Jessica L. Shannon was an Islander. She was born in Oak Bluffs on February 20, 1957 and died peacefully in Oak Bluffs on July 12, 2013, with her dear friend and guardian, MJ Bruder Munafo, at her side. She was a sweet and gentle woman who loved romance and drama, and could also be a bit mischievous. She lived each day with great courage and a simple faith, facing her disabilities and challenges with grace and determination.
Jessie was a participant at Vineyard Employment Options (VEO) for many years, working first under the expert and caring guidance of David Vigneault (who became her great friend), and then with Wendy Lopez-Mata. During her career Jessie worked at various places on the Vineyard including the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services Thrift Shop and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.
Jessie’s most fulfilling job was perhaps at The Vineyard Playhouse, where she found a second home and folded thousands of theatre programs over many years. It was also where she and MJ met and became lifelong friends. She was an avid audience member at every play on the Playhouse stage. She had her own theatrical talents, too. Assisted by MJ, Jessie became a playwright and wrote Mark and Mary: A Magical Romantic Fantasy. The Playhouse produced a staged reading of her play in 1998. Jessie was also an actress. She appeared in many of the Playhouse’s large productions as a townsperson, including Our Town, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath.
Jessie also loved to sing and listen to music; her favorites included Somewhere Over the Rainbow and all the songs from The Sound of Music. She visited the von Trapp Lodge in Vermont; and saw The Music Man on Broadway, where she met with cast member Paul Benedict and was given a backstage tour.
Jessica lived her entire life on her beloved Martha’s Vineyard, with the exception of this past year, when she resided primarily in New Bedford. She was predeceased by her mother, Marilyn E. (Steere) Shannon; her father, Richard J. Shannon; her brother, Richard J. Shannon Jr.; her infant sister, Paula Jean Shannon; and her aunt, Shirley Whitehead Smith. She is survived by her brother, Kenneth Shannon, and his wife, Beth Shannon of Falmouth; her guardian, MJ Bruder Munafo of Vineyard Haven; her aunts and uncles, including Gloria Steere of Oak Bluffs, Janet Packish of Falmouth, Nancy Howes of Dennis, Rosemary Finley of Alabama, David Steere of West Tisbury, Stephen Steere of Georgia and Eileen Fichtner of Connecticut; and many cousins, caregivers and friends.
Jessica’s graveside service was conducted by the Rev. Michael Nagle at Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven on July 18. A lively memorial reception followed at The Vineyard Playhouse. Family and friends are grateful for the loving care Jess received at the end of her life at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford and from Dr. Julia Stunkel and the nurses at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. If anyone wishes to do so, donations in Jessie’s memory may be made to The Vineyard Playhouse, Box 2452, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 for a theatre seat with her name on it.
The final verse of the Castle Song from Jessie’s play, Mark and Mary:
Flying tigers up high
Rabbits pulled out of hats
I’ve seen them all.
I’ve seen hearts of lovers on TV
Come together as one.
Love is magic.
Magic is love.