On Sunday, July 7, Beatrice (Vanderhoop) Gentry died at her home in Gay Head surrounded by her family. Mrs. Gentry loved Gay Head and the people who live here. Sadly, she was the last surviving member of the Cummings Adrian and Jestina Vanderhoop family.
Growing up in Gay Head and Vineyard Haven, she graduated from Tisbury High School in 1928. She continued her education at Framingham State Teacher’s College and graduated in 1932 with a four-year teaching degree. To pay for college, she gathered clay from the cliffs to make pottery and worked as a waitress at the School at the Inn at Walden Pond. She excelled academically, with the president of Framingham State University at her graduation telling her class that Beatrice was the only student who attended every class and turned in all her homework assignments. While in college she was on the debate team, the swim team and played forward on the women’s basketball team.
After graduation she followed her dream by first teaching a year at the Oak Bluffs Elementary School, then at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Schools at Ft. Sill Indian School, Pine Ridge Indian School and Chirlocco Indian Agricultural School. In 1934 the BIA was going through a school reform and Mrs. Gentry was selected to lead the effort in home economics.
While at Ft. Sill, Mrs. Gentry met her husband, James R. Gentry, who was deceased in 1991. They traveled the world, moving 114 times to set up a home for her family. As a mother, she provided her children Russell (deceased in 1995), Barbara and Joan with all the things she dreamed of, and to her the possibilities were endless. She created a loving environment and taught her children they could be whatever they wanted to be. The family lived in Alaska, New York, Kansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Massachusetts and Germany. While living in Germany, the family traveled throughout Europe, visiting historic sites in England, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and France.
After Mr. Gentry retired from the Air Force, the family moved to Oklahoma and spent their summers on Martha’s Vineyard. In 1964 the family permanently moved to the Island and Mrs. Gentry established an American Indian jewelry shop in Oak Bluffs with her sister, Bertha Giles Robinson, which they ran for 40 years. Mr. and Mrs. Gentry loved Oak Bluffs and the people who lived there, and especially enjoyed the four generations of families as their customers. In addition to the gift shop, Mrs. Gentry taught at the Chilmark School with Mildred Mayhew as principal. Some of her fondest memories were spent teaching with Mrs. Mayhew and the students who attended the Chilmark School.
Mrs. Gentry was also involved in the Aquinnah town government. She helped to develop the Gay Head Library and worked on the zoning laws for the town. She and Mrs. Robinson worked on the committee for the 100th celebration for their beloved town of Gay Head, which included decorating the town hall, providing remembrances for all the participants and cooking all the foods that their ancestors enjoyed.
In 1970, 18 Wampanoag people representing the tribe banded together to form a government since the Indian population was no longer the majority residing in Gay Head. Mrs. Gentry was elected as the first president of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head from 1972 to 1974. The council was established to protect and ensure the sovereignty for the tribe by seeking federal recognition, and to guarantee their land base, the ownership of the cliffs, common lands and ancestral landmarks. The economic development plan was to establish a fishery, and to begin this endeavor four young men from the community attended the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture and received their Associate’s degrees. The final initiative was to obtain the tribe’s first federal grants and private grant monies. Mrs. Gentry also was elected chairperson of the Massachusetts Indian Commission and helped to reestablish the Massachusetts Indian Commission after 100 years with all American Indian commissioners.
Mrs. Gentry received the Alumni Achievement Award from Framingham State Teacher’s College at the 50th anniversary of her class in 1982. In her retirement, she and her husband enjoyed living on the Island, attending the Community Baptist Church, watching their grandchildren grow and attending their sporting events, which included her granddaughter’s statewide swim meets.
In 2010 Mrs. Gentry celebrated her 100th birthday with the tribe and the community. Mrs. Gentry had already decided on the type of cake she wanted for her 103rd birthday, but on July 7 she fell asleep with her family around her and died peacefully.
She is predeceased by her husband, James R. Gentry; her son, Russell Gentry; and her parents, Cummings Adrian and Jestina Vanderhoop. She is also predeceased by her brothers and sisters: Ida Colby, Clarence (Buddy) Vanderhoop, Earl Vanderhoop, Bertha Giles Robinson, Barbara Taylor and Thelma Weissburg, as well as her closest cousins from Chatham: Howard, Ernestine, Thelma, Roland and Frank James.
She is survived by her daughters, Barbara Gentry and Joan Patadal; her granddaughters, Anya Nicole and Adrian Gentry from New London, Conn., and Beatrice Patadal; and a great granddaughter, Aiden Gentry from New London, Conn. Mrs. Gentry’s nieces and nephews are Robert and Bevelry MacDiarmid of Aquinnah and West Virginia; Steven and Jan MacDiarmid Held of Aquinnah and Miller, Md.; Dennis and Brooke McKillop of Gig Harbor, Wash.; Debbie Taylor of Seattle, Wash.; Leslie Taylor of Seattle, Wash.; Cythia Aikens of Roosevelt, Utah and Aquinnah; Doughlas and Linda Vanderhoop of White Rocks, Utah and Aquinnah; Thea Aikens of Yakima, Wash. and Aquinnah; Melvin Colby of Providence, R.I.; Eric Colby of Maine; Lewis Colby of Aquinnah; Berta and Vernon Giles and Sophia Welch of Aquinnah; Adriana and Bruce Ignacio of Aquinnah and Ft. Duchense, Utah; Ona Cameron of Aquinnah; Amera Ignacio of Aquinnah; Carla Cuch of Aquinnah; Cameron Cuch of Ft. Duchesne, Utah; David and Alicia Cuch of Aquinnah; Frankie and Melonie Perez of Aquinnah; and Peter and Iritza Perez of Aquinnah. Her closest cousins include June MacDonald of Chatham, Vivian James of Chatham, Shirley Freethy of Chatham, Roland James of Boston, Sharon Ryone of Brewster and Donna Sacher of Denver.
Her funeral was held on Thursday, July 11, at 10 a.m. at the Gay Head Community Baptist Church on Meeting House Way in Aquinnah, with interment at 11 a.m. at the Gay Head cemetery off of State Road. A reception was held at the Wampanoag Tribal Building at 20 Black Brook Road. A visitation with family and friends was Wednesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the church. A memorial fire continued from the visitation until the graveside service. Donations in her memory may be made to the Beatrice V. Gentry Educational Scholarship Fund, c/o the Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), 20 Black Brook Road, Aquinnah, MA 02535.