Phyllis Clair Deitz’s daughter and three of her grandchildren were at her bedside when she died on July 22 last year. Her amazing obituary in the Vineyard Gazette was titled, Phyllis Deitz, 90, Was an Oak Bluffs Girl at Heart. According to the obituary, Mrs. Deitz was born Sept. 2, 1921 in her own words “in a little brown house on New York avenue” next to the gas station and garage that her dad had built and later sold to Ambler Wormsley. Mr. Wormsley sold the business in 1946 to Nelson DeBettencourt whose family still owns and operates it, and where at times my buddy Billy Reagan’s sister Casey works. Billy and Casey’s mom (and hers before her) operates the Attleboro guest house at the Camp Ground alongside the harbor. Nelson DeBettencourt is the grandfather of John Tiernan, co-owner of the award-winning Dockside Inn.
Phyllis Deitz was a Gilkes, born to Elsie Schwemmler and Cooper Alleyne Gilkes and she married Kenny Deitz, who stole our Oak Bluffs girl away south to Edgartown in 1949. They remained married for 51 years until Ken’s death in 1997. Mrs. Deitz lived on New York avenue until the crash of 1929. Before this, her dad owned the Dreamland Garage that operated tours and had a taxi cab service. She went to the Oak Bluffs School, was a girl scout, played a bugle in the drum and bugle corps and was in the 4-H club. She graduated with 10 others at Union Chapel in 1940 and worked at Ann and Burt’s Variety Store (owned by Janie Peters’ family since the early 1900s) next to the Flying Horses.
When I read that, I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew that Circuit avenue street kid, Stuart MacMackin, who was born Oct. 2, 1914 and wrote about those halcyon years.
Phyllis Deitz also worked in Studley’s Store, which was located next to the old A&P, formerly Deon’s and soon to be something Beetlebung. Later, after graduating in 1942 from the Waltham Training School for Attendant Nurses, she worked at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital until she married Kenneth W. Deitz in September 1946. Phyllis Clair Deitz is survived by many loved ones, on and off-Island. It’s remarkable that someone had the foresight to ask her to write down some of the highlights of her life so that she could share her story of being a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, wife, homemaker and active member of the community. Romantically though, I’m thinking Will Hardy wrote a song about Phyllis Claire Deitz.
Tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., if you’re wanting for whimsy, the Oak Bluffs library has a snowflake craft project for ages 5 and older. Is there no end to Sondra Murphy’s creativity in getting people to visit the pride of Pacific avenue?
On Thursday at 6 p.m., Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard is showing the film Genetic Roulette at the library about GMOs — Genetically Modified Organisms in food, something that somehow sounds bad even as I long for a fritter from MV Gourmet Bakery, which boasts an excess of sugar and carbs.
Never one wont to devote precious Oak Bluffs column space to other towns, the Tisbury Senior Center has a travel club with a $38 February 20th trip to the 2014 Spring Garden & Flower Show in Providence. The show combines flowers with classic cars like a 1950s period garden with a classic Chevy Bel Air and an Italian piazza with a Ferrari — stuff for guys and gals. Reach out to Sandra Whitworth at email@example.com or 508-696-4205 for information. It’s a one-day trip returning on the 5 p.m. boat, so you can still go hang out at the Ritz afterwards.
Didn’t I tell you 2014 would be a great year for Oak Bluffs? Our selectmen’s hard work has now obtained a $3.6 million grant to help complete the North Bluff’s restoration. Way to start a year y’all! I’m proud to be in OB!
“Every night down to the Tivoli, to the Tivoli we would go; down where the band played so dreamily, oh so dreamily, lights were low. There I would waltz with my summertime maid, as proud as a duke or an earl, and she gave me her heart while the orchestra played, there I won my Tivoli girl.” — Tivoli Girl by Will Hardy. Dance in peace Mr. and Mrs. Deitz.
Keep your foot on a rock.