Jane McGrath, 84, Was Outgoing, Artistic Person
Jane McGrath died peacefully at home on Tuesday, June 17 in Oak Bluffs, exactly as she wanted, well loved, open to the Lord and unafraid. The third of six MacKnight generations so far to summer on the Island, Jane is remembered with admiration and love by an extended family of Gaffeys, Leahys, McGraths, MacKnights, Keefes, Harrises, Malcouronnes and others whose lives are forever enriched by her generous and selfless giving.
Born in 1919 to Robert Bruce and Ida Benjamin MacKnight, Jane came to Oak Bluffs from Newton Center, that first of many summers to Canonicus avenue. Through the backyard, across from the end of the seawall on Seaview avenue, lived Arthur (Mac) McGrath, also a third-generation summer resident who in 1942 became Jane's husband for the next 56 years. After five years of renting, they bought a summer cottage on Naushon Park where every summer three and now four generations gather together, reestablish roots and family ties and come home to the Vineyard. In 1979, when Mac retired from a distinguished career in public education, Jane and Mac fulfilled a lifelong dream by choosing the Vineyard as a permanent address, with winters in the little blue house at Veira Park's first base, and extended summers from Memorial Day to Columbus Day in the Naushon Park cottage.
On the Vineyard each summer from the last to the first day of school as young mother of a growing family, Jane split her time between the cottage and "Jane's beach" with her friends and an expanding brood of children, her own plus the cousins and neighbors who lived nearby. Biking, cookouts, yard sales, beach parties, tours, rainy-day visits to the Flying Horses and birthdays punctuated each summer as Jane and Mac shared the Island with more and more friends. As the children grew, Jane bought Mac a daysailer and together learned a love for sailing Island waters now instilled in three succeeding generations.
In Simsbury, Conn., before moving to the Vineyard full-time, Jane was a part-time florist, avid contract bridge player and by avocation a craftswoman with a particular ability to learn and appreciate new crafts, the more difficult the better. Her homes and those of her children are filled with cross-stitching, painted bricks, newly caned chairs, copper candy dishes, birdhouses and clay pot drummer boys. She dabbled with pottery, painting, carving, sewing, knitting, beading, weaving and all manner of crafts projects and was most often successful before moving on to something new. Jane also collected blue willowware china and antique bottles, and was always ready to rush to a yard sale to search for treasure.
Jane's search for treasures was most evident in her caring for people who entered her life. Private and independent, Jane welcomed everyone into her home and quietly allowed each person's best qualities to shine, regardless of how long it took for them to emerge. With six strong-minded and independent children, Jane's modeling was both severely tested and validated.
When she and Mac moved to the Vineyard permanently in 1978, Jane's time and energies were directed at volunteer work with many groups. She was particularly active in the Oak Bluffs Senior Center and was a founder of the Parkinson's Support Group. More recently, she volunteered with the American Sail Training Association for Tall Ships 2000 in Boston and Halifax.
Jane loved to travel. For many years, she and Mac spent winters visiting friends and children in warmer climes. Together they visited all 50 states and many foreign countries including Scotland, Ireland and Portugal. Several times they enjoyed cruise ships or bareboat charters in the Caribbean. Even after Jane was widowed in 1998, she vacationed in Paris and cruised on the Sea Cloud, a luxuriously appointed, full-rigged ship sailing the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.
Jane lived a full and rich life filled with an outgoing spirit, confidence and grace that enriched her family, friends and community. She is survived by her brother, Robert B MacKnight II of Sarasota, Fla.; three daughters: Jane Prendergast of Vero Beach, Fla.; Joan Sopp of Burrillville, R.I.; Ginger Carlisle of Savannah, Ga.; three sons, Bill McGrath of Oak Bluffs, Peter McGrath of Mission Viejo, Calif., and Paul McGrath of Greeley, Colo., eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Jane's life was celebrated with a Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Oak Bluffs. She is buried next to Mac and alongside her parents in Oak Grove Cemetery, Oak Bluffs.
Memorial donations may be made to the Vineyard Nursing Association, P.O. Box 2568, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.