On June 2, 2021, Ann Helen Sherman of Edgartown left this world the way she lived — with the grace of a queen, the soul of a lamb, and the heart of a lion. She was surrounded by the love of her three daughters — her son Richard waiting on the other side with his Volkswagen Bug to carry her on to the next life. With her favorite music up and the top down, Ann went home with the ocean’s salty wind in her hair, warm sunshine and God’s love shining all around her.
Ann was born on Feb. 10, 1940, in Providence, R.I., just shy of her favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day. She was the daughter of Ruth (Pelley) Mellor and Harold Mellor, and grew up in East Greenwich, R.I., with her younger brothers, Ted and Mark. From a young age, Ann learned the value of public service. Her mother, an RN and school nurse, and her father, a police officer, taught Ann that strong communities are built with strong hearts and a willingness to go the extra mile to help others.
Ann excelled in school — an honor student, salutatorian of her high school class, member of the girls’ basketball team, football cheerleading squad, en pointe ballerina, and elected the “Sweetheart Queen” at Wesleyan University’s Sweetheart Dance. Of that time, Ann would describe it as “the Real Happy Days,” complete with sock hops, Elvis records, and sharing a milkshake at the local ice cream fountain.
Ann surprised everyone by turning down a full scholarship to Brown University to follow in her mother’s footsteps, accepting a three-year, full nursing school scholarship during a critical nursing shortage. Like Ruth, she earned her RN degree at Rogers Williams University, graduating at the top of her class and completing her training at Boston Children’s Hospital and in the newly expanded pediatric wing at Boston’s Massachusetts General.
In 1962, she married Richard A. Sherman, and together they had four children, Richard, Bethany, Gay, and Robin. For several years in the late ’60s, they also fostered a child named Raymond, a boy they loved as one of their own. Ann and her husband continued to help children through Child Welfare Services, bringing more than 100 girls and boys to their home for days of fun on the beach and a “family living” experience under Ann’s loving care.
Arriving in Deep River, Conn., on the cusp of the Bicentennial, Ann and her husband readied their 18th century Colonial home for the 1976 celebration. Ann was the docent for her home, and in charge of volunteers for the tri-town historical house tour. For 20 years, she worked tirelessly at the Deep River Congregational Church, involved with Christian education, Ye Olde Christmas Faire, deacons, Board of Christian Service, and the women’s group, the “Flock.”
Ann worked as an EMT for Deep River Ambulance, once delivering a baby in a car on Route 9. On another run, a man in a severe car accident told Ann he feared he was dying. She told him, “Not on my watch,” and indeed he survived, never forgetting her comforting words.
She sat on the boards and/or volunteered for many other organizations in Connecticut, including the Deep River Library, the American Red Cross, Tri-Town Youth Services, Lower Valley Visiting Nurses, Meals on Wheels, and MADD. In memory of her son Richard, she sponsored a scholarship for graduating seniors at VRHS for over 10 years. Always the renaissance woman, Ann ran her own boutique of women’ accessories for two years, and later worked as a sales representative for the Main Street News.
One of Ann’s superpowers was making everything beautiful. Whether she was planting in her garden, making flower arrangements for a church event, decorating for the holidays or a party, or wrapping a carefully chosen present, her innate sense of beauty and style brought joy and a sense of wonder to everyone who encountered her gifts.
Always elegant and poised, she had great taste in fashion, and never left the house without her signature pink lipstick and jewelry on, hair perfectly coiffed. A neighbor who knew her since he was a young boy recently remarked, “I was always a bit in awe of her … she was like a goddess with cookies.”
Ann loved to have fun and laugh, but she especially adored a good party with dancing. She’d be one of the first up on the dance floor, and one of the last to leave. She enjoyed music from all different genres, her favorites including ’50s rock ’n’ roll, opera singer Andrea Bocelli, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Carly Simon. Ann also delighted in a good cup of coffee, chocolate bars (a stash always in her purse), dolls, and playing with her grandchildren.
After spending many summers on Martha’s Vineyard, Ann moved to her beloved island year-round in 1996. She dedicated herself to volunteering for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Habitat for Humanity, the M.V. Agricultural Society, the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, and the Federated Church of Edgartown, among others.
Summer on the island was her ultimate happy place -— sunbathing and swimming at State Beach, taking visiting friends for a tour, Sunday breakfasts at Mel’s Diner, browsing at farmers markets, cheering at the Edgartown Fourth of July parade, attending live performances, and watching the glorious sunset at Menemsha Beach. Her most favorite island experience of all was the annual Oak Bluffs Fireworks. Every year after the fireworks’ famed grand finale, she’d exclaim, “Wasn’t that WONDERFUL!? Best fireworks yet!”
Ann consistently gave generously of her time to serve the communities where she lived throughout her lifetime. She was kind and determined, and had a gusto for life with an energy level that seldom waned. She was a loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend — and lifted the spirits of hundreds of others. Ann taught her children to see the beauty in the world, and when you can’t find it, make it! To be a leader, not a follower, to be a true friend, and that any food, however humble, is good if prepared with love.
For 81 years, the world had the gift of Ann, and we will miss her terribly. But in heaven there’s a big party happening, and Ann— young, beautiful and whole again — is right in the middle, dancing.
Ann is survived by her daughters Bethany Durkin, Gay Sherman, and Robin Harper: grandchildren Galen, Olivia, Chauncey, Lucy, and Sarah: and brother Harold (Ted) Mellor. She was predeceased by her son Richard Mark Sherman; brother Mark E. Mellor; and parents Ruth and Harold Mellor.
A celebration of Ann’s life will be held at the Deep River Congregational Church in Deep River, Conn., in late July. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, 111 Edgartown Road, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or the Alzheimer’s Association, 225 North Michigan Ave. Floor 17, Chicago, IL 60601, or to another nonprofit or charity of your choice.