sid was an auto mechanic, bus driver, Ace hardware manager, tractor trailer driver, and recent Uber driver.
Walter J. “Bud” Wright, 89, Tequesta, Fla.
In retirement, Bud and his wife Joyce settled on Martha’s Vineyard, which put them in the perfect place to enjoy their love of the water and agriculture, and make wonderful memories for their kids and grandchildren for 25 years.
May 6: Paul Allen Medeiros, 65, Lempster, N.H.
Paul was raised in Vineyard Haven, and spent most of his life, alongside his wife, children, and beloved pets, residing in the masterpiece of a home that he built with his father. Paul graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and went on to trade school, specializing in the electrical trade in the construction industry. His efforts resulted in his becoming a top-notch electrician who was dedicated to quality work, and determined to “put a spark in your life.”
Edward F. Jordan, 92, Edgartown
May 8: Marguerite H. McDonough, 102, Vineyard Haven
May 9: Lucy Louise Davis, 95
Lucy especially loved the bucolic views from Middle Road and beautiful sunsets in Menemsha.
May 11: John E. MacKenty, 91, Edgartown
Moving to the Vineyard in 1987, John and Irene enjoyed a large and diverse circle of friends, and loved living out on Edgartown Great Pond year-round. He always enjoyed the local wildlife, and continued his father’s tradition of duck hunting on the pond, teaching the sport to the next two generations of his family. He enjoyed marching in the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day parades for many years, until he was unable to participate.
Betty Mills Vantine, 75, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Betty was a regular substitute teacher, owned a high school sports poster business, with her last career at the Vineyard Gazette, as its sales director on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
May 14: Samuel Dexter Warriner II, 78, West Palm Beach, Fla.
During his Vineyard years, Sam was the owner and proprietor of two prominent restaurants, the Dunes and Warriners. He was known by many guests and friends as a wine connoisseur and the ultimate host of fine dining establishments.
May 16: Ingrid Ann (Petersen) Reuter
Ingrid found wonder and joy in her 56 years on Martha’s Vineyard, where she loved visits from her family, new friends, clamming with her toes, and long walks along the beaches.
May 17: Theophilus M. “TM” Araujo, 78, Edgartown
TM made everyone’s life a little better. Whether it was walking in his custom-made Uncle Sam suit in the annual Edgartown Fourth of July Parade sharing waves and smiles with our community, making his rounds at Christmastime in his Santa suit, or just taking the time to sit and talk, he always showered people with love and positivity. He will fondly be remembered as a Vineyard Icon.
May 20: Norma G. (Hultgren) Sousa, 89, Edgartown
Norma’s favorite beach was Squibnocket Beach in Chilmark. Shortly after moving to Martha’s Vineyard, she began driving up there on Saturday mornings with her dog, J.P., stopping first at Humphreys Bakery in West Tisbury to get a “Belly Buster” chocolate-covered cream doughnut and coffee. She would sit on the rocks with her dog, coffee, and doughnut, and bathe in the beauty of that exquisite beach. It was a very spiritual place for her. She called it “God’s Little Acre.”
William Henry “Billy” Baumann Jr., 73
A lover of the ocean, Billy and his family could often be found on Martha’s Vineyard, fishing, swimming, boating, reading, socializing, and just goofing around. And it was with his family, all together, that Billy was truly his happiest.
Neil Ames Welch Jr., 63, Wareham
Over the years, Neil had many jobs. He raked leaves for the Camp Meeting Association, mowed lawns, filled in on jobs where needed. Neil also would answer the call from people in the neighborhood to rake, help move something, or just about anything asked of him.
May 26: Ernest O. Barrett Jr., 84, Vineyard Haven
Ernest returned to the Island and worked with Doyle Construction. He worked with J.K. Scanlon as a clerk of the works to build the first Woodside Village, Island Elderly, building in Oak Bluffs, and as a clerk of the works for the West Tisbury School. After that, he worked for the Steamship Authority, and the Vineyard Transit Authority as a bus driver, until he retired.
James Kenneth “Ken” Rolston Sr., 68, Vineyard Haven
Dr. Susan Whiting Shanok, Chilmark
While working as the original “galley girl” in Menemsha when the restaurant still had a counter inside, she spilled an entire bowl of hot soup on the actor James Cagney, known casually to the locals as Jimmy, and quickly responded with, “Don’t worry Mr. Cagney, I’ll get you another bowl of soup.” In a ritual begun in the 1950s to extend post-shift dump trips from the Galley, Susan enjoyed taking a final spin around the dock, a pastime she continued for the rest of her life.
May 27: Richard D. Kleinberg, 77, Chilmark
Ruth Berkowitz, 98
Dr. C. Jack Coleman, 86, Edgartown
Jack loved reading newspapers and books, and time with his family and friends. His Saturday mornings were reserved for Linda Jean’s, where he regularly ate with his breakfast club.
May 28: Robert “Bob” Lamb, 83, Silver Spring, Md.
