By PHYLLIS MERAS
M ore than 150 friends and supporters of retiring State Rep. Eric T. Turkington honored him with a farewell party at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Hall in West Tisbury Sunday afternoon. Mr. Turkington, who has represented the Cape and Islands for the last 20 years, is stepping down to run for register of probate in Barnstable county in November.
Although he was unable to attend, Cong. William Delahunt, in greetings he sent, made the following comment: “Over the years, there has never been a more forceful advocate for the Vineyard than Eric. He is a rare breed. He truly understands the issues and is quick to respond with real tenacity when there is a crisis.”
Also praising Mr. Turkington’s years of service were Russell Smith of Vineyard Haven, his legislative liaison for the last 12 years, former county commissioner Robert Sawyer of Vineyard Haven, Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, former West Tisbury selectman John G. Early, and county commissioner and Oak Bluffs selectman Roger Wey.
Mr. Doty remembered how, after listening to a James Taylor-Carly Simon concert on the grounds of the old Agricultural Society hall at a time when there were only dreams of a new one, Mr. Turkington had murmured,“I think I could get money for this place,” and had. And he recalled, when application was being made to the State Library Commission for a new library in Chilmark, how Mr. Turkington and Sen. Robert O’Leary had joined him in hand-delivering the application to the library commission in Boston.
“I guess the library commissioners weren’t accustomed to seeing a grant application presented by legislators. We had coffee and doughnuts there and presented our proposal and three weeks later we had $1.1 million for a new library building.”
Roger Wey happily recalled Representative Turkington’s successful efforts to see that wooden, not unsightly metal, guard rails were built along Beach Road, along with his successful opposition to a golf course in the Southern Woodlands and to keeping the Steamship Authority out of the hands of state government.
Accepting the plaudits, Mr. Turkington, in turn, thanked the party-givers and supporters and called his years of service “a wonderful time.” He recalled that when he became state representative he had known only a handful of Vineyarders — John T. Hough Jr., the late Robert Morgan, Roger Blake, John S. Alley and Ted Karalekas, and how those numbers since have grown. He praised the legislative liaisons he has had on the Vineyard, beginning with Mr. Morgan and the late Douglas Ewing and continuing with Mr. Smith.
Organizers of the party were Mr. Smith, Barbara Day and Rhonda Cohen. Planning committee members for the celebration were Christina Brown, Julia Burgess, Dan Cabot, Mimi Davisson, Mr. Early, Christine Flynn, Nancy Gardella, George A. Hough, Richard Knabel, Margaret Logue, Nora Nevin, Tom Pachico, Robert Sawyer, Leah Smith, Paul Strauss, Tobias Vanderhoop, David Vigneault and Jim Weiss.