When Rob Decker, one of the 20 or so men and women assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha, pulled me aside on the dock and asked how to go about pinning down Aquinnah resident June Manning for a visit, my immediate response was really? She’s never home! We chatted for a few minutes about June and I passed along her address, hoping they could coordinate a get-together.

A few weeks passed and still no visit at her Lighthouse Road home had come to fruition. The folks of Station Menemsha plotted, schemed and managed to pull June’s granddaughter Kayla into their plan of attack. One morning last week, June had a few minutes between meetings and Kayla invited her to take a ride to Menemsha Texaco to pick up a few things. As you all know, June jumps at an opportunity to grab a coffee and a little conversation on Squid Row. To boot, her adorable little great-granddaughter Kylee would be in the car for the ride. June wandered in wearing one of her trademark purple shirts (when grandson Noah was small, June would occasionally be referred to as Grandma Purple). June greeted me with a wide smile, pleasant hello and proceeded to get her coffee. She sat down at the little green desk in the corner of our shop with the sun shining through the window warming her back. As she began to tell one of her many stories, in walked a sea of blue uniforms.

June’s eyes widened as a beautiful bouquet of flowers was presented to her amidst a chorus of thank-yous and flood of hugs from senior chief Robert Reimer, Rob Decker, Rob Verdone, Evan Lavigne and Amanda Haverkamp. We all agreed that June’s exemplary spirit of giving, and “just because she’s June” merited some small town, down home recognition. Rob Decker, the impromptu spokesman for the group, thanked June for her kindness and generosity over the years. He also reminded her that kindness and generosity should be a two-way street, so if she ever were to need a hand with anything, they are but a phone call away.

Once June wiped away the tears that overwhelmed her eyes, she sat back down at the desk in the corner flanked by 1970s vintage orange vinyl chairs with the sun at her back, and began to tell the story of Anna Smalley. “It was 1967,” she said. Although I cannot retell the story with June’s vivid detail, I can recount why the Coast Guard is so significant to June. Great-grandmother Anna was bedridden and living with June’s family. She was home alone one day when the postman went by and saw that the house was on fire. Knowing Anna was in there unable to escape on her own, he, along with Eleanor Hebert’s father and Coast Guardsmen rescued her. Since that day, June has held the men and women that serve in the USCG in the highest regard.

According to Evan Lavigne, June has always been vocal about and appreciative of the work the men and women do at station Menemsha. Both he and Rob Verdone noted that June is noticeably visible at the holidays but occasionally she will stop by with no reason at all, perhaps to drop off some Chilmark Chocolates as a simple token of appreciation. Rob Decker and Matt Soscia both noted that June is a kindhearted community member who strives to make those assigned to station Menemsha feel at home, especially the younger members who may be away from home for the first time.

Former senior chief Jason Olsen shared the following with me: “June is a great person. She has always made the crew feel welcomed to the Island. She spearheaded the holiday foods to the station, and I really enjoyed talking to her. Personally, I am very grateful for the books she gave to me and my family. One was about lighthouse keepers and the flying Santa history.” Although Jason and his family are no longer on the Island, June certainly contributed to the positive experience they had while they were here.

June wears many hats, and yes, some of them are purple. Among other things, she serves on the boards at the VTA, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard and the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living. She serves not only in her hometown of Aquinnah, but the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head as well. She is active with the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, the American Heart Association and so much more. Although it is impossible to be involved in everything, June has managed to be involved in nearly everything. They say one goal in life is to make an ounce of difference. June, I believe, has made a pound.

June, thank you for your unselfish and kind acts of generosity. Thank you for your dedication to our community. Your heart is full of grace. It was time for you to be embraced and thanked by those whom you have touched. We appreciate you.