Jack Ryan of the West Tisbury Post Office delivers more than just packages to his regulars.

Ray Ewing


Best Of My Vineyard

And the first annual Ghiglione award goes to...

We all have our own lists of [unsung heroes] who shape our lives on the Island.

The Best of the Vineyard awards are here again – a time to sing the praises of the restaurants, businesses, and workers that animate our Island and make it a special place to live. I like to mentally note those that I frequent and discover ones that weren’t yet on my radar.

I also find myself making a list of the people and places that don’t fit into any existing category but help me in ways great and small. Think of it as singing the praises of the unsung.

We all have our own lists of those who shape our lives on the Island. Not surprisingly, my wife and daughters head my list, but many others come immediately to mind. Their skills bring me joy, overcome my frailties, and compensate for my incompetencies. However self-sufficient I imagine myself, I’m dependent on the talents and kindnesses of others.

My unsung heroes include Chris Priore, who quickly designed and managed the construction of a wheelchair/walker-friendly ramp into our house for my wife, who is recovering from open-heart surgery; Jason Blandini, of Red Tail Caretaking and Home Maintenance, who fixes everything from a broken picture frame (hit by a hockey stick) to a torn screen door; and Kevaughn Glenn, who faithfully collects our trash each Sunday, even when it contains a back-breaking dishwasher ready for the dump.

Deloris Johnson, of Deloris’ Designs in Vineyard Haven, artfully stitches back together the afghan my grandmother made for me sixty-four years ago. Dan Sauer, co-owner and executive chef of 7a Foods in West Tisbury, creates recipes for blueberry Earl Grey, lemon poppyseed, and other scones that make my wife especially happy. Janet Belain, co-owner of Mid-Island Repair in West Tisbury, gets my car in to replace a broken headlight or reattach a street-scraping bumper so that I can drive my five grandchildren to dance, baseball, or soccer on time. And Linda Silva delivers my New York Times early each morning and writes delightfully derisive messages to the person or persons who occasionally steal my Sunday edition.

Pamela Glavin, of Pam’s Provisions, makes the extraordinary pesto that bejewels our family’s pasta, made from scratch on special birthdays. Sue Merrill, in the West Tisbury School’s front office, takes from me with a smile a homework assignment or Chromebook forgotten by one of my grandkids and promptly delivers it to the child. Rachel Rooney, the West Tisbury IT/reference librarian, saves me from myself when something I’ve spent days writing suddenly disappears from my computer screen.

And then there’s Jack Ryan at the West Tisbury Post Office, who turns a package pickup into one of the day’s sweetest moments for my youngest grandchildren and me. Often, after school lets out, I drive Rosie, nine, and Theo, eight, to collect the day’s mail. They shout if the mailbox contains a rectangular yellow card that signals a package is waiting, then hand the card to Ryan. As he retrieves the package, Ryan talks to the grandkids and offers them small stickers with which they decorate their clothes, arms, and faces. They always leave the post office happy.

Ryan, who moved to the Vineyard in 1986, has worked at the West Tisbury Post Office for eight years. There’s no award for best postal worker – if there were, I would nominate all the kind workers at the West Tisbury Post Office. But they do receive flowers. On a recent visit, a vase of golden tulips was displayed on the counter, a symbol of the affection Ryan and the other workers generate from customers. There’s almost always some type of flower on display, most delivered by Peggy Tudek.

In addition to being a postal staffer, Ryan is a talented pointillist who frequently draws New York City skyscrapers, bridges, and other structures – references to his youth in Brooklyn. At home in Oak Bluffs with Lauren, his wife, and their two rescue animals – Oswalt, a fourteen-year-old dog, and Ming, a twenty-year-old cat – he descends after dinner to his basement studio to draw and stipple for up to three hours. He donates much of the resulting art to local charities. 

Last year, at an artist’s reception in his honor at the West Tisbury library, floral designer Helene Barr presented him with a bouquet. She explained that each time she compliments the vase of flowers on the counter at the post office, Ryan picks out a stem and gives it to her. Barr’s bouquet was repayment for all the flowers he has given her over the years. Artist Elizabeth Greene handed him another bouquet and hugged him. “I call him my favorite cartoon character,” she said, comparing him to the loving, gentle, sweet Mr. Magoo.

Ryan was behind the post office counter during the early pandemic when people were still wiping down their groceries and mail. He rode the VTA to work – frequently alone, as the teachers and students who once rode with him remained at home. During that time, many of us began to realize our debt to frontline workers, who were more often rewarded with higher Covid infection rates than with higher pay.

As the masks came off, so, too, did many outward expressions of gratitude. Postal workers, nurses, and so many others remain essential to the fabric of this community. They deserve flowers, and praise of their contributions deserves to be sung.      

Comments (1)

Tim Boland
Wes Tisbury
Wonderful article - just what humanity needs - letting people know they are valued and part of what makes a community hold together. I enjoy visiting the post office to hear Jack's awesome playlists. He knows people and GREAT music!
July 27, 2023 - 10:56am