The Original Island Gem

Fri, 04/16/2021 - 12:45pm

“You need Edie Blane at Offshore Property!” Important advice given to us back in 1993. After renting on Block Island for a few years, we had stayed an extra week and out of curiosity started looking at real estate postings. Finding Edie Blane certainly sealed our fate. She quickly recognized us as potential “good island people” - such a compliment from a true islander. She vowed to find us our perfect piece of Paradise, and we soon became islanders, (using the term loosely, of course).
We realized early on that Edie is one of those island gems who has lived her life here, knows every person and every inch of the island. She has devoted her life to “all things island,” which includes serving as town warden for many years. We first saw her as Grand Marshal of the July Fourth Parade in 1989, when we were astounded by that spectacular event. Being grand marshal was a big deal.
In our early years, she regularly pulled up at our roadside with advice de jour. “You’ll need to cut those hedges back before they get ahead of you,” and a week later, “You’ll never finish that if you don’t get better equipment.” Another day she dropped off a bucket of snow-in-summer with the message, “Nobody’s ever going to organize that flagpole garden, so you’d better plant these and it’ll look better.” I hope she has come to admire the job we’ve done to enhance that garden. The snow-in-summer is still
there, but we’ve added crocosmia, daylilies, shasta and Montauk daisies to create a pretty view, in spite of feasting deer. We are most grateful for those nudges for improvement.
One classic Edie story occurred as we were touring various island properties for sale. As we passed the cemetery, Edie slammed on her brakes, backed up, and drove into the cemetery driveway. Storming out of her car, she castigated some mopeders who were headed up the path. “Can’t you read?” she barked, pointing at the very obvious sign at the entrance. “Sorry, we didn’t know...” “Then you really must learn to read!” Back in the car, and off we drove, Rick and I giving each other a “guess-you-don’t-mess-with-her”
Years later I recounted this story to Edie, now just into her 90’s, elegantly dressed and impeccably coiffed as always, returning on the ferry from a doctor’s appointment. She laughed and added her own favorite confrontation tale. “When I was First Warden, I happened upon some young hoodlums drinking beer down by the dock. I stopped and
politely told them it was against the law. ‘Who are you to tell us what to do, you stupid old lady?’ they retorted. I silently left, but went straight to the police chief and told him to go arrest those boys. When they appeared at First Warden’s Court the following week, they came into the room still muttering about that stupid old lady who reported them. They stopped abruptly as they recognized me at the front of the room. ‘I guess now you know who I am to tell you what to do?’”

Over the years, Edie has been our resource whenever a historical question arises. In 2019 we were researching the history of our house to apply for a historical plaque. Her advice about sources and then verification of our findings helped our project. Regarding our cottage and its origins, she immediately had the info: “I remember when Mr. Crawford moved that house from Rheta Willis’ house on Calico Hill. Mr. Crawford had I think four daughters and when they all came to visit with their families, he decided
that he and his wife would just move out.” Many people have said this cottage was a chicken coop, but Edie insists that it was a shed. However, our builder said recently that he found a chicken door hole on the back side while replacing shingles…Perhaps both stories are correct.
One June day in 2020, a couple whomwe did not know stopped by to gift us a cut-paper picture of our house, the cottage, the Breakers, and the Willis house, created by Sally Pinney, they thought in 1977. We didn’t get much information about how they happened to have the picture, since they came to the island in the early 90’s, like us. A quick call to Edie verified that Sally Pinney was wellknown on the island and elsewhere for her artwork back in the 70’s. Edie went on to narrate the colorful story of this artist who lived out on the west side.
In that same phone call, Edie emphasized that she is not bored by life during the Covid-19 pandemic. “I’ve never been bored a day in my life! I have books to read, birds to watch and a garden. I have the good fortune to be aging in Paradise!” She went on to educate me about the robins with open beaks in her bird bath that day. “You know it’s hot when their mouths are open. Robins spend 60 percent of their time taking care of their feathers.” When I remarked that they were sort of like teenage girls, she guffawed and said she’d use that description next time. She described her nesting hummingbird with two tiny babies. “Her nest is made of spider silk that stretches as the family grows, and my son brought me a little feeder that you fill with bananas. The bananas attract fruit flies, and that’s what the mother feeds her babies.” This delightful conversation certainly stifled any trace of Covid-19 boredom-whining that I felt that day. Such a wonderful attitude - a gem aging in Paradise indeed!