“My life is awesome,” is how Ed BenDavid began our conversation last week. He’s 85 (although he did tell me at first that he’s only 49) and he helps out at a couple of the senior centers around the Island. “I’ve never been bored in my life,” he says with a chuckle. BenDavid could be an advertisement for keeping young by staying busy.
After a couple of years in the Army, Ed came home and married Linda, an Island girl, in 1960, raising six children here, four boys and two girls. Linda died almost nine years ago, and now Ed lives with his two daughters, Vicki and Lana, right next door to the house he grew up in in Oak Bluffs. He remembers a simpler life on the Island when he was younger, hanging out with his two brothers, Jules and Gus. It’s a life he says he wouldn’t trade for the world.
“It was low-key,” Ed remembers. “It was paradise here, and then it mushroomed, but it’s OK. I’ve had a wonderful life. I met the Kennedys and Jimmy Cagney. It was a different world back then.”
Ed ran Jim’s Package Store in Oak Bluffs for 30something years before picking up his next career with the Steamship Authority, which lasted 20something years, until Ed was into his 80s.
“Oh, the guys I met,” Ed laughs, “what a crew. I worked with Bridget Tobin, all the good ones.”
Happy memories come easy to Ed, as does a frequent inclination to make jokes. “I forget some things,” he tells me during our phone conversation. “Is that normal at my age?”
Like everyone else, Ed is looking forward to getting back together in person with his friends and the rest of his family. It’s been tough to keep away from everyone, especially for a people person like Ed.
“If people need help, I like to help them out,” he says. “I’m blessed, you know? I’m still driving, and I like to take my friend Clarence Carter around — he’s 100 — but now with the pandemic, I can’t. It’s so nice to chum around with people. It’s just wonderful to live that long and have that much knowledge. I just love people, that’s my life.”
We asked Ed what types of hobbies he has nowadays, and he said, “I used to fish and hunt. Hobbies? Well, taking care of people, that’s a good hobby. I just like people. That’s what it’s all about.” He does have a collection of more than 100 mermaids of all shapes and sizes at his home in Oak Bluffs.
“They’re everywhere — inside and outside,” his daughter, Lana, says. There are photos of mermaids, mermaids hanging from the ceiling, hooks made in the shape of mermaids — pretty much every way you can imagine. While Ed’s collection includes mermaids, he said his wife was fond of roosters. Once everyone knows you collect something, they add to your supply, he said. Friends and family have kept him well-stocked with the mythical sea beauties.
Although he is inclined to keep everyone laughing, Ed said that one of the challenges of living so long is losing friends and family members as the years go by. “The hardest part is that a lot of my friends are passing, and I have a hard time with that. You lose a lot of family, and as time goes on, you lose all your friends, and it’s pretty tough.”
Ed and his brothers still get together and “talk like old-timers,” he said. Their family came from the Azores, and is made up of a mix of nationalities now. “I love them all,” Ed says.
His favorite spot on the Island is Lucy Vincent Beach, a place Linda also loved.
“The Island is heaven,” Ed says. “I love the people, the friendships, all my in-laws and outlaws, all the business challenges, the churches, it’s a paradise. I’m blessed with nine grandchildren. My sister-in-law Rosie and me, we take a ride around the Island about once a week. I’m happy, that’s all I can say.”