West Tisbury: Brava, Leslie

—MV Times

I think everyone in town was out doing errands on Friday, preparing for the big storm. When it came, it was definitely notable, but not the 24 to 30 inches of snow we were told to expect. We had about a foot at our house. The snow was constant, very heavy and wet. With the wind, it was almost blinding.

Chief Pachico had crews of first responders spending Saturday standing by at both fire stations. Fortunately, there was only one accident in town that morning, then a quiet rest of the day. EMTs, Police Department, and Emergency Management had planned ahead, too. My thanks to everyone who stood at the ready in case they were needed. And to the highway crew, who plowed and shoveled throughout the storm to keep our roads open and safe. Special kudos to Eversource for keeping most power outages of short duration.

Sunday was a sunny, blue-sky day, perfect for the snowblower. Mike cleared the driveway and paths to the woodpile, the trash enclosure, the compost pile, our workshop doors, and the circuitous route Abby likes to take around the yard. She has loved the snow, the opposite of our two cats, who wouldn’t dream of stepping a paw out into that cold, wet, icy stuff. Good thing, as both cat flaps froze shut.

Our library director, Alexandra Pratt, raises chickens, four to be exact, whom she describes as being the most spoiled chickens in town. She told me that she went out during the height of the storm to bring her chickens some warm oatmeal, a treat to raise their spirits.

Congratulations to Leslie Clapp, who was chosen to receive the Institute for Nonprofit Practice 2021 Changemaker Award. Leslie is the director of the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living, which she steered through the COVID pandemic with determination and a commitment to keep the program vital throughout. While many programs for elders closed across the country, the Center for Living’s Supportive Day Program continued. Staff and clients learned how to use Zoom to provide activities that kept clients engaged and in contact with one another. The program went back to meeting in-person in April 2021, and has continued to safely remain open. It has been Leslie’s vision to provide the best possible support for our Island’s elders and their families. The Center for Living continues to develop and grow under her guidance. Brava, Leslie.

It has been another week of sad losses for us and for the town. Two dear friends, Louise Bessire and Paul Levine, both died last week.

Louise lived in the big yellow and gray Victorian house on the corner of Edgartown and Old County roads. She had a spirit bigger than her 5 foot 2 physical self, and she lived it with aplomb and enthusiasm for whatever life had to offer. She and her late husband, Henry, bought the house in 1966, and Louise made it her business to learn everything she could about its history, its previous owner, Mrs. Mabel Johnson (it’s still called Mrs. Johnson’s house by old West Tisburyites), her gardens, and her famous braided rugs, which Louise began collecting. Her own garden includes some of the treasures she found, and it feels respectful of its site. Her snowdrops and pale blue crocuses are always the earliest ones I see along the road.

Louise was always interesting. Her conversations ranged from books, gardens, and local, state, and federal politics to recipes, sports, and most definitely contemporary art and design. She and Henry collected artists and their work, becoming beloved friends and collectors. She loved her birds, feeding them assiduously, taking great pleasure in watching their arrivals and antics. She had a spiritual side, and an unshakable moral compass. She was a wonderful friend, always ready with a cup of tea at moments of happiness, misery, and the normal everyday nothing-special times that she made feel so very special. Louise was fun. 

I will miss her every day. My condolences to her sons, Mark and Paul, to their families, to all the friends who were welcomed into her heart.

Paul Levine and his wife, Marie-Louise Rouff, have been friends for many years. Paul was devoted to the West Tisbury library, often seen there, often busy with some project or another. Many library patrons will remember his love for poetry and music, especially the annual programs he put together. “The World of Troubadours and Trobairitz” was comprised of poems, songs, and music from 12th and 13th century Southern France, and for many of us, our first introduction to the arts of chivalry and courtiers.

Paul was a molecular biologist in his professional life. He was also a writer, interested in most everything scientific, as well as the arts, and all aspects of the world and its inhabitants. He was curious about so many things. His study overflowed with books and papers, the kind of room that made me feel right at home. Paul was always willing to stop whatever he was doing to smile and make me feel welcome. I’m sure he was that way with all of his visitors. I wish now that I had stopped by more often. 

Marie-Louise said that he was writing up till the last few days before he died at home, the place he wanted to be. His other wish was for a green burial. That was accomplished, too; with help from Chapman and Gleason, Paul was buried as he wished in the West Tisbury cemetery.

To Marie-Louise and their family, to the friends he made wherever he went, my sincere condolences.

The sun made icicles in front of our greenhouse windows, where I have been watching them sparkle and drip. Our woods are encased in ice. It will all freeze again tonight when the temperature drops.