Tuesday, December 27, 2016
In 2016 the Vineyard mourned the loss of friends, neighbors and community leaders who left lasting impressions.
Congregations on the Island said goodbye to several who left their marks at church and in the community. In May, the Rev. Amelia E. (Amy) Edwards, pastor of the Federated Church in Edgartown, died at 55, just a few weeks after delivering her last sermon. Parishioners at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven mourned the loss of Father Brian Murdoch, who died in October at 62. Ruth Cronig Stiller, a pillar of the Jewish community, died in July at age 94 in her native Vineyard Haven.
From the waterfront to Chilmark library, Islanders were remembered for their legacies and passions. For decades Jack Koontz shared his love of fishing and his storytelling skills with fellow Islanders, including writing a weekly fishing column for the Gazette. He died in July at 70. Arthur BenDavid, longtime Oak Bluffs harbor master, fire department captain, and co-owner of BenDavid Motors, died in June at 80. Dennis Alley, who died in May at age 80, served with the Oak Bluffs fire department for more than 50 years, including 10 years as chief.
In January the birding community on the Cape and Islands lost one its giants, ornithologist and naturalist E. Vernon Laux. David O. Douglas died in March at age 80; he left a career in New York city to open Rainbow Farm, where he became a pillar of the agricultural scene.
Kristin Maloney, longtime children's librarian in Chilmark, left a legacy of stories and songs for generations of young readers. John Ferreira of North Dartmouth died in September shortly after retiring from Peter Pan Bus Lines, where he was a driver who left an impression on his many passengers.
Islanders grieved residents lost too soon. In June fisherman Luke Gurney, 48, died in a fishing accident near Nantucket. He was remembered on the Island as outgoing, passionate and generous and a devoted father to his two sons. Asa French, accomplished stonemason and Island native, died in April at age 30. Friends and family remembered him as a kind, gentle man who loved golf, and spoke of their heartbreak over the addiction that came into his life.
Services were held in August for Cpl. Ronald M. Sparks, who died in captivity at a POW camp in North Korea in 1951. His nephew, Bob Sparks of Edgartown, worked to bring his uncle home to the United States for burial.
Some were remembered for their contributions on the Island and far afield: Robert (Bob) Kiley, longtime Chilmark summer resident who transformed public transit in Boston, New York, and London, died in August. Margaret Whitton, an actress and director known for her role in the Major League movie franchise, was a seasonal resident of Chilmark known for her generosity. Norris W. Darrell, who built an international practice in securities, corporate and financing law, was a longtime resident of Edgartown and founded a scholarship fund for Islanders who overcome challenges to attend college.
From street fairs to street lights, those with deep Island roots left legacies of their own.
Eileen Sullivan Mayhew, family matriarch, former Chilmark postmistress, and advocate for women’s scalloping rights, died in May shortly after celebrating her 101st birthday. S. Bailey Norton Jr., a widely admired Edgartown elder who was descended from a long line of fishermen and sea captains, and led efforts to preserve Vineyard history, died in September at age 95. Cora Medeiros, former Tisbury selectman, businesswoman, and unofficial town matriarch, died in May at age 85. She was celebrated in July at the Tisbury street fair, which she helped establish in 1971.
Chilmarkers said farewell to Raisin the goat, who was loved by his owner Tom Ashe, the Island community and even a national audience. He died in September at the age of nine.