Ella Mayhew Cullen Was Involved in Community

Ella Mayhew Cullen died on Sunday, Jan. 18, at Windemere in Oak Bluffs, after a 12-year battle against Alzheimer's disease.

Ella was born on Feb. 21, 1923, the fifth child of Doris and Walter Mayhew, and was christened Ella Herberta after her uncle Herbert Flanders. She spent all of her growing up years in Chilmark except, of course, boarding out in Vineyard Haven while she was in high school there, since it was too far to travel every day to school. She was 11 years younger than Marian, her eldest sibling, and was the youngest for 11 years before her beloved baby sister, Gail, was born. She was alternately spoiled and teased by her three elder brothers, Paul, Elliot and Lloyd, who took her tobogganing (when she broke her nose), hoisted her up with them on their ponies, made her lie down on the ice as their hockey goalie, and brought home late night ice cream sodas for her, all the way from Vineyard Haven when they were out on dates.

During the war years, she worked at State Street Bank in Boston. She loved the city life and fully intended to stay at State Street and work her way through the ranks at the bank, but Stephen Carey Luce interceded. He went to Boston, took her to lunch at the Parker House and convinced her to come home and work for him at the Martha's Vineyard National Bank and Martha's Vineyard Insurance Company. She continued to work in the insurance business and as a real estate broker until her retirement in 1988.

Shortly after the war, she met Robert Emerson Cullen. After returning home to western Massachusetts, raw from his war experiences, he came to the Island on the recommendation of his sister, Carolyn. Carolyn called to tell him she had found an Island paradise and that he should come here and find work. He did, as a pilot spotting fish offshore for commercial fishermen.

He found more than work. At the end of his first date with Ella, he insisted on speaking with her mother and told her, "Mrs. Mayhew, I'm going to marry your daughter." They were married at the Chilmark Community Church on Sept. 24, 1949.

The newlyweds settled in Edgartown where Bob had found work as an auto and airplane mechanic and, eventually, at the Norton & Estabrook boatyard, opening the Vineyard's first marine mechanic shop.

Always involved in civic organizations, Ella was the secretary/treasurer of the Edgartown Firemen's Association and for many years single-handedly sent out the appeal letters that raised the funds for the Fourth of July fireworks display. She served on many boards including the founding boards of Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust, the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha's Vineyard, the Love House and Havenside, and was a member of Eastern Star, the Edgartown Council on Aging and the Edgartown Woman's Club. As a member of the Federated Church she organized their Whale of a Sale and was a member of the Unity Club.

Ella was spunky. She mowed her own lawn. She had grace. She was a familiar figure sailing Katama Bay and loved to be in her garden. She was an excellent cook and loved a good party. She was the most amazing grandmother, teaching her granddaughter to row and make "frog" pie and never missing even one of her horse shows, concerts or field hockey games. With her grandson she played baseball at the beach and taught him to dig clams with his feet. She went to all of his little league, soccer and basketball games and loved to hear him sing and play guitar and drums.

She was predeceased by her husband, who died in 1984, and is survived by two daughters, R. Blue Cullen and Candy daRosa; her son in law, Dennis daRosa; her grandchildren, Stephanie and Philip daRosa; her brother, Lloyd Mayhew, and 11 nieces and nephews.

Ella had spent her last seven years as a resident of Windemere, where the nursing staff took the most wonderful care of her.

A graveside service was held at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 21, in the family lot at the Abel's Hill Cemetery, Chilmark.

The family would appreciate donations in her memory be made to the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha's Vineyard at P.O. Box 602, West Tisbury, MA 02575, to the Island Affordable Housing Fund at P.O. Box 4769, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, and to Windemere, at P.O. Box 1747, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. Arrangements are by the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs.