In 2012 Mike retired after 27 years at SMCo. In 2013 Pinto switched careers after 22 years. In 2014 Pete D went to half time after 27 years and Bob retired after 21. And now, in 2015, Derrill has decided, after 24 years, that he will be changing career and life emphases and therefore moving on from SMCo in April.
Five people, a total of 120 years at SMCo. Wisdom, talent, skill, and institutional memory galore. Big chunks of the heart and soul of SMCo, out the door. Gone
But not all gone. Each remains close by. Mike has continued to serve on our board as Benefits Director (required of all companies registered in Massachusetts as Beneficial Corporations) and managing our equity fund and pension with Siobhán. Pete D continues to be the foreman for our Small Jobs & Maintenance Group. Derrill will continue to do our photography and chair our Charitable Contributions Committee, and will remain on the board and replace Mike as Benefits Director in a year.
But nonetheless this is Massive Change, and it will continue unabated in the years to come as we navigate our planned transition from Generation One to Generation Two. That is who we are today, as we enter our 40th year.
Hmm . . . SMCo without Derrill. That bears examination. He’s quite a guy.
As Derrill studied architecture in the 70’s, he also studied and taught photography. A summer in Bogota, Columbia living with a family and learning Spanish foreshadowed a major aspect of his future life. After graduating from architecture school in 1980, he went to work as a carpenter, and then found his way to the Mosquito Coast in Honduras, where he worked for the UN in a refugee camp overseeing temporary resettlement villages and designing building infrastructure. Soon after this he met his future wife JoAnn in Boston.
You could say that for the next decade he led a bifurcated life. Or you could say it was balanced. Six months of carpentry, six months in Central America doing volunteer work and human rights documentation. Six months here, six months there. Over and over. “It was,” he says, “one of the most visceral periods of my life.”
As his work in Central America began to wind down, in 1990, he began a one year trial at South Mountain, (his brother-in-law Jim was running our shop, and still is) mixing carpentry with a few short trips to Guatemala (by then it was in his blood, and hard to shake!). JoAnn moved to the Vineyard from Boston, they got married (within 500 feet of where they would later build their house in Aquinnah), and Derrill stayed at SMCo, doing carpentry for another four years before moving up to the office and picking up a pencil and a T-square again.
During the next two decades Derrill worked on the design of many of our finest houses and established long-term relationships with many treasured clients.
In 2001 Derrill and JoAnn adopted Jacob, who was diagnosed with autism three years later. A whole new chapter began. “In 2010, after working with many programs that were ineffective for us,” Derrill says, “we began to work with the Autism Treatment Center of America (ATCA) to establish a play-based therapy program for Jacob, and a re-orientation for us as parents. This was a life-saver.”
Many of you who are reading this helped make possible an ATCA 2011 residential intensive for JoAnn, Derrill, and Jacob. Jacob said his first words there.
Along the way, Derrill has consistently been an active force in the island community, both in his town, Aquinnah, and island-wide. He chaired the Aquinnah Housing Committee and Community Preservation Committee. He was a captain in the volunteer fire department. He has been an important part of the Vanderhoop Homestead restoration and the Gay Head Lighthouse move.
He came down from the wilds of Aquinnah to be a founding board member of both the Island Affordable Housing Fund and the Island Housing Trust, and a prime mover and board member for the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority and Greenough House. For all his important affordable housing efforts, Derrill was recognized this year by the Commonwealth when he shared the Kuehn Award for Community Preservation.
And now the twin threads of Jacob and affordable housing have drawn him back home, where he can spend more time with Jacob’s homeschool program and pursue the perfect compliment – affordable housing work from a home office.
When he departs, Derrill will take with him oh so much that we will miss. But he will leave behind far more. His relentless commitment to humanity, kindness, compassion, justice, and design has made an indelible imprint on the South Mountain DNA. His heart will always be with us, and his continuing photography, charitable contributions, and board service will be a constant reminder for us to never forget the “Derrill part” in our work and our thinking.
Personally, I love the strong memories that linger from the many yeasty design collaborations Derrill and I sailed through together, from affordable housing neighborhoods to some of our favorite all time houses, like the Mazar house below.
Hmm . . . SMCo without Derrill. Tough one to imagine.
And the others too. Each has been hard to say farewell to, and each remains a part of who we are.