An avid collector of marine art, ship models, and scrimshaw, he and Ginny became partners with the owner of Edgartown Scrimshaw, and helped expand the store on Main Street selling marine-themed art, scrimshaw, and other collectibles. He was also actively involved in historical preservation efforts, and worked on the restoration project for the SS Nobska Ferry that had served Martha’s Vineyard for many years.
May 30: Penny Clarke Wigglesworth, 81, Naples, Fla.
Katherlyn Harrison, 93
June 1: Richard James “Dick” Walton, 74, Oak Bluffs
Music continued to be a constant in Richard’s life while living on Martha’s Vineyard. He played the accordion in a three-piece Island band called the Vintage throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He also played the tuba in the Vineyard Haven Band for a number of years. Aside from the occasional birthday and family gathering, in more recent years — and much to his delight — Richard would bring out his instruments and play for his grandchildren, hoping to instill a love for music much like his own.
Roberta Lea “Robbie” Hutchison, 63
For 18 years, Robbie helped create breathtaking gardens and vistas in every corner of the Island. Her contributions and designs will be enjoyed for decades.
June 2: Richard James “Dick” Thorman, 88, Franklin, Tenn.
Dick became the general manager for the Island Country Club on Martha’s Vineyard for several years. At the same time, he developed Waterview Farms, a housing development that conserved natural spaces, views of the ocean, and green areas for native habitat. It still stands today.
Jasmine Leigh (Reed) Reis, 29, West Tisbury
Jasmine became a CNA through the program at Windemere. She really loved working with the elderly patients there, so much so that she started doing private care for a more personal, one-to-one connection. She took a break from it to try her hand in the hospitality industry at the Island Inn. She worked herself up from being a front desk clerk to a manager. No matter what the job was or where it was, she could be counted on to have a smile on her face and spread happiness to the people she would interact with.
June 3: Donna Davey, 62, Oak Bluffs
June 8: John Albert “Jack” Hargreaves, 87
Jack was an accomplished handyman, and spent countless hours maintaining and restoring the beloved summer home he and his wife Ute bought on Martha’s Vineyard in 1978. He particularly loved doing stonework, including building dry stone walls and laying flagstone. He eventually learned and was struck by the fact that a relative from his past had been a stonemason.
June 12: Carol L. Derry, Providence, R.I.
Carol was a visiting nurse at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and a nurse in the Oak Bluffs School, working with special-needs children. She was a part of the Slow Food Movement, a member of the Agricultural Society, and believed strongly in farm-to-table dining.
June 17: Dangoule Gabis
For a number of years, Dangoule taught at the Regional High School. After retirement she worked at Vineyard Gardens.
Ronald Keith Chambers, 50, Tecumseh, Mo.
June 20: Christopher Owen Fried, 73
Some of Chris’ M.V. contributions include working as a solar engineer, an air quality consultant, and the clerk of works for Edgartown School, Island Elderly Housing, Edgartown Police Station and Town Hall, and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Environmentalism and peace activism were his life’s work. Chris was very active in his community, organizing rallies, attending town meetings, and posting signs around the Island about ending war and stopping climate change. Chris was involved in the Peace Council and Habitat for Humanity. For decades he provided affordable housing for year-round Islanders. An avid bike rider, he was passionate about the safety of bike paths on M.V. Chris was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of M.V. and studied “A Course in Miracles.”
June 23: Katherine G. Manning, Oak Bluffs
Katherine was a member of the Holy Ghost Association for many years, where she served as secretary. Her involvement with the SERVE food program also occupied many of her years.
Barbara Ann Almquist, 86, Edgartown
Barbara was a supporter of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. She served on the special events committee for 17 years, and was dogged in her pursuit of items for the annual silent auction. Beyond her work with the special events committee, she was an ambassador for the museum’s mission, and for the move from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven, recognizing the need for a larger campus that would allow for better care of the collection.
June 25: Robyn Bandele Nash, 66, Edgartown
Robyn made the Island her year-round home in 1998. On the Vineyard, Robyn established a private law practice, handling estate and business law, and representing private clients as a public defender. She was a trustee of Union Chapel.
June 27: Carl E. Greer, 84, Oak Bluffs
June 29: Allan F. Davey, 85, Vineyard Haven
Mary Stokes French, 92, West Tisbury
When her husband retired, the two made the move to live permanently year-round in the Vineyard family home in Lambert’s Cove. She became a member of the Copley Society of Boston, and held the distinction of the society’s title: Copley Artist. Her work has been shown at the Featherstone Center for the Arts, Old Sculpin Gallery, Field Gallery, Granary Gallery, and the former Red Barn Emporium, as well as galleries on Nantucket and in Wellfleet.
June 30: Aaron James Tripp, Falmouth
Betty Eddy, 100, Chilmark
Betty loved Martha’s Vineyard as much as any place on Earth. Betty was introduced to the Vineyard by her husband, Welles (“Bud”) Eddy, in 1958. She was unfamiliar with the Vineyard, and had never heard of Chilmark: “It was the end of the world! And I loved it!” Every trip to the old Chilmark dump was a treasure hunt. A visiting young friend calling to his mother who’d arrived to pick him up after an overnight: “Mom, Mom! You have to come inside this house! Everything is from the dump!”