On Saturday over 300 people gathered at the Tabernacle to pay respects to Joseph G. Parham, who died earlier this year at the age of 69. Many who came for the celebration may have thought that Oak Bluffs was just the place Joe summered in recent years. They discovered that Joe’s family had been coming to the Vineyard since the 1930s, when his mother and her siblings traveled from West Medford to a property in the School street area, near what is now the Oak Bluffs Library.

Joe’s brother Kevin reminisced about the hundreds of times that he, Joe and the other kids in the area ran to and from the Tabernacle grounds in summers past. So while this certainly was a service that remembered and rejoiced in the life of a corporate executive, successful entrepreneur, expert skier, jazz aficionado, father, husband, grandfather and friend to many, it was also a magnificent tribute to a family that has sunk deep roots on the Island over generations.

Many of the speakers were long time friends with whom Joe worked at the former Polaroid Corporation. Peter Cameron shared stories of how versatile and personable Joe was, with everyone under his purview, from managers to union workers, finding him extremely likable. This undoubtedly contributed to his success.

His East Chop neighbor Wayne Budd spoke of Joe’s role in a coffee group that met regularly at Bob Murphy’s to discuss the problems of the day both on and off-Island.

Marc Wallace came from Denver, where Joe lived when he was not on the Island. He spoke on how close they had become, as well as about Joe’s increasing comfort with the end of his life as he drew closer to God.

His son Joe and his daughter Jenna gave emotional tributes to their dad. They recalled his travels in all corners of the world and conversations of inspiration and confidence between tears and sniffles. Both were struck with emotional grief but conveyed their heartfelt respect and deep affection.

The Polaroid association maintained a big presence at the service. Two Oak Bluffs residents, Pat Bush and Ray Smith, joined over 20 alums from those corporate days.

From this business association emerged close friendships between Joe, the late U.T. Saunders, John Jenkins and Michael LeBlanc. This lifelong foursome of friendship took each of them through the valleys and hills of life, through careers, marriages, children, divorces, play time, work time and hard times. Jenkins and LeBlank shared tears, cheers and the jeers of life all the way until they were summoned by Joe’s dear wife Donna to visit him in hospice. Hard to imagine a greater bond between friends than what was on display.

The entire service was punctuated by amazing jazz played by Kevin Parham on bass, Michael Zaitchik on piano, Jim Peterson on guitar and Jayo Wharton on saxophone.

Joe Parham was ushered into heaven like the prince that he was. Many will miss him.

Kevin and Jennifer DaSilva also represent families that have summered here over the generations. Their third generation Vineyard daughter, Lauren, has graduated from Duke University and will be heading off to San Francisco, Calif. to begin work for Google as an associate product marketing manager.

Mother Jennifer, an Oak Bluffs realtor, recalls that when she and husband Kevin brought both of their daughters to the Island, starting when they were between six to eight weeks old, they always made a point of taking the OB ferry from Woods Hole just to be sure that they would touch sand first in Oak Bluffs.

Kevin grew up here with his parents, so another generation inhales the sustenance and now takes flight.

Paradise on earth is the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it, as life is fleeting!

Send Oak Bluffs news to rtaylor@mvgazette.com.