A town gathered on Saturday to commemorate a much-loved Islander whose vivacity and self-determination affected members of the many different areas of the Martha’s Vineyard community she moved between.
A memorial potluck for Virginia Hackney drew numbers approaching 100 to the lawn of the Hackney home on North Main street, Vineyard Haven, where relatives and friends congregated following a service at Grace Church. Sun from October’s last weekend worked its way into a specially-erected marquee as inside mourners lip-synched, jigged, clapped and sang along to Madonna’s Material Girl, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and other numbers from Virginia’s top karaoke repertoire.
A montage of photographs mounted on a board near the marquee stage presented Virginia in her many guises as choral singer, figure skater, socialite and vendor at Chilmark Chocolates. Without exception showing her smiling or laughing, these testified to Virginia’s love of people and of the limelight.
Virginia Hackney died on Oct. 5, 2007, aged 49, after fighting pancreatic cancer for more than a year. Despite a lifelong mental handicap, Virginia lived independently, accomplished much and was a supportive friend to many.
Eulogies came from neighbors, fellow ten-pin bowlers, karaoke partners, and even Vineyard Haven commuters happily recalling being held up at Five Corners by the avid cyclist, who was loathe to pass even the barest acquaintance without a conservational hiatus. Virginia made lasting impressions on those who to others might have remained strangers. “A lot of people thought they were Virginia’s best friend,” said her mother, Lucy Hackney, on the day.
Many speeches elicited expressions of giddy excitement on the faces of mourners vividly recalling some memorable trait of the effusive Virginia. The day was characterized by the tearful smiles of those who, hurt at the loss of their friend, could not fail to laugh in memory at the ubiquitous entreaty to “Behave,” Virginia’s battle cry.
Dale Ferry, Virginia’s bowling partner, regaled his audience with heartfelt remembrances of his friend. “Was she better at bowling than you?” came a shouted question from the audience. “No,” said Mr. Ferry definitively. “She thought she was though.”
Virginia’s strength of character was regularly remarked upon, particularly her ability to work, travel and unwaveringly apply herself to her chosen pursuits, in all of which she exhibited singular will power. On her last evening she sat, as Mrs. Hackney recalled, tired and severely ailing, after a visit from the doctor. Glancing at her watch Virginia suddenly remembered an appointment. “Oh my God, it’s time for choir practice,” she said, calling for her wheelchair. She was brought to church where she sang as usual. Among the letters printed in a booklet distributed at the potluck was one from Hackney family friends Joanne and Joel Stern. They remarked that, “Virginia was dealt a poor hand, but she played it like a champion.”