Sunday, August 18, 2013

2013.08.18 Madaket Millie

2013.08.18  Madaket Milie

A Spiritual Lemon, as most of you know, is my sweet ‘n sour term for any person, place or thing that most people assume to be sour but that is really blessed with a special sweetness.

Madaket Millie is one such Spiritual Lemon. Here she is on one of her 80 birthdays, a local hero and legend.

Millie was Mildred Jewett, born in 1907 on Nantucket and moved to her grandmother’s farm in Madaket, the western end of the island in 1911. Millie was fascinated by the sea and would sit on top of her house gazing out to sea for hours. She became known as the “Protector of the West End” and called herself the “seaside sentinel.”

Her well trained eye earned her a vocation patrolling the beaches during World War II, watching for shipwrecks, and training German Shepard dogs for patrol duty for all branches of the military service. The Coast Guard was Millie's favorite branch, her “family.” Millie was awarded the highest honorary civilian rank, Coast Guard West End Command.

Millie had a gruff, grim, sour countenance and a sweet heart that loved animals, especially dogs, sold ice cream, and helped anyone in need. She greeted natives and visitors alike and called tourists “mop heads” because of the noisy contraptions they rode around. . . . mopeds.

Millie developed a close friendship with Mr. Rogers who had a home on Nantucket and couldn’t have been more cheery-faced to Millie’s curmudgeonly dourness. The two made a film together, and when they were around it was indeed a “wonderful day in the neighborhood.”

One summer day some 30 years ago my son John and his cousin ran into Millie near her tiny house in Madaket on the west end of Nantucket Island, MA. “What are you boy doing snooping around here?” Millie growled. The young boys arrived home breathless and terrified. On another occasion they met Mr. Rogers and ran home their eyes like saucers, breathless with celebrity-wonder.

Millie and Fred (above) stand in front of Millie’s cottage—the perfect picture of spiritual wholeness.

Today there is a terrific, informal restaurant near the west end beach in Madaket. After several incarnations that haven't lasted the name Millie's has taken hold. If this establishment is as resilient as its namesake it will thrive as long as the seas allow.

Somehow I imagine the ghost of Millie commanding the waters to back off and let this dear land live.