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.
Some were widely known — the trio of deBettencourts from Oak Bluffs (Nelson, Allan “Buddy,” and Carol) who were all involved in some way in taking care of our cars; Jean Stewart Wexler wrote “The Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook” (and helped create the Dumptique). The obituaries of others reveal details from interesting lives: Barbara Ann Nolan loved the Island so much that she became a shuttle and tour bus driver; Bruce E. Kennedy was a longtime member of the Henry David Thoreau Society, actively engaged in research on Thoreau’s writing; Doris Gregory loved eating liver and onions at Linda Jean’s; and Richard Blakcinton got his “last hole in one,” at Farm Neck Golf Club. Gladys Welch’s co-workers at Martha’s vineyard Hospital described her as “feisty, a firecracker, and ‘old school’ which is something she was proud of.” Dr. Malcolm Dunkley, an avid runner who participated oten in road races and marathons was “occasionally collected by the police mid-run from his usual route along Lambert’s Cove Road to attend to an urgent case at the hospital.” Emma MacKay Hall was a “fish out of water and lovingly referred to as ‘seal pup’ by her family, often staying in the water hours on end, egging folks on to swim out to the sand bar with her.”
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: sitting on a porch of a house on East Chop, looking out over the bluff; hunting, fishing and swimming with one’s children; enjoying lobster rolls, art galleries, and the rhythms of Island life; and the consistent threads that runs through most of these final reports: a love for the “mystique and beauty” of 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.
Oct. 1: Robert S. (“Bob”) Reed Jr.
Bob moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1988 after many trips back and forth before finally making the leap to move here with his family. He worked in the construction trade until 2012, when he suffered a stroke and finally had to stop.
Oct. 6: Sarah (“Sally”) Vickery Hammett, 89, East Chop
In 1962 Sally and her husband Bob purchased a house on East Chop on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard as a place to put down summer roots. To the end, sitting on their porch and looking out over the bluff was one of Sally’s favorite pastimes. Summers on East Chop included hot days on the beach and a lot of tennis at the club up the street.
Oct. 9: Kathleen Mackey, 92, Oak Bluffs
Oct. 12: Christy L. Dobson, 40, West Tisbury
Christy was an avid reader, and loved taking in the natural beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.
Oct. 18: Allyson Getsinger, 66, Chappaquiddick
In 2014, Allyson and her husband Peter moved year-round to Martha’s Vineyard, where she continued to be active with local nonprofits, becoming vice president of the board at Featherstone Center for the Arts and serving on the annual benefit dinner committee of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, where their family took an active interest. Allyson loved gardening, scalloping, painting, cooking, and visits to Slip Away Farm for weekly CSA pickups.
Oct. 21: William J. (“Billy”) Bernard, 49
Billy had a love of the outdoors and took advantage of all that Martha’s Vineyard had to offer. He loved hunting, fishing, shellfishing, boating, and swimming. He loved doing these things with his kids, and any friends or family who shared his passions.
Oct. 22: Bruce E. Kennedy, 70
During his years on-Island, Bruce remained dedicated to professional development, and multidenominational community activities. He was a longtime member of the Henry David Thoreau Society, actively engaged in research on Thoreau’s writing.
Oct. 24: Deborah J. (“Debbie”) Huddleston, 64
Debbie adored her job working in the infant room at Community Services on Martha’s Vineyard, and later worked as the Head Start Health Coordinator there. She truly had a desire to help children live their best lives, safe and surrounded by love — caring for these kids was her passion. It was at her job that she met her two daughters, whom she and her husband Tom took into foster care so that they wouldn’t be separated, and eventually adopted. Her girls never doubted that she loved them as her own.
Oct. 25: Barbara Ann Nolan, 71
Barbara moved to Martha’s Vineyard in the mid-1970s, where she worked briefly as a nurse at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. She loved the Island so much that she became a shuttle and tour bus driver during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Oct. 29: Nelson J. deBettencourt Jr., Oak Bluffs
Oct. 31: Doris Toll Andrews Gregory, 95, Oak Bluffs
Doris enjoyed church suppers at Christ Methodist in Vineyard Haven and Trinity Methodist in Oak Bluffs, where she was a member. Eating out with friends was a welcome event, from dining on liver and onions at Linda Jean’s in Oak Bluffs to catching the early-bird special at the Ocean View with her friend of 70 years, Betty Welch of Vineyard Haven.
