Sunday afternoons in the summer were for jazz. That’s what the boss wanted, and that’s what she served up.

The wine was chilled, the music hot, cool and slick. Audiences were thrilled. Brilliant pianists like David Crohan, Jeremy Berlin, and David Stanwood cut dazzling riffs, often with sultry torch singers crooning soulfully into the microphone.

Lola’s? The Ritz Café? No, these spirited gigs were in the family room at Long Hill, Edgartown’s gracious nursing home, nestled in a woodsy nook overlooking Vineyard Sound.

The boss was the peppy and striking British-born nurse, Elizabeth Sandland, who looked and sounded like the actress Helen Mirren and who gave an embarrassed chuckle when addressed as “Your Highness.”

This Elizabeth founded Long Hill more than a quarter century ago, and during those years she shepherded hundreds of her elderly charges into their fading days with deep compassion, shrewd judgment, and a resilient, sometimes spicy sense of humor.

On Feb. 8 of this year, Elizabeth’s heart, perhaps the stoutest in Edgartown, stopped beating. Summer afternoons on the Island are now the lesser for it.

I worked closely with Elizabeth for over 20 years, first as an emergency physician and later as an internist and hospice consultant. She constantly amazed me with the dedication and expertise she provided to her patients, their families, and to her staff.

My first encounter with her was at 3 a.m. An ambulance rolled into the E.R. with an elderly, wheezing patient from Long Hill. We had barely inserted the oxygen prongs and measured vital signs, when an elegantly dressed blonde woman blew through the doors in high heels, fresh lipstick and a clipboard in her hand.

In a single breath she delivered a nugget summary of the patient’s problems, a list of tests to be done, meds to be given, and then asked did I have any better ideas of what to do, and if not, could we please get started immediately?

I blinked in disbelief, but her smile quickly disarmed me. She introduced herself and said, “Sorry, Doctor, I sometimes come on rather strong. I do care for my patients.” She let out a girlish giggle, and instantly an enduring collegial bond was forged.

Elizabeth had her own, very direct way of caring for her charges. She created an environment of dignity, efficiency and endless compassion. Some patients recovered and others did not, but all at Long Hill felt welcome, safe, honored. Elizabeth’s team knew her code, and they applied her principles with marvelous effect.

She enjoyed drawing life stories out of her patients. A centenarian had grown up in Russia and recalled the day Czar Nicholas II waved from a train passing through his village. A wispy, dignified woman in her 90s told of the challenges of running an orphanage in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. Still another in his late 70s had toured Europe as a widely admired jazz guitarist. The sequence of remarkable tales went on, and Elizabeth celebrated them all.

She had her own story. At 22 she left England on a banana boat bound for Jamaica, where she served for two years at Kingston University Hospital. Later she lived and worked in New York then in California at Stanford Medical Center’s cardiac unit. While taking an anthropology course, she met Jack, the man who became her husband, and three years later she gave birth to twins, Jackson and Daniel.

The marriage did not last, and for several years she traveled back and forth between New York and England. After a chance invitation to Martha’s Vineyard, she settled on the Island, starting out in a leaky tent in the Oak Bluffs Camp Ground and later raising the capital to purchase and establish Long Hill. There her twins grew up, and she established her unique assisted living home, where the care was top flight, and jazz and holiday parties, sometimes with karaoke, were always rambunctious and fab.

We in the hospice field were often perplexed by an uncanny phenomenon. Under Elizabeth’s watchful guidance, our patients lived far longer than any of us ever expected. The actuarial tables for Long Hill residents seemed radically skewed toward the outlier category. Families were astonished, as were we.

None of us could figure out why patients with aggressive terminal illnesses lasted so very long up on that woodsy knoll. Whether it was the diet, the ocean breeze, the meticulous, loving attention, or perhaps Elizabeth’s can-do spirit, we all witnessed an eerie stretching of the envelope of protoplasmic viability that baffled all of us.

Elizabeth shared our wonderment with a proud nod. “Yes, isn’t it fascinating!” she would say modestly.

When she was diagnosed with advanced cancer in 2016, Elizabeth took on the challenge with her usual moxie. Staying calm, as her royal namesake might, she began a journal that documented her surgeries, her chemotherapy sessions, her philosophical and religious insights, and the items on her ambitious bucket list.

One passage from that journal: “Most of the time, my whole life, I am floating around a couple of inches off the ground – one foot on Earth and the other in Heaven. This is my normal state of being — not that I was holy — not at all. My brother Chris calls me The Accidental Saint, totally unintended.”

Two months before she died, she bragged in a letter to her oncologist. “I went to the Kentucky Derby, to the Metropolitan Opera, sang in the Messiah, partied and danced and sang and enjoyed my friends. I went to Jamaica, swam with the dolphins, went zip-lining over Dunn’s River Falls, and cycled down the Blue Mountains.”

During this time, she gracefully transferred her remaining patients to other nursing homes, until she was finally the sole resident at Long Hill, attended by her redoubtable assistant and loyal friend, Zima.

I served then as Elizabeth’s physician, and I saw that she never shirked from the reality. “I have seen many patients die, and I am not afraid. I want to be there when it happens.”

Elizabeth had always loved opera. Despite her weakened condition, last December she attended Verde’s La Traviata, a three-hour simulcast from the Met at the MV Film Center.

We spoke about the opera on my final few house calls, and she joked that now she could assume the title role. Indeed, on my last visit, I found her peacefully asleep with a brief note penned for me on her bedside table: “Dear Gerry, I lost my costume. You have to call the stand-in. Sorry, Violetta.”

As the curtain falls on the life of this extraordinary diva, we all know there can be no stand-in for Edgartown’s accidental saint.

Brava, Elizabeth, and thank you. We are all so much richer for your unforgettable performance.

Dr. Gerald Yukevich is a retired physician living in Vineyard Haven.