The Polar Bears opened their 75th season on July 4 at the Inkwell Beach with 25 people in the exercise circle and seven freelance swimmers stroking from jetty to jetty. After the exercising and camraderie, Chief Polar Bear Caroline Hunter assembled all present to conduct a memorial service for four polar bears who passed since the last swim in 2019. An opening prayer began the program. Photos were held high as a candle was lit for each fallen member.

Flower petals were lofted in the water as Anne Elliott sang Take Me to the Water. Friends closest to the deceased gave brief remarks for Cynthia Smith, Lorraine Thomas, Liz Duff and Deidre Diodati. Deidre‘s husband Henry came with their two sons and expressed their deep appreciation for those who were kind and patient with his wife as she battled cancer.

Not far away, Union Chapel saw more than 100 people attend its opening services that celebrated the 150th season for the chapel. Dr. Valerie Smith, president of Swarthmore College, spoke on the topic “This Generous Undertaking.“ She is a longtime Vineyard summer resident who was grateful for the opportunity to speak to those she has worshipped with for 15 years. This extraordinary academic scholar, transformative institutional leader and values-based college president was well received.

The chapel’s marketing team displayed caps, T-shirts, fans and a vivid photo poster that were on sale as part of the 150th celebration. This was the first time that the public heard Bill Peek, minister of music, play the newly-rebuilt and restored 1924 Austin organ. A magnificent prelude was a musical treat for those in attendance.

The rain date of July 5 did not stop the annual Inkwell birthday festivities for first cousins Logan Taylor Ellerson and Mark Allen Couch. This annual family celebration featured a huge sheet cake, juice boxes, pizza and other delightful edibles that lubricated the games in and out of the water. Longtime Oak Bluffs residents Ed and Sherri Gray from Washington, D.C., hosted their grandsons as special guests. Their son Rob and his wife Megan from Chicago walked their three sons Chase, Drake and Pierce to the beach from the family cottage on Seaview. Likewise, Jim and Dorothy Brannon’s 11-year old granddaughter Gabrielle from New Jersey also joined the fun. Meeting kids their own age on the beach is the kind of Vineyard experience that cements lifelong relationships. Hope they join this annual birthday party next year.

Sherri Blount Gray, an attorney by profession, was also excited about her recent article in the July 1 issue of Rolling Stone magazine on her efforts to close the wealth gap in America. Sherri joined Robin Cole, another Vineyard resident, in a gathering of black women in Kiawah Island, South Carolina in 2019. This three-day retreat of friends who share a Southern background and the desire to give back started talking about Sherri’s recently-opened medical marijuana business in Washington, D.C. This group of longtime friends have organized a powerful investment vehicle to insure that black women can indeed be part of this growing industry. We wish them the very best.

Paradise is living the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as time is fleeting!