Nov. 10: Allan A. (“Buddy”) deBettencourt Sr., 83, Oak Bluffs
Buddy and his wife JoAnn opened up their own automobile business, Buddy’s Auto, on Worcester Avenue in Oak Bluffs, where he worked as a mechanic and JoAnn handled the books. Buddy was a member of the American Legion (Post 257), serving as the sergeant-at-arms. He retired as a captain for the Oak Bluffs Fire Department after 58 years of service, and also served on the Oak Bluffs Park Commission for 55 years.
Nov. 13: Samantha F. Drogin, 97, Edgartown
She and Morris came to the Vineyard for the first time in 1970 or so, and fell for it hard. They bought a summer house a few years later in Kitts Field, then on the outer fringes of Edgartown, long before development spilled down to the ocean. Samantha happily spent more than 45 summers here, enjoying the lobster rolls, the art galleries, and the rhythms of Island life.
Regina M. Policastro, 68, Chilmark
Regina was an avid reader; loved Martha’s Vineyard, and fishing with her husband and children. She spent many summers at the Poole camp in Menemsha, and eventually at her own home in Chilmark.
Nov. 14: Hunter Pinckney Wootton Denman, 40
Hunter established his business, Hunter Electric, on Martha’s Vineyard, where he, alongside his trusted assistant, Archie, worked tirelessly for clients, delivering quality work. A lover of the sand and sea, Hunter became an avid kiteboarder and kayaker in recent years.
Nov. 15: William Herbert (“Bill”) Dyer, 83
In his later life, Bill took up saltwater fly fishing, spending time and making many friends on Martha’s Vineyard.
Nov. 16: Miriam S. (“Mimi”) Frankel, Lambert’s Cove
“Mimi,” as she was known to friends and family, was a familiar frequenter of Lambert’s Cove Beach, where she loved to walk, swim, and meet new people.
Nov. 17: Sharon Elizabeth Kelley, 83, Vineyard Haven
Nov. 19: Richard Gordon (“Dick”) Leahy, 91, Westwood
On the Vineyard, Dick enjoyed duck hunting with his beloved black Labradors, and though not much of a swimmer, he loved boats and being out on the ocean.
Jean Stewart Wexler, 99
In 1971, Jean co-wrote “The Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook,” now in its fourth edition, with Louise Tate-King. In the 1970s Jean also created a quirky gift shop named Beetlebung, whose namesake has now returned in a new iteration at its original location in Menemsha. In the 1990s, Jean was instrumental in creating the famed Dumptique at the West Tisbury dump, and she managed this pioneering recycling shed for many years.
Nov. 22: Carol S. deBettencourt
Carol was able to be a stay-at-home mom, while also managing her husband’s business, Bink’s Auto. There wasn’t a sporting event or club meeting she missed.
Nov. 23: Elizabeth (“Liz”) Lüntzel Neumann
Liz was a longtime summer member of the Vineyard Haven Band. She leaves us with many wonderful memories.
Nov. 25: Adalena E. (“Lena”) Vanderhoop, 75, Oak Bluffs
Ann Thoron Hale, 92
Martha’s Vineyard was Ann’s true home. As a teenager she spent her summers on Seven Gates Farm, much of it in the family house of High Hope, which is still enjoyed by many family members. She cared passionately about the farm, joining the board of directors and ultimately becoming president in 1992.
Nov. 26: James Anthony Caporale Jr., 68, Oak Bluffs
Dec. 1: Bradford J. (“Brady”) Fauteux, 71, Oak Bluffs
Starting on Friday, the weekend afternoons always ended with a trip down to the “Lounge,” where he was a proud member for more than 30 years. The duo, including K9 friend Chevy, were a staple, driving Island roads.
