2014 MV Medal Winners and Presenters(from left to right):
Introduced by Denys Wortman
I'm very happy to be here. Today I have the honor and privilege of awarding the Martha's Vineyard Museum's Martha's Vineyard Medal to a dear friend of many many years, Dorothy Kenney Bangs. Sadly it's being awarded posthumously as Dorothy left us a year ago last April at the age of 88. A marvelous lady, I'm sure many of you knew her. She probably has students in the room. Happily, two of her sons are here, two of her three sons are here. Only one of them is here. I'll explain that in a little while.
Dorothy was a Vineyard resident for 67 years. She came here. She was recruited as a vocal music teacher in 1946. In 1948 she met and married Stuart Bangs of Vineyard Haven, another wonderful person. I'm sure a lot of you remember Stuart. What a wonderful couple they made. You'll meet one of their boys shortly, Dana Bangs. She retired in 1990 after teaching three generations of Islanders and is likely to be the single most important influence on the harmonies heard across the Island. For many summers, she was also the postmaster at the small post office in West Chop.
From the day she heard that the Museum was thinking about buying the neighboring Marine Hospital, she was a very very enthusiastic supporter. At a public hearing that we had for neighbors to discuss the Marine Hospital, Dorothy asked me if she could speak. That was the first time I ever had Dorothy ask if she could speak. She was always very happy to give her opinion. And I said sure, go ahead, I'm not going to stop Dorothy. She said just do it, do it, do it. And after that the rest of the attendees totally agreed. No one was going to take on Dorothy on that one.
In 2005 Dorothy was recognized by Hospice of Martha's Vineyard with the annual Spirit of the Vineyard award. She was a longtime volunteer at Windermere, the Tisbury Senior Center, the Martha's Vineyard Hospital in addition to active participation in the First Baptist Church of Vineyard Haven. Dorothy was also the leader of the annual Daffodil Days fundraiser supporting the American Cancer Society for over thirty years. She'd always recruit me too to help deliver the daffodils around the Island. She'd have a whole gang. It was a fun time. She was devoted to the cause. And she was a cancer survivor herself. She was devoted to that cause and bringing spring to all the Vineyarders with those beautiful daffodils.
I first met Dorothy Kenney when I was in the third grade at the Tisbury School, and we've been friends ever since. Together with her husband Stuart, they were pillars of our Island community. Dorothy Kenney Bangs was a remarkable lady who will be remembered and loved by all of us who had the privilege to be one of her students, her friends, or both. The effect she had on so many of us growing up on our Island may have been her largest gift. Thank you Dorothy.
Now I would like to introduce Dana Bangs, will you come up.
Thanks Denny. Since this is a historical society, I'll tell a brief little historical story from my childhood. I'm reminded standing up here of a time when I was a squeaker in shining shoes with a clip-on bow tie and I'd gone to church in Vineyard Haven on a Sunday morning, and it was not as nice as today. It was just about the time the reverend was getting ready to give a sermon and it was raining cats and dogs with thunder and lightning and Henry Ritter, who some of you may know of, was an old man at the time and a member of the church and sitting at the back and said at the time that this was the time for a hell fire and damnation sermon and as a little kid, I was aghast. Nobody talked in church, not least of all me. Henry was his own force of nature, and I spent the intervening years wondering what a hell fire and damnation sermon might actually be like and also what it would be like being in such a place where such a sermon could be delivered. So at least I know the answer to the latter question. This would be the ideal place for it.
And so I thank the Museum for giving me the opportunity to be here and accept this award, and on behalf of my brothers, I thank you very very much for this. Denny's given you a pretty good outline of my mother's history. She came here as a young woman after the war and taught music to generations of Island children, myself included, Denny included, at least three generations and had a pretty profound impact on many of them, some of whom became music teachers and musicians in their own right.
So when Denny told me that she would be getting this award I was at first a little puzzled not really making the connection with the historical society with the Museum, my dad maybe being more of the historian. But when I understood the larger issue that it was about community and art and contribution, that made much more sense to me. As someone who has spent a better part of his adult life away from the Island, off Island, I have a pretty good sense of what it's like to be in a place that has the kind of community that we have here on Martha's Vineyard from living in many places that don't have that. It is the people that live in a community like this, that make those contributions, that do the things that my mother did and the other awardees have done in their time on the Island that make it a special place. And so I do believe my mother contributed to that, and I'm very very pleased to be here to accept this honor on her behalf and on behalf of my brothers who extend their thanks and gratitude.