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  • Writer's pictureNelson Sigelman

Fair Tides, Ed Jerome

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

Edgartown School principal Ed Jerome always found time to fish.
Edgartown School principal Ed Jerome always found time to fish.

Ed Jerome died Tuesday, September 18. The retired Edgartown School principal and longtime — forever, it seemed — president of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, was a great guy. I knew him as a fisherman first, then as a member of the Derby committee, and later when I worked as a news reporter, as a respected Island educator. His death was sad news for the entire Island and extended fishing community. No matter the organization, Ed’s was always the firm guiding hand. He led the Edgartown School for 26 years. After retiring, when a leadership void developed in the regional school district he served as interim superintendent. Later, he served as interim principal at the West Tisbury School. I never heard a disparaging word about him. But it was as president of the Derby committee where his ability to referee school yard battles carried the day. I served on the committee for ten years. Trying to reach consensus in a room full of fishermen would test the patience of any man. Ed was a consensus builder. He was a listener. Above all, he was a gentleman. We did not always agree on derby policy, but I always appreciated his thoughtful approach, and I valued our conversations about fishing, Island politics, and life in general. Ed’s contributions to the Derby, now a fixture of Island life, cannot be overstated. This small tournament, conceived in 1946 as a way to attract visitors and bolster the off-season economy, is now celebrating its 73rd year. Far more than a fishing contest, it is an annual reunion of individuals bound in spirit. On the practical side, the Derby annually awards $37,500 in scholarships to Island high school graduates. Ed was the driving force behind the scholarship program. He sold, he cajoled, and he organized a building endowment that would support the scholarship fund. At first, I was just sad when I learned that Ed had died. But, as I reflected on the news, I remembered that some time ago Ed suffered a near fatal heart attack. Quick work in the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital emergency room saved his life. And, of course, Ed bounced back. He operated a successful charter boat that allowed him to do what he enjoyed — talk to people and take them fishing. And he spent the cold, damp Island winters in Florida working on his seemingly ever present tan. Many years ago, I was passing through the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. An elderly man collapsed after stepping off an escalator. A group of teens thought it was funny. How sad, I thought, to have drawn his last breath among strangers. The image stayed with me. I value the closeness of our small community. Although Ed will be missed, it is comforting to know that he died on the Island that he loved, doing what he loved — shellfishing in Sengekontacket Pond with friends nearby. And, it was Derby time. Fishermen were on the beach casting to albies. Chris Scott, Ed's good friend and a member of the Derby committee told me that the full basket of clams Ed had raked up were donated to the Edgartown Senior Center. A small but fitting act of generosity that so captured his spirit. I can tell you when the current will begin to ebb off Wasque and the rip will form that attracts Derby winning blues and striped bass. But, the tide of life is not predictable. It is drawn by different forces than those that affect the sea that surrounds our Island. And, one day it falls for each of us. Fair tides, Ed Jerome.

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