Alice Rogers (Gaines) Brown of Edgartown, fondly known as Ali to all who had the pleasure of her acquaintance, died peacefully on Saturday, July 14, at the Windemere Nursing Center following a period of rapidly declining health. She was 71.
Ali was born on Nov. 11, 1929, in Buffalo, N.Y., the daughter of Alden and Ruth Rogers. She was an 11th-generation direct descendant of pilgrims John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, and counted numerous prominent early Americans among her ancestry. Her childhood was spent in Buffalo and Concord, where she attended Concord Academy and was graduated with the Class of 1947. She received her bachelor's degree in political science from Vassar College in 1951.
Ali was employed for several years in the administrative offices of Yale University, then arrived on the Vineyard in 1954 with the intention of spending just the summer, working at the Menemsha Inn. Here she fell in love with the Island's many charms, as well as swordfisherman Daniel Philip Gaines of Edgartown, and permanent residence followed suit. The couple was wed the next year and settled in Edgartown to raise three children, spending each summer in the remote and rustic family camp at Wasque on Chappaquiddick. There, Ali took special pleasure in the simple lifestyle, the beauty and bounty of the seaside environment and the abundant opportunities to pursue her lifelong passion for birdwatching.
A visionary and articulate advocate for the natural world, Ali was instrumental in the formulation and organization of the conservation movement on the Vineyard in the mid-1960s. As founding secretary of the Vineyard Conservation Society, and similarly of the first Edgartown conservation commission, she worked eagerly and tirelessly to promote the cause of conservation and planning long before the pressures of development came fully to bear on the Island. She was integral to the preservation of Lighthouse Beach, Katama Farm, the Wasque Reservation and numerous other far-sighted efforts to ensure the protection of natural resources and landscapes for generations to come.
Following the untimely death of her first husband in 1972, Ali entered the working world of downtown Edgartown, where her infectious good nature and unmatched integrity would become a fixture of community life for more than 25 years. She was remarried to David N. Brown in 1976 and worked first at the Turf & Tackle Shop, then as classified ad manager at the Vineyard Gazette, and later as manager of the Ship's Store at Edgartown Marine. Her final job was as sales clerk at Edgartown Hardware, from which she retired at the end of 1998.
True to her spirit of volunteerism, Ali served on the Edgartown School Committee during the 1980s and lent her energy and talents to the Dukes County Historical Society and her perennial favorite, the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. On Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon, rain or shine, countless visitors over the years were warmed by Ali's cheerful smile and obvious reverence for the natural world and all of its inhabitants.
For all who knew her, Ali Brown came to exemplify a spirit of neighborly courtesy, quiet competence and selfless devotion to family and community -- the very qualities of Vineyard life which so captured her heart and blessed the Island with her presence for the past 47 years.
She is survived by a daughter, Lynda L. Hathaway, and her companion, James LeBarre; two sons, Daniel Dana Gaines and Warren Vincent Gaines, and a daughter in law, Debra M. Gaines, all of Edgartown; a sister, Dr. Susan M. Markle of Chicago; her ex-husband, David N. Brown of Tucson; her beloved grandchildren, LuAnna H. Pinkham, Gary, Joshua, Brian and Kevin Hathaway and Cassaundra, Michaella and Daniel Philip Gaines 2nd, Vineyarders all; two stepchildren, Patricia Brown Fugee of Ohio and William Jeffrey Brown of Edgartown; a nephew, Alden Meyer of Maryland, and numerous cousins. She was predeceased by her first husband and a grandson, Timothy Joseph Hathaway.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 25, at the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home. Interment will follow at the New Westside Cemetery in Edgartown. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Ali's memory be sent to the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, P.O. Box 494, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 or Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.