The Martha’s Vineyard theatre community and Jaws aficionados alike are mourning the loss of longtime thespian Lee Fierro, who died Sunday at the age of 91. The cause was complications of Covid-19.

Lee Fierro co-founded Island Theatre Workshop in 1974. — Ivy Ashe/Gazette file photo

Along with her friend Mary Payne, in 1974 Ms. Fierro had co-founded the Island Theatre Workshop, the long-running children’s theatre program on the Vineyard that continues today.

She was also known for her role as the grieving mother Mrs. Kintner in the movie Jaws, which was filmed on the Island in the summer of 1974. In the blockbuster Steven Spielberg movie, Mrs Kintner was mother to Alex Kintner the second victim of the fictional great white shark that terrorized residents and tourists of Amity Island.

Ms. Fierro reprised the role of Mrs. Kintner in Jaws the Revenge in 1987.

On the Island over the years, she was well known for her work on the stage and behind the scenes as an actor, director, writer, and theatre teacher.

Formerly a longtime resident of Vineyard Haven, Ms. Fierro had moved from the Vineyard to an assisted living facility in Ohio to be near her family last year. A warm sendoff party was held for her in June at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse.

Among other places, news of her death Sunday was reported in The Daily Jaws, a website devoted to Jaws fans.

In a 2005 interview in the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Ms. Fierro told the following story of how she was cast as Mrs. Kintner.

Virginia Poole, who was an Island casting director working under Shari Rhodes, told me to go down and get photographed and give my résumé. I objected because I had been out of theater for a number of years and I wasn’t interested in Jaws at all. I had read the book, but I didn’t see anything in it for me. But Virginia said, “Oh, just go down and get photographed."

So I did. And I felt very uncomfortable. Shari Rhodes, who was a very pretty young Texan, Bob Carroll, and Gerry Kelly, and someone else who I can’t remember, were there. I felt like a frump. I wasn’t wearing lipstick in those days and I had my glasses. So when I left I was relieved and thought, Well, that’s the end of that. So I was surprised when two weeks later I get called up by Shari Rhodes telling me that Steven Spielberg is on the Island and wanted to see me. I went down and he asked me to improvise the beach scene with my son. Shari would play Alex and I was to keep him out of the water. I did precisely what Steven told me. And Shari tried and tried to persuade me to let her/him go in the water, and I wouldn’t. And Steven finally stopped us and he said, “You’ve got to let him go in the water or we don’t have a movie.”

There was a lot of swearing in the book and I had told Shari that I felt very uncomfortable about that. Two weeks later when she called me up and offered me the part, I asked her if there was any swearing in it and she said, “Oh, I’m sure not.” So I went down to get my sides [her pages in the script] and left the room with them and looked immediately to see what it was. And there was that four-letter word all over the place. And so I didn’t know what to do.

I went home and talked to my husband. We went down and talked to Virginia Poole and I went to Shari the next day and said, “I’m very sorry but I can’t play this role.”

And she said, “Can’t or won’t?”

And I said, “Both. I won’t swear. I don’t think it’s well written because there’s a scene just before it where they swear. I thank you very much. I appreciate Universal offering me the part, but I can’t play it. Here’s the script. Good-bye.”

That was Friday. Monday I was called back on the phone by Shari and she said, “If you don’t have to swear, will you play the role?”

And I said, “Yes, I will.”

And she said, “Do you mind spitting at the shark?”

And I said, “No, I don’t mind spitting at the shark.”

As it turned out what was written instead was the slap — the famous slap.