John (Jack) H. Ware Jr.: 1919-2009

It is often said there is no more noble calling than public service. Certainly that is true in this Island community where the quality of life rests so heavily on the selfless work of so many volunteers and public servants. Those who devote time to the service of others, from the political arenas of town halls to the corridors of our Island hospital and beyond to the work of Community Services, deserve the gratitude of all Vineyard citizens.

But every once in awhile a person on the Island rises to define the best of public service, indeed the best of the Vineyard. John (Jack) H. Ware Jr. was such a person. Jack Ware died recently at age 90 at a life care community near the sea in Scarborough, Maine. He was close to family and had moved there, with his now deceased wife, Jane Dickie, after twenty years of residence in his retirement home on Hatch Road in Vineyard Haven.

Jack grew up around Vineyard Haven in summers and later became a championship sailor. He retired to the Island in 1981 and spent the next twenty years proving that the word “retirement” was not in the Ware vocabulary. Some people do public service; Jack Ware made such work a calling. And in the two Island decades before his departure to Maine Jack accomplished more in public service to fellow citizens than most do in a lifetime.

He served the Island through periods of great turbulence: twice as a Tisbury selectman; twice on the town finance committee; interim head of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services; leader of a blue ribbon committee to strengthen town government; a senior warden at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven; and perhaps most importantly the founder of the Permanent Endowment Fund of Martha’s Vineyard, an organization that now devotes its more than $7 million in assets to “preserving the quality of Vineyard life forever.”

The real point about the life of Jack Ware is that he cared about the lives of others on the Island more than he cared about his own. And he managed to accomplish something that so many others fail to do while working in the sometimes difficult and divisive arenas of Vineyard public life. Jack always stayed above the heated fray. He was quiet, thoughtful and never angry or wounding in his comments about controversial issues that too often fractured Island life.

John (Jack) H. Ware Jr. will be remembered always as someone who gave so much more to the Island and her people than he ever received. Clearly Jack Ware was one those rare people who made a real difference to lives of those around him. The principles that guided his life and his public service to the Island remained in place to the day of his departure for Maine in 2001. His parting words to the citizens of this place he so loved were these:

“Do continue to make your gifts and encourage others to do so, because every gift is a gift that will endure into the future, strengthening the quality of life on Martha’s Vineyard forever.”