Dec. 2: Frances Marjorie Slonim Curtis Barnhart, 83, Roanoke, Va.
Frances is the beloved sister of Nancy Slonim Aronie of Chilmark, and a frequent visitor to the Island, where she occasionally co-facilitated Writing from the Heart workshops with Nancy.
Dec. 4: Richard Ross Blackinton, 81, Edgartown
In his last years, Ross loved working and playing at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, where he got his last hole in one!
Dec. 5: Gladys E. Welch, 90
Gladys’ career began at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. She worked in the emergency room, operating room (her favorite), maternity, acute care, and the last 13 years in Windemere. Gladys’ co-workers described her as feisty, a firecracker, and “old school” which is something she was proud of. Her career lasted 59 years, ending in February 2010. State Representative Timothy Madden presented Gladys with a citation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts House of Representatives for “Your 59 years of selfless dedication to the care and rehabilitation of generations of Vineyarders.”
Dec. 6: Abby Ann Patterson, Vineyard Haven
Abby often spoke of the Vineyard. Its wonder, mystique, and beauty drew her back for the final years of her life. She took great pleasure in reconnecting with friends, meeting new people, and spending joyous time with family. Martha’s Vineyard was her home where she found peace and comfort unparalleled elsewhere.
Dec. 12: Charles Henry (“Chuck”) Minnich III, 76, Edgartown
In 1989, Chuck and his family moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where he created and founded Island Lawn & Garden, Inc., a still thriving landscape company.
Dr. Malcolm Dunkley, 91, Sandwich
At the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Dr. Dunkley introduced the use of epidural anesthesia in childbirth which allowed for many births to occur on Island where, previously expectant mothers would have opted for off-Island care. He was an avid runner who participated in numerous road races and marathons. He was occasionally collected by the police mid-run from his usual route along Lambert’s Cove Road to attend to an urgent case at the hospital.
Dec. 13: Paul Edgar Konig, Edgartown
Paul and his wife, Joanne, were longtime summer residents of Martha’s Vineyard who retired in Edgartown to enjoy gardening, the beach, and spending time with their ten grandchildren.
Stuart H. Lollis, 78, Edgartown
Among his many interests, Stuart loved sailing his catboat with his family and was involved for years in the hosting of the Edgartown Catboat Regatta.
Dec. 15: Ann Boyer, 84, Chilmark
Ann’s parents built a house on Blacksmith Valley Road in Chilmark in 1946, after her father returned from wartime duty as a U.S. Navy physician on a hospital ship. The family enjoyed returning to the delights of the island community every summer.
Dec. 19: Emma MacKay Hall, 22, Oak Bluffs
In her downtime, Emma loved to be at the beach with her mom and sisters. She was a fish out of water and lovingly referred to as “seal pup” by her family, often staying in the water hours on end, egging folks on to swim out to the sand bar with her. While in elementary school, Emma began volunteering at the annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society’s Livestock Show and Fair with her sister Charlotte and her mother, a tradition that carried on for 10 years until her high school graduation. Giving thousands of hours of her time, Emma spent most of her summer months behind the scenes doing whatever was asked of her, forming strong bonds with another group of women she considered mentors and referred to them as “The Fair Ladies.”
Elaine Jean Ciancio, 72, Vineyard Haven
Elaine loved her Island home of Martha’s Vineyard and was so proud to have been a native Islander.
Dec. 20: Geoffrey Kirby (“Geoff”) Codding, 41
Geoff was happiest on the water with tight lines. It was a love that he was passing on to his young sons. He joined the Derby when he was old enough to bring his fish in on his own, and was on the award stage many times throughout his youth, culminating with a back-to-back Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Grand Prize in 2006 and 2007.
Dec. 22: Gloria Alexander, Martha’s Vineyard and Sarasota, Fla.
Dec. 24: Christopher E. Larkosh, 56, East Providence R.I.
Dec. 25: Joseph Farland Jr., 87, Falmouth
Dec. 31: Robert B. (“Bob”) Dayton Jr., 93, Williamsport, Pa.