The Block Island Times

In Case You Haven't Heard

By Fran Migliaccio | Jun 06, 2012
Courtesy of: Willis Brown Dr. Ashley Brown with her proud father, Willis Brown.

Not to miss
Just out: A full-color volume of Block Island photographs by Gerard Closset, who has photographed Block Island for over 30 years. Gerard will have a book signing Saturday, June 2, 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, at Island Bound bookstore.
Entitled “Block Island: One of the Last Great Places,” the large-format book offers Block Island in all moods, presented through the lens of a master photographer. Closset has used no special effects to capture his stunningly clear, bright images. Some favorites of this columnist are “Red Gate in Nor’easter Snowstorm,” “Sullivan House Porch at Sunset,” and the artistic “Stonewall and Trees in the Fog.” All photographs in the book are available at Closset’s website,, or by contacting him at The book is currently being sold at Island Bound and the Block Island Boat Basin store.
More exciting news about island photography is that Malcolm Greenaway’s book, “Block Island: Rhode Island’s Jewel” is being reprinted; look for it some time this summer!
Earlier this month, Greenaway was honored with the Rhode Island Tourism Council’s 2012 Unity Award at the council’s Unity Luncheon, which celebrated the theme of “Beautiful Rhode Island.” Attendees at the luncheon included, besides Greenaway, Block Island Tourism Council Executive Director Jessica Willi and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Lost and found
Joan Ballard writes, “After our yard sale on May 26 on Mitchell Lane, we found a car key in the grass with the word “van” written on it. Call 466-5140 if it belongs to you.”
Special Delivery
A text message from Susie Weissman to Fraser Lang told a tale of island life with a very happy ending. The story unfolded as Susie texted while attending a zoning meeting. She had come to the island on the 4:30 New England Airlines flight, and had texted her close friend, Augusta Rich, to tell Augusta she had left a car in Westerly in case Augusta needed to use it. Augusta had good reason to be interested, as she was leaving the island early on the advice of her doctor for the anticipated birth of her baby, due in two weeks.
Fifteen minutes later, Augusta texted that she was having contractions and was leaving on the 5:00 boat. She kept Susie informed, via texting, of her progress.
At 5:30, the contractions were five minutes apart. At 6:15, Augusta had made it to South County Hospital. At 7:15, she texted a picture of herself nursing baby Ethan. Augusta’s husband Chris then texted to say that it had been 13 minutes from the time her water broke to the delivery.
Susie called the hospital after seeing the picture, and Augusta told her that she had assumed, during the remaining 45 minutes of the ferry ride, that she wouldn’t make it to the hospital on time. The Interstate Navigation crew called an ambulance, which met her at the dock and rushed her to the hospital, where her doctor waited to meet her at the door. “Pretty wonderful,” as Susie said.
Equally wonderful was that Augusta was home and walking around the next day with baby Ethan, who weighed in at 6 pounds, 8 ounces and was peacefully unaware of the dramatic nature of his debut into the world.
About town
“The floors at the Surf were just refinished and they’re gorgeous!” said Surf Hotel manager Kimberly Afonso when I saw her at the post office on May 24. So, on my way back to the Boat Basin, I stopped for a peek. The floors in the lobby, dining room and owners’ apartment beyond were completely cleared and drying with the aid of fans, and were indeed beautiful to behold, in variegated natural hues of gold. The wood is extinct yellow pine, and dates from the original building of the Surf.
Beyond the dining room, in the apartment, the boards were darker and wider, and were set at right angles to the yellow pine in the dining area. The line of demarcation is the point where the Surf’s tall third structure was joined to the hotel’s central second structure, constituting a fascinating bit of “architectural archaeology.”
The second annual Block Island Chowda Cookoff, sponsored by the Block Island Maritime Institute and featuring the music of Two of Hearts, was a triumph once again, attracting a goodly number of cheerful chowder connoisseurs. Cookoff winners, decided upon by the vote of tasters, were: best chowder overall, Club Soda (it was “#6” in the lineup at the fest); best New England chowder, Ballard’s Inn and Restaurant; best clear broth clam chowder, Mabel’s; best Manhattan clam chowder, Mike Ballard. Mike also garnered first place among all the independent (that is, non-commercial establishment) culinary contestants. Thank you, all who had a hand in this event, for a job well done and a good time had!
Spotted lunching at the Oar last Tuesday were Fraser Lang and several of his classmates from the Brown University Class of 1967. The alums were spending a couple of days on Block Island, and were keenly interested in island life and local issues.
