Oak Bluffs: Maynard Silva, ‘Chicago’ the musical, Marie Allen, and Tom Rancich

—MV Times

“If you accept in your heart that it’s a good day to die, you can really live, baby!” –Maynard Silva

We’ll be celebrating Island blues man Maynard Silva’s birthday this month. Maynard was born in Oak Bluffs on Feb. 20, 1951. He graduated from MVRHS, where his English teacher, Leroy Hazelton, turned him onto the blues by playing a Howlin’ Wolf record. Maynard was hooked. His art teacher, Gene Baer, who was also a piano player, saw his interest, and taught him about music theory.

Pete Ortiz, a professional Island sign painter, took Maynard on as his apprentice, teaching him how to be creative within traditional sign painting. Maynard credited all three of these people as the big influences in his life, which took him to St. Louis and Memphis and anywhere people were playing the blues. He played with the greats, like J.B. Hutto, Bukka White, Buddy Guy, and others, he started a band, recorded albums, and toured. In the ’80s, he moved back home, where he took up sign painting and played the blues all over the Island in clubs, concerts, and benefits. Or, as I would find him, sitting outside his little house on Wing Road, playing and singing while he took a break from painting the moving van in his driveway. I’d stop and listen, and when I would applaud, he’d say, “Aww, I’m just playin’ those three damn chords.” Maynard was the epitome of great talent, greater humility, and a deep respect for tradition. He left us too soon on July 16, 2008, leaving us with his amazing music, and every now and then you can spot a moving van with his signature painting on the side. Miss you, Maynard.

Don’t miss the musical this weekend! The MVRHS performing arts department is presenting “Chicago” starting Thursday night at 7 pm and running through Sunday at the PAC. Brooke Ditchfield is directing the production, with musical direction by Abigail Chandler, who will lead a 19-piece onstage jazz band made up of students and community musicians. With choreography by Ken Romero and costumes by Chelsea McCarthy, this 1920s story of celebrity, morality, greed, and justice will dazzle the PAC stage! Shows are at 7 pm each night, with a 2 pm Sunday matinee.

I am sad to note that Oak Bluffs lost one of our finest when Marie Allen passed away on Feb. 4 at age 92. Marie lived an exemplary life of action and service, in education and government, and was the type of Island citizen who gave back to her community. She served on various boards in town, and as clerk of M.V. Elderly Housing. She was an active member of the NAACP, filling many positions including president of the M.V. branch, and among her many awards, she was presented with the NAACP Living Legend Award in 2017. We send our condolences to her family, and our gratitude for Marie’s life.

I was also sad to hear of the passing of Tom Rancich. Tom was a force of nature, a brilliant and good man, a real American hero. Tom served in the Navy from 1985 until May 2005; he was a proud Navy special warfare officer and SEAL, and he saw combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke openly about the effects of war-related PTSD, and he started a company to employ service-disabled veterans in their fields of training. He gave his time to Island charities, he was a caring father, a good friend, and a great storyteller. He was my friend, and he had countless friends across the globe. Gone too soon, but never forgotten.

This is NOT a leap year, but I still need to know: How do you celebrate your birthday if you were born on Feb. 29 in a leap year? If you are a leap year baby, please let me know!

Happy birthday to Kathy Farrissey on the 16th! Lukas Olender celebrates his first birthday on the 17th, to the delight of Grandma Janet Sylvia, Great-Grandma Judy Pachico, and all his adoring aunts, uncles, and cousins! Garrison Vieira also celebrates on the 17th. Birthday hugs to Kendall Robinson, Carrie Tankard, and Joel Rebello on the 18th. Caitlyn Clark shares the 21st with the amazing singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist Nina Simone. On the 22nd, sending heavenly birthday love to Deidre Diodati.

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If you have any Oak Bluffs Town Column suggestions, email Joanne Lambert, joannelamber@gmail.com.