Les Stark, a mensch and my sometimes proofreader/copy editor here at the Gazette, teased me a while back about my proclivity to write about Oak Bluffs history, saying I would be in trouble when it ran out. I had laughed saying, “Les, history was five minutes ago. I’ll never run out of material.” I thought I had a neat framework for the stories of Oak Bluffs. The Ice or Pleistocene age receded 20,000 years ago, around 9,600 BC, separating Martha’s Vineyard from the mainland. Its terminal moraine left the erratic Lover’s Rock, while forming Ogkeshkuppe that, in the early 1600s, wound up becoming the town of Oak Bluffs we adore. My vacuous notion of writing stories about the history of Oak Bluffs clearly ignored something historian David McCullough said, “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” The original people have a saying, “A man who does not respect his ancestors is worse than a wild animal.”
With that in mind, I hope not to be the first to tell you we have lost another leader of the tribe — Ken Edelin, a history maker, who departed Dec. 30 and has become a part of it. Widely covered in last week’s Vineyard Gazette, the New York and LA Times, the Boston Globe, Pittsburgh Courier, Washington Post and Huffington Post — to mention a few — Dr. Kenneth Edelin of Oak Bluffs and Sarasota was the center of a landmark case on abortion in 1973 where he was accused, wrongly tried and convicted of manslaughter. On appeal, the conviction was unanimously overturned and he was formally acquitted. In 2007 he published the book, Broken Justice: A True Story of Race, Sex and Revenge in a Boston Courtroom. With a long medical career of firsts and of achievement, Dr. Edelin served as chairman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. These are some of the facts around Ken Edelins’ history, perhaps even including when I wrote about him and his Oak Bluffs friends Sen. Edward W. Brooke, Wayne A. Budd (U.S. attorney from Massachusetts) and Eric H. Holder Jr. (U.S. attorney general) last February during Black History month. That’s history. The story, though, is waving to my friend Ken riding his bike by the house, both of us with big grins. You wanted to be in the room that broke out in smiles when Ken Edelin walked in, something I’ve never seen not happen. Part of the story is my growing up summers with his wife and now widow Barbara Evans Edelin since the 1950s. My parents were friends of her parents, the Rev. Joseph H. Evans (Uncle Joe) the first African American president of the United Church and her mom, (Aunt) Harriet Evans. Ken and Barbara’s kids, Joe and Corinne, grew up with our kids, just like we had done. That’s the story, and thankful for the history, I’d have preferred that it was longer.
Thanks for the three-day New Year’s celebration last week hosted by a group of 30 seasonal Vineyard Pittsburghers. They conspired to return just for the occasion, which was highlighted by a fete at a bold-face local French restaurant on New Year’s Eve. I hope yours was fabulous, too.
Congratulations to one of Oak Bluffs’ professional poker players, Jesse James Sylvia, whose story was featured on MTV last Saturday. Way to go, Game Boy! Remember the Oak Bluffs’ Library Mini Golf fun raiser from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight and the family version tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission for adults 21 and older is $18 per person or $30 per couple. Families and kids play free. There’s — naturally — a literary theme this year. Next Thursday at 6 p.m. the library presents a documentary movie with Slow Food MV about genetically engineered foods.
The Mansion House Health Club is having a Saturday Sampler starting at 7:15 tomorrow morning with 15 free classes for those who have included fitness in not-yet-broken New Year’s resolutions. More information is available at mvmansionhouse.com or 508-693-2200, extension 104.
Philip Skelton, an American writer said, “History makes some amends for the shortness of human life.” Sometimes. Keep your foot on a rock.