A steward of the state forest who traced his roots to the Buckeye State and loved the outdoors, motorcycles and above all his family. A retired businessman whose treasure-hunting life of adventure began in China and ended at East Chop with daily walks above the waters of Nantucket Sound. A landscaper with advanced academic degrees who loved to play the bagpipes. The son of Portuguese immigrants who headed a successful family-owned construction company.
Each week our Island community is irrevocably altered by the passing of a few people who touched us in ways large and small. When they are taken at relatively early age, as so many seem to have been lately, the loss seems more acute.
It’s not just our imagination that more people die in winter than in summer, and this week we added an extra page to the newspaper to print the obituaries of ten people with strong ties to the Vineyard. It’s not a record number; we recall a few years back when sixteen obituaries appeared in a single week. Some are written by family members and some are written by Gazette staff, especially when a person was a newsmaker or community leader.
Combined with short days and chill winds, news of so many deaths adds to the sense of gloom that afflicts many after the holidays. But as we chronicle the losses, we are also struck by the extraordinariness of every life.
“The cause of death, of course, is always life,” wrote Pete Hamill in a forward to a New York Times anthology of obituaries published last year by that venerable newspaper. “We humans all die, a fact so unremarkable that in these tightly rendered portraits of the recently dead, the technical reason for death is almost always covered in a single sentence. What matters is the life, and how it was lived.”
Where newspapers in many markets have sadly turned death into a revenue opportunity, we are proud that on Martha’s Vineyard the loss of a community member is an integral part of news coverage.
An obituary stands as one memorial of a life, sometimes long and sometimes tragically cut short, but always one that matters.
And is not forgotten.