Grace Frye, a lifelong resident of Oak Bluffs, died peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday evening, Feb. 13, with her son Vincent Frye by her side. She was 95.
Grace loved life on Martha’s Vineyard, and her family, her cats and selling Avon. She came from a simpler time and humble beginnings.
When Grace was six, her foster mother, Mabel Hughes, a native of Oak Bluffs, returned to Oak Bluffs from Hingham to care for her ailing mother. Mabel’s mother died shortly after their return to Martha’s Vineyard but Mabel and Grace would stay on the Island for the rest of their lives.
Mabel was active politically in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Methodist church, and worked as a cook in several local restaurants and inns. To help her mother make ends meet, Grace began working at the age of 13, setting up trays for patients and washing dishes at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, earning five dollars a week. It wasn’t until 1935 that their home would have electricity.
Despite the hard times endured trying to make ends meet during the Depression, Grace loved living on the Island. On the weekends she would take a quarter she had earned from working and head downtown to indulge in an ice cream cone, a bag of popcorn, a couple of rides on the Flying Horses and a quick swim at the Inkwell.
Grace would go on to graduate from the Oak Bluffs high school in 1936 with seven other students. Initially after graduating she worked inland, but she always came back to Oak Bluffs, the place she loved. One summer she met and began dating her future husband, George C. Frye. With his father, George W., and his two brothers, George owned and operated a shoeshine and cobbler shop on Circuit avenue. For 48 years this business flourished and acted as a social spot for men to gather and swap stories. Three generations of Fryes would work at the Cobbler Shop on Circuit avenue, the same spot that would eventually become part of Mad Martha’s. When Grace met George, he was a widower with two small girls, Grace and Susan. They would marry in 1940 and later have a son, Vincent.
While George worked in the Cobbler Shop, Grace raised the three children. She also served as secretary to the Trinity United Methodist Church and had secretarial jobs with the Better Homes and Gracious Living Clubs. Grace had an affinity for selling things and, based on a friend’s recommendation, she began selling Avon products in 1956. She would go on to sell Avon for over 50 years, building up a loyal base of customers and winning countless awards. Her living room was filled with china cups and porcelain figurines for making the President’s Club and Honor Society sales goals. In 1995 she was awarded the sales district’s Spirit of Avon award for her lifelong service and accomplishments, and her attitude of giving, sharing and selflessness. Avon would later give her a Tiffany gold watch for her years of service.
After her husband died in 1968, Grace never remarried. She focused on her family, her Siamese cats, the friends she had made on the Island, and taking in summer boarders. She took great pride in her house and loved tending to her flowers. Grace also loved to travel, which often included an annual trip to California to visit her three children and a short stop in Reno or Las Vegas, where she could indulge in a little gambling. Her travels would also take her to such far away places as Egypt, Panama and Tahiti.
Grace is survived by her daughter, Grace Reeves and her son in law, Larkin Reeves; her son, Vincent Frye; her three grandsons, Edward Harris, Ralph Harding and Frank Frye; and her two great-grandchildren, Chelsea Harris and Eric Frazier, and her great-great-granddaughter Eris Frazier. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made in Grace’s name to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549. Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.