Denys and Marilyn Wortman of Hines Point were honored on Friday as the joint recipients of this year’s Spirit of the Vineyard award, given annually by Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. The Wortmans’ work and community support was praised, and their sense of humor celebrated, by their friends and associates who made the atmosphere a jovial one at the celebration in the regional high school’s culinary arts room.
The award, now in its 12th year, is one nonprofit organization’s effort to recognize those who serve other nonprofits in the biggest way. Past recipients have included the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders, Kerry Alley, Ron Rappaport, Dorothy Bangs and the Possible Dreams Auction committee, as well as its founder, Polly Brown.
The Wortman couple wears many hats in the community, so the presentation took some time to deliver, as a number of different Islanders spoke The first was Melinda Loberg of Vineyard Haven, last year’s recipient, who confessed that when she received the award last year, she felt uncomfortable, because so many others in the community were so deserving.
“I feel so much better now,” she said, adding that to her the Wortmans personify the words Spirit of the Vineyard. “They are close to my heart.”
Ms. Loberg said the Wortmans were essential in helping the town restore the old brick pump station at the head of Lake Tashmoo. She said the couple’s fundraising efforts and advocacy helped to bring life back to a town building with a long history that almost fell apart.
Mr. Wortman, who last year finished a term as a Tisbury selectman, was praised for his political prowess, both as a selectman and on the town’s financial advisory committee. Mr. Wortman also serves as president and cofounder of the local community access cable television station MVTV.
Edgartown veteran selectman Arthur Smadbeck said he remembered the first time Mr. Wortman came to him years ago and suggested that the new cable television station would cover and air all Edgartown’s selectmen’s meetings.
“We were horrified,” Mr. Smadbeck said.
Despite the selectmen’s reluctance to have their meetings on television, he said, “It is the best thing that has happened. It gives us all the ability to see what we’re doing.
“Another mark of [Mr. Wortman as] a visionary,” Mr. Smadbeck said, is that Mr. Wortman revitalized the meetings of the Dukes County Selectmen’s Association, which had ceased to meet for years. “He rose to the challenge and put together the meetings . . . . These qualities are emblematic of the Spirit of the Vineyard.”
More than one speaker referred to Mr. Wortman as riding in good favor on the coattails of his wife.
Speakers shed light on Mrs. Wortman’s activities for nonprofit organizations, serving in a number of voluntary roles for the Lagoon Pond Association, as treasurer for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Auxiliary, overseeing the hospital’s Tree of Lights fund-raising efforts and as treasurer for the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, all while working for the town of Edgartown parks and recreation department. She is a trustee of the Vineyard Haven Library and chairman of fund-raising for the Island Community Chorus.
YMCA president Chuck Hughes seized the moment to shed light on Mrs. Wortman’s activities with his nonprofit organization, where she is a board member. He described himself as a member of her fan club.
Speaking with a smile, Mr. Hughes said: “She is honest and blunt and bluntly honest. She tells it like it is.
“They give a lot to the Island,” Mr. Hughes said.
State representative Tim Madden went further; beyond giving high praise to the couple, he gave each a signed certificate from the State House noting their contribution to the community. It was important he give each a separate document, Mr. Madden said, so they can hang them in their separate offices.
Polly Brown of Hospice, another past recipient of the award, had the final word. She gave the two the shining medal in a small wooden box.
Mr. Wortman thanked the speakers and the community for coming out to give such praise. “I was touched. I think I am going to cry.
“In public office you don’t get a lot of thanks. We can all give more thanks to those who serve,” he said.