Such heartbreak this week, with the death of the great June Manning last Monday. June did so much for her family and community that it actually feels as if we have lost more than one person. She was the embodiment of the role of elder, as a keeper of knowledge and an example of service. Here are the things I know of that she did: wrote the Aquinnah column for the Vineyard Gazette for 28 years, served on the boards of the Council on Aging and the M.V. Museum, and retired from the board of M.V. Community Services after serving for nine years, but she still served on at least two of the committees and volunteered at Chicken Alley. She took care of the Coast Guard, rallied around them when they needed it, and helped them where she could. She volunteered once a month with the Greater Boston Food Bank distribution, checked people in when they were voting or attending town meetings, and did errands for people who were housebound. In the summer she helped her son, Paul, and his wife, Theresa, at Cliffhangers and sold beach stickers in Chilmark. I know there was more because those were only the activities I saw her do and she told me once that her family raised her to be of service and to not make a fuss about it.
Please don’t misunderstand — June was not a saint. There were plenty of times I heard her comment on people out of the side of her mouth (always with a dose of humor) and she was not without judgement. What she was, was a human being in service to other human beings. She knew the value of community and family and she knew her value within the community. She learned the most that she could about her family and the people around her and became a resource for everyone, but especially other tribal members for all things related to genealogy. I truly hope that she wrote down at least some of the history she knew, otherwise her loss is even more devastating.
Love loves love, and June loved her family best of all and was so proud of them. She was glowing when her granddaughter, Kayla, moved to the Island to raise her family here. She posted her grandsons’ Chris and Noah’s career and school accomplishments to her Facebook page, wrote of them in her column, and passed them on to me to make sure that I would mention them here. She was happy to live in her house with Paul, Theresa, and Noah right there next to her. And she loved Aquinnah, her hometown and its people — her extended family.
I will miss June so very much and it is truly difficult to comprehend that she is gone. I keep expecting to see her at the library or driving down-Island or moving about in a blur of purple on her way to help someone. At the end of her service, I walked down the hill of the cemetery with Kate Taylor and her daughter, Liz Witham. We were trying to piece together which Mannings were June’s parents, and which were step-parents or aunts. We couldn’t quite sort it out. Automatically, I thought to myself, “We’ll just have to ask June.”
The book group will meet at the library this Thursday, Nov. 18, from 3 to 4 pm to discuss “Intimacies” by Katie Kitumara. The group will be held outside on the library deck, weather permitting, or on Zoom if there is inclement weather. Email email@example.com to register.
Noli Taylor of Island Grown Initiative will speak on Thursday, Nov. 18, as part of the museum’s “One Island, Many Stories Speaker Series.” The talk will take place on Zoom, and each episode of the program will feature research librarian Bow Van Riper in conversation with a different member of the Island community whose work engages with one of the exhibition’s themes: escaping, changing, voyaging, belonging, creating, fishing, and farming. On Thursday, Bow and Noli will speak on the theme of “Farming.” Admission for museum members is $5, and $7 for non-members. Go to mvmuseum.org to register.
As part of Native American Heritage Month, Darius Coombs, cultural outreach coordinator for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, will speak on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 11 am in the Morgan Learning Center at the museum. The Wampanoag people have fished, hunted, gathered, and planted on these lands for thousands of years. Coombs will describe how they honor and respect the ways of mother earth and will teach some of the cultural values the Wampanoag embrace as they go through their 13-moon cycle and celebrations to the Creator. He will also detail how the Wampanoag had to endure the effects of colonization and give examples of how the culture is still thriving today. There will be time left for questions and answers at the end of the talk. Admission is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Advanced registration is required, and space is limited. Please note masks are required. Register at mvmuseum.org/noepe.
The Aquinnah Artisans are back, and will be having their holiday fair on Dec. 11 and 12 at the Aquinnah Town Hall. Anyone with something to sell at this event can email Gabbi Camilleri at firstname.lastname@example.org to get an application.
Happy birthday to my Scorpio sisters, Tiffany Vanderhoop, Nov. 18, and Ngina Johnson, Nov. 21.