Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends” is perfect for this time of year.
We who honor Maria Shea Moody, who died on Oct. 11, 2022, at the age of 89, knew her to be a source of compassion to all who loved her. She had a grace, a wisdom, a belief in each friend’s spirit and meaningfulness. She lived on Dr. Fischer Road in West Tisbury, creating beauty all around her. When her husband died, she had a butterfly release as a tribute to his faithful company over the decades. Those butterflies landed on all of their admirers, reminding them how kindness always wins in the end. She planted more flowers, and strengthened her ties to those who thrived in her sincerity and warmth. Even the West Tisbury skunks paid her respect.
She was the extra mother and sister and friend, always leaving jelly, orange or spearmint candy, some toys and books for little ones, a bouquet from her garden, and her promise to always be there around the corner. Her collies and birds greeted her like a fairy tale queen. Windows that stretched from ceiling to floor pulled in the unique blossoms, variegated leaves, and snowflakes. On her many side tables lay still life collections awaiting a painter’s brush, and her notebook plans to meet up with someone to share the news of the day. Her kitchen held onto the aroma of her cooking, but she loved sampling new restaurant menus even if it meant helping drive to the Boston Museum of Fine Art to savor lunch after admiring famous artists’ creations. She had daily friends, weekly friends, monthly friends, some three generations old. Decades ago in West Tisbury, she encouraged temporarily homeless friends to set up tents on her land. As a widow, she gently comforted when a friend’s partner was ill and when the partner had passed, holding remembrances dear.
She followed the local news like an editor, memorizing real estate transactions, questioning what Island bylaws made sense and did not. Always the ardent environmentalist, she valued saving the simple and natural, deploring useless destruction, noisy businesses erected in quiet neighborhoods. When the dirt roads needed shoring up, water and electricity restored, Maria was the one to walk door to door to ask for cooperation. Never an idle gossip, she drove to the Post Office and engaged in meaningful conversations, never discouraging a difference in opinion. When she and her husband first arrived on the Island, they rode in on a motorcycle.
Even with failing health and bad knees, she drove confidently in her car, determined to be present to complete a task that usually meant enjoying and helping a friend. A lively cribbage player, she shared games and meals with lady friends on her monthly calendar. As a judge for the Agricultural Fairs, Maria would marvel at the food and craft and art creations, convinced they all belonged in a Boston museum. She wore loose clothing, embroidered vests, and jewelry to match the vibrant colors, often appearing to be a garden sculpture herself with a tiny bird on her shoulder. She loved children and young adults, intrigued by all of the ups and downs they went through. She believed that growing up meant stumbles along the way … that happiness was attainable, not always arriving at a designated time in life. When she became dependent on rides from friends, she would listen to the current music and remind the driver she had seen Freddy Mercury in Boston, never feeling too old to appreciate the new sounds. Always alert to current events, Maria could relay information that had somehow disappeared. Local and national events fascinated her; even when she could no longer attend meetings or protests, she would investigate the facts from different sources.
Spending her last years at Windemere, she decorated the windowsills with mementos from the past, with flowers she would clip from the outside solarium. To a few correspondents, she would send articles from the New York Times, the MV Times and the Vineyard Gazette, thrilled to get a letter back with comments. As a visitor, one would leave feeling uplifted, even when her own body gave her no relief. If a nurse or aide would stop by, she would introduce us, because we were all connected.
One aide in the evenings helped her watch documentaries, the film medium she preferred at the end of her life. Her own life story would make a thought-provoking documentary. Maria, born in 1933, spent her early years during the Great Depression and the New Deal (1929–43), World War II (1941–45), the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, the landing on the moon, the impeachment of Richard Nixon, the election of America’s first Black president, the election of Donald Trump, and the unraveling of the fact-based universe.
A final quote by Leigh Standley says farewell to Maria Moody: “There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains.”
William Coogan, West Tisbury; Martha Sullivan, West Tisbury; Connie Taylor, Chilmark; Liza Coogan, Vineyard Haven; Greg and Sharon Coogan, Oak Bluffs; Ann and Duncan Ross, Oak Bluffs; Mary Pat Hough-Greene, Pennsylvania; Ellen McCluskey, Vineyard Haven; Michael Colaneri, West Tisbury; Wendy Andrews, Vineyard Haven