Dorothy Bangs, a longtime Vineyard Haven resident who was well known for her tireless volunteer work on the Island, died on April 25. She was 88.
Among other things, Mrs. Bangs was a familiar fixture on the Island during Daffodil Days, the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
“Dorothy Bangs has been a real example of how to live your life with dignity, dedication and caring about others,” said Judy Baynes, a longtime friend and co-worker on the Daffodil Days project, in a story for the Gazette last year. “She is always so considerate to others, wanting to share the gift.”
Eight years ago Mrs. Bangs received the annual Spirit of the Vineyard Award from Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. She volunteered at Windemere Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, the Tisbury Senior Center and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Two years ago at Christmas she played carols on the piano for the hospital’s annual tree of lights ceremony. For many decades she famously cared for and decorated a small fish shack at the intersection of Skiff avenue and Lagoon Pond Road that has been much photographed through the years. At Christmastime the shack would be hung with a wreath; in the spring it would be decorated with plastic flowers. The shack sits just below the Bangs family home, and the decorating tradition began many years ago when Mrs. Bangs asked her husband to put a flower box on the small building. Today the building is owned by her son Paul. A woman of deep faith, Dorothy Kenney Bangs always counted herself to have many blessings. She considered the early part of her life in Malden and then in Milton with her father, Capt. Charles B. Kenney, her mother, Elvah Thomas Kenney, and her two brothers, Ralph and Francis Kenney, an important part of establishing her lifelong faith and her values.
She graduated from Boston University in 1946 and was asked to come to the Vineyard as the vocal music supervisor for the Island public schools. She continued to teach music in the public schools until her retirement in 1990. She loved the Vineyard and its people. “My Island,” she would call it.
In 1949 she married Stuart A. Bangs, the son of Paul B. Bangs and Adelaide Downs Bangs of Vineyard Haven, who worked in his father’s grocery store on Main street in Vineyard Haven. Years later he went on to become the West Chop postmaster and later worked at the Vineyard Haven Post Office. Stuart Bangs died in 2008. They had three sons: Paul, Jay and Dana.
Dorothy loved teaching, her students, her church, her friends, bridge, singalongs at Windemere and the Tisbury Senior Center and opportunities to help others. She cherished the relationships, she continued to have with many of her former students and was grateful for their many kindnesses to her throughout the years.
Her work for the cancer society began some 30 years ago. “I started in the 1980s. Howie Leonard asked me to sit outside of the A&P and sell daffodils,” she recalled in the Gazette story. “From then on, I decided to help, and do it in other towns,” she told the Gazette. She was herself a cancer survivor of 37 years.
During the interview with the Gazette last year, stationed at Cronig’s Market and handing out thousands of daffodils (the total count would be 11,000 in the end), Mrs. Bangs said she found the work brought endless rewards. “There is always someone who has a story to tell,” she said.
Still, at age 87, she had decided to hand more of her responsibilities to Mrs. Baynes. “I am not retiring. I am just sharing more of the duties with Judy,” she said.
Dorothy and Stuart’s sons and families are Paul S. Bangs, his wife, Margaret St. Denis, and their children, Stuart and Molly; James (Jay) D. Bangs and his wife, Sherry Willoughby; and Jay’s twin, Charles Dana Bangs, his wife, Elaine Phoutrides and their children, Gregory and Deanna. If memorials are desired, Dorothy had suggested the First Baptist Church of Vineyard Haven, P.O. Box 806, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or a choice of one’s own. A memorial service is being planned for a later date and time to be announced.
Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs. An online guest book is available at ccgfuneralhome.com.