The group had traveled to the island after attending their 45th reunion in Providence.  They included David and Terry Chichester from Bainbridge Island, WA; Brian and Terry Murphy from Stamford, CT; Joe and Helaine Ruma from Andover, MA and Sherill and Mary Moyer from Dauphin, PA. Helaine had worked on the island several summers in the 1960’s and remarked that the place had retained its character even as restaurants and accommodations had made giant strides in quality and comfort.
Block Island everywhere
Juice ’n Java founder and former proprietor Michael Shields writes, from Key West: “It’s been too long since I was last on the Block, five years now, to be exact. Yet, I continue to have lucid, vivid dreams of the isle. The unsurpassed beauty, of course, and what it evokes is always a mixture of not just nostalgia, but rich memories and life-altering experiences.”
In addition to birthday information printed below, Michael writes that his granddaughter Naiya, the daughter of Michael’s elder son Shepard, is now 13, living outside Philadelphia with her mom, Jenny. Jenny just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in engineering, and the two visit the island every year, as often as possible. Naiya spent a number of her younger years living year ’round on Block Island.
Michael’s son Jason has been living on-island the past four years, working at construction here and on the mainland.
As for the “old man,” as Michael refers to himself, he is a full-time resident of Key West, where he founded the Key West Film Society and served as CEO and President, while serving as Executive Director of the Tropic Cinema, voted best cinema in Florida. He is currently chair of the city’s Art in Public Places Board, Program Coordinator for Leadership Monroe County, Executive Director of Art Behind Bars, and serves on the county’s Library Advisory Board and Florida Keys Council of the Arts. He is with a daily local radio program, ArtWaves (about the Arts), and associate editor of KONK Life, a weekly paper on life in the Conch Republic. “On June 23rd,” he adds, “I am producing the 6th Annual Midsummer’s Night Dream & Spectacle at the Key West Tropical Forest. I am busier than ever, loving it. Thankfully, I’m in excellent health, the waters here are wonderful!”
Former town planner Michele Crowley, now living in Stonington, Conn., has been forging a career as a theatrical producer over the past six years. Currently, she is working with Tony Award-winning producers Bob Boyett (“War Horse”) and Harriet Leve on a new Broadway show called “Ann,” a no-holds-barred look at the life of former Texas Governor Ann Richards. The lead role is played by Holland Taylor, of “Two and a Half Men,” “The Practice,” and “Legally Blond.” In addition to getting the word out, producer Crowley is looking for investors, and may be reached at (860) 326-8505, or For further information, the show’s website is
Justifiably proud dad Willis Brown, the father of now Dr. Ashley Brown, writes of the graduation photo he sent to us, “After Ashley’s med school graduation, this photo was taken at home near our ‘Wall of Honor.’ Starting when my children were in 6th grade, I framed and posted each distinctive award they received over the years. It proved to be a great motivational tool. Ashley Brown graduated from Baylor University Medical School on May 22, having previously attained an MBA from Rice University in one and a half years. Ashley’s MBA from Rice will be mailed to her, so she is holding her Stanford diploma as a stand-in for the Rice MBA. After her last final she was hired, once again, to continue her research on blood clots and the heart. In mid-June, she’ll begin her move to her intern and resident location in California. She will continue to perform lab research in the hope of finding cures for the masses, as opposed to healing one patient at a time.”
Very happy wedding anniversaries to Marja and Neil Lang, June 5; Norma and Jason Reder, June 8; Carol and Henry Hill, June 11.  
Of cakes and candles
A happy belated birthday to Susan Mott Pike; we got word a bit too late for a previous column that her special day is May 16.
Roland Phaneuf writes, “Birthday girls Janice Burley (June 11) and Deborah Beames (June 27) will spend their birthdays on the Block at the Neptune House the week of June 9 through the 16th, so if anyone sees them and their spouses cycling the island, wish them both happy birthday!”
Happy birthdays also to Johno Sisto and Connie La Rue, June 2 (the date on this paper!); Betsy Pyne, June 3; Joe Sprague, June 4; Bridgette Keane, June 5; Grace O’Neill, John Barry, Anders Vercelli and Martha Ball, June 6; Sam Stockman, June 7; Eleanor Mott, June 9 (cards will reach Eleanor at Kent Regency Center, 660 Commonwealth Ave., Warwick, R.I. 02886); Shepard McCallum, (eldest son of Michael Shields), who turns 40 on June 11; also on June 11, happy birthdays to Ann Henault and Matt Lensing; Doris Hassinger, June 13; Susie Weissman, June 15; Shelley Topf, and twins Aldo and John Leone, June 16; and twins Carol Rachels Silverman and Madeleine Rachels Burns, June 17.
Let us know what’s happening! Visiting relatives, special occasions, updates on friends near and far, projects… Deadline is Tuesday morning, and Fran can be reached at 466-2892 or

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