Walkers along East Chop Drive have watched the Stockton home being reconditioned for three years, and speculated on the new owners. I was thrilled to meet them this winter and to learn that they are as interesting as the beautiful home they have recreated.

Susan Staudt has a distinguished Vineyard pedigree. She has been summering here all of her life, first at the home of her grandfather Joseph Chase Allen, who was born on the Island and was a columnist for the Vineyard Gazette and Yankee Magazine. Susan is also related to the late Erford Burt through Joseph Allen’s second wife, who was the sister of Erford’s wife Alice.

Tom Staudt first came to the Vineyard 40 years ago when he married Susan. After graduating from Annapolis and serving five years in the navy, Tom moved on to the business world where he ended up the CEO of seven mid-sized companies. He was the guy private equity firms hired to turn things around. Their son Brian, age 29, is following in his father’s footsteps as a financial analyst in Washington D.C.

The couple had never planned to retire on the Vineyard. They have a lovely summer home on the Lagoon, and Tom was of the opinion that Vineyard homes were incredibly overpriced. That all changed in August of 2011. On a whim, Susan took him to the Stockton house. Tom wandered around the backyard, looked out at the ocean, and then descended the stone pathway to the water. He soon returned to the house to find Susan. “Let’s buy it,” he said.

Three years later the colorful rooms reflect Susan’s lively and enthusiastic personality. Tom’s office on the fourth floor is patterned after a bridge on a naval vessel with a spectacular view of Vineyard Sound. Though between engagements, Tom can’t quite think of himself as retired; he spends time there reading and keeping in touch with old business associates. During the day you will likely find him on the other side of the Island riding his bike. Lyn and I feel honored to have them as neighbors.

Save the date! The 11th annual Della Hardman Day celebration will be held on Saturday, July 25 at 4 p.m. in Ocean Park. This event, sponsored by the town of Oak Bluffs and the Della Hardman Day Committee, chaired by Gretchen T. Underwood, celebrates community, culture, and a zest for living as exemplified by Della Hardman (1922–2005), an artist, educator, and writer.

Della first came to the Island with her family as a toddler in the mid-1920s and was a seasonal visitor before she became a year-round resident in the mid-1980s. For nearly two decades before her death in 2005, she wrote the weekly Oak Bluffs column for the Vineyard Gazette, and served on the boards of the Oak Bluffs Public Library, the Nathan Mayhew Seminars, Featherstone, the MV Chamber Music Society, and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. She was also actively engaged with the Cottagers, the MV NAACP, and several Island literacy programs.

Following her death, the town of Oak Bluffs voted to honor her memory in perpetuity on the last Saturday of July. This year the main event will take place at Ocean Park at 4 p.m. with Cornell William Brooks, the 18th president and CEO of the NAACP, as speaker. Other Della Hardman Day events include the Savor the Moment essay Contest in cooperation with the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, the Sunset Concert with the Jim Thomas Spirituals Choir on Sunday, July 26 at 6 p.m. at the East Chop Lighthouse, and the Savor the Moment prize at the All Island Art Show in August. Della was the keeper of the East Chop Lighthouse in the late 1980s.

“I had my last drink at the St. Germain’s party on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend,” Jeff Riotte told me recently following a long and scary month of June. “I felt lousy for most of Monday, but I headed for work in Boston on Tuesday morning. As my condition worsened on the way to work, I went straight to the emergency room at the Lahey Clinic.”

After several tests over a three-day period, Jeff was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in and around his pancreas This diagnosis was confirmed at Mass General where a Whipple operation was performed that removed his gall bladder, and one-third of his stomach and pancreas. The good news is that most of the cancer was contained, with only eight lymph nodes in need of further treatment.

Though exhausted from his long ordeal, Jeff was all smiles and wisecracks during the visit as we relived old stories from our youth. We were joined in the Riotte living room with Jeff’s sister, Carol Hyler. Carol has held down the fort for Jeff and Chris for the last month. She has felt honored to be here to help her brother and grateful to be back in East Chop after a nearly 60-year absence. “Rick, it has changed so little in all those years. I really feel like I have come home.” The whole Chop is grateful that Jeff has come home too.

Send East Chop news to herricklr@verizon.net.