Virginia (Ginny) Blakesley of West Tisbury died of pneumonia on the evening of March 3, 2015, at age 93, just 10 days short of her 94th birthday, at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Her son Bill spent most of the day by her bedside while her daughter Barb tried in vain to fly across the country in time to hold her hand and say goodbye. Virginia’s faithful friend of many years, Tom Thatcher, sat with her that day as did Hope Hospice.

When Ginny was 88 she took a class on writing her own obituary, but she never quite finalized it since she was expecting to live to 100. She wrote that she intended to still be painting in her favorite watercolor group at Howes House in West Tisbury, telling stories about the past, laughing about adventures gone bad, and assuring those still young and active that life can be interesting when old and confined to a wheelchair.

Virginia Louise Ames was born March 13, 1921 in Toledo, Ohio, to Louise Julia Henrietta Hagedorn and Homer Clayton Ames. Virginia was born in her grandparent’s house back in the day when doctors still made house calls. Her father’s family were early Dutch settlers in New York in the 1700s, while her mother’s father immigrated from Germany to the U.S. as a boy.

She was baptized in the Lutheran Church and went to Sunday school and church every Sunday. Her father stayed home and read Buddhist books while her mother saw to it that Virginia and her three siblings attended church. Although her father wished his children to be musical, Virginia decided as a youngster to be an artist and applied to and was accepted at the Toledo Museum of Art School. She graduated at 17 from the University of Toledo and earned a master’s degree in fine arts from Ohio State University. Virginia married a fellow art student William Henry Blakesley Jr. in 1942. They were married for 33 years and raised two children.

Virginia and her husband Bill came to the Island in 1955 at the urging of Tom Thatcher, an Ohio and Vineyard potter, and became good friends through Tom with Lillian and Daniel Manter. They served as house parents at the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Hostel for many summers in the late 1950s and 1960s. The Manters sold the Blakesleys land off of New Lane in West Tisbury, and Daniel built them a house close to their own home. In addition to working at the Youth Hostel, the Blakesleys owned and operated the Blakesley Gallery on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs for 13 summers, selling the building in the early 1970s. In the off-season, Virginia was the East Muskingum County, Ohio School District art superintendent, teaching art to children in kindergarten through eighth grade while her husband Bill was the chairman of the art department at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. Bill and Ginny hired selected art students from Muskingum College each year to work in the Blakesley Gallery for the summer. Some of these “Gallery Girls” formed lasting bonds with the Island, including permanent Island resident Molly (Prudner) Finklestein. Both Ginny and Bill retired in 1975 and moved to the Vineyard permanently.

After her divorce in 1975, Virginia devoted her life year round on the Island to the Martha’s Vineyard League of Women Voters, where she served as president for a number of years; to traveling with friends Al and Maggie Glotzer to Mexico and the Middle East; to adventure camping trips with her daughter out West, and to her painting. Virginia was very proud of her instrumental role in developing the recycling program on the Vineyard. She was also most proud of her work with children and starting children’s art programs in Michigan and Ohio. She taught art in the down-Island schools and Martha’s Vineyard High School from 1959 to 1961, when her husband was on sabbatical from Muskingum College. To this day, she is fondly remembered by her Island students, some of whom have become professional artists or simply lovers of art.

Ginny loved the Vineyard and expressed her feelings vividly in her many watercolors of Island landscapes. Virginia described herself as a “worrier, obstinate, and having left-field-itis.” If she meant by this that she cared deeply for her friends and family, was bold and let her opinions be known, and that she was creative and progressive politically, her friends and family would agree. Her many friends, family, and former students describe her as kind, funny, intelligent, strong and very beautiful. Her granddaughter, artist Katherine Grey, described her as “a woman very much ahead of her time.” Ginny will be very much missed by all who knew her.

Virginia is survived by her son William B. Blakesley of West Tisbury and his former wife Patty Blakesley of Racine, Wis., her daughter Barbara A. Blakesley and her partner Sarah Allman and former husband Bruce Ackerman of Boise, Idaho; two grandchildren, Alexander James Blakesley and wife Jess of Edmonton, Wash., and Katherine Ames Grey and husband Christian of Boise, Idaho; sister Mary Ruth Daggett (Bootie) of Fullerton, Calif.; brother Bernard Ames (Bud) and wife Rosalee of Key West, Fla., and Burlington, Vt.; numerous nieces and nephews, and devoted Vineyard friends, including Dorothy and Herb Wass and their family of Oak Bluffs and Topsfield. Virginia loved them all.

Ginny was predeceased by her parents, older sister Hildred (Hoodie) Alexander and her husband Dick, her ex-husband and fellow Vineyard artist William Blakesley, and many beloved Vineyard friends such as Al and Maggie Glotzer and Chris and Ben Kahan. Virginia’s family wishes to recognize the friendships Virginia enjoyed with the Howes House staff — Joyce, Ellen, Tanya and Bethany, and especially Virginia’s love of the watercolor group led by Nancy Cabot. The family also wishes to thank the kind and caring staff at Windemere and Hope Hospice for making Virginia’s last days on the Island she loved comfortable.

A celebration of Virginia’s life will be held this summer at a date to be determined at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, where she was a member and deacon for many years.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in her name to Howes House, Council on Aging, P.O. Box 3174, West Tisbury, MA 02575 or