One of the worst periods of snowfall in several years on Martha’s Vineyard was February 1944. Just outside the town of Vineyard Haven, Craig and Gertrude “Turk” Kingsbury were at home at Kingsbury Farm. With an 18 month old daughter and heavy snowfall, Turk gave birth to a toddler girl, 1.5 months prematurely. Craig skied to Tashmoo Farm, where they had a phone, to call Dr Cosgrove, who finally dropped in the next day, and said he didn’t think the baby would survive as he weighed less than 4 pounds.
A few weeks later, Craig met the doctor, who offered his condolences on the death of their baby. Craig said: “No, she was so small that she could crawl through the slats of the crib, so we put her in the clawfoot tub instead. Trina is doing great!
21 years later, this little creature stood over six feet tall and was taller than one might have imagined. Growing up on this farm, walking barefoot most of the time, nature and her family fed this little girl.
The curious and creative kid had only adults as playmates, including George “Cookie” Cook, Hezekiah “Hezzie” Madison, “Buck” Legg, “Dynamite” Danny Oliviera and Johnny Olsen, to name a few. some. So many who visited the farm were happy to have a curious child who wanted to know everything they were doing, watching and listening as she learned about carpentry, ranching and life on the farm.
At 8, she discovered Tashmoo Farm, Elsie MacLachlan and Elizabeth “Libby” Blackwell Belden, who ran it. From 8 to 17 years old, she continues to work and learn there; in her words, “life was like a Beatrix Potter world.” She became so adept at working with horses that she began teaching horseback riding at the age of 12. As an adult, she could train and teach harness, the three seats of English, side riding, western and basic dressage.
She started at Tisbury School in 1949; she started violin lessons at the age of 11. She spent 10 years in Tisbury before joining the new Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. She played the violin in the high school orchestra and string ensemble and graduated on June 11, 1961 with letters in music, citizenship and sportsmanship. She and Billy Diaz were voted the most spiritual in the class. She and Hugh McGinnis were named the most artistic.
She won her very first red ribbon for art in first grade, when Ted Meinhelt was her art teacher. Her drawing of a red chicken is still hanging in her living room. It started her love for the agricultural fair, especially the hall, where she won ribbons for embroidery, art, woodworking, embroidery, needlework, fabric, design, woodcarving , crochet and knitting, and because she had watched all these old people do wonderful things, she had learned by watching. She was especially proud of her miniature creations.
Trina took the business course in high school and learned shorthand skills, which always gave her a rest.
After high school, she began to roam, traveling first to Santa Fe, NM, working with her friend Alice Vanderhoop. She financed her first horse and saddle by mounting fences.
She wanted to study art and worked firsthand with artists, paying her way by modeling. She played the violin in the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and the guitar, “for the company”. Most of her wanderings have taken her for two to four months at a stretch. When she was back on the island, she worked at Cape and Vineyard Electric Co. on the Packer Wharf; she also worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the Buoy Lab.
Trina worked with Dr William Wilcox and Sonny Jackson at Foote Memorial Animal Hospital. Then she attended Museum School in Boston, which she dropped out after a semester.
Trina went to New York, teaching at the Kenilworth Club in Rye and Claremont Riding Stable, which served Central Park. At 20, she worked in Cambridge for a German engineering company and the following year for Mario Panizzi, importer of Florentine art in Brattle Square. Between trips, she returned to the farm to help out each spring as needed.
Taking a Norwegian freighter to France, she stayed in Paris and London before starting training with the British Horse Society in Somerset, England, where she obtained one of the more difficult certifications.
After the exams, she and another horse handler traveled in Trina’s mini-truck through England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, the ‘Andorra, Spain and Portugal. They parted in Lisbon. Her friend returned to the United States and Trina returned to England. Those seven months were the longest time she had been away from home.
She returned to the vineyard each spring to help with the plowing, leading a huge team of oxen, Buck and Lion, which had been trained so well by her father, Craig, that they followed Trina like two puppies.
Then Trina went to upstate New York to tend the 750 acres of Verney Farms, driving standardbreds and training Morgans for a boss who excelled in so many ways: environmentalist, rider, environmentalist, hobbyist. outdoorsman, sailor, poet, musician and an amazing artist. It was the happiest moment of his life; her boss, who had known her since she was little, was James Cagney.
At this time, her future husband, a merchant seaman, proposed to her, and she decided to quit her job to get married. By the age of 19, Trina had made a deal on a property on Tea Lane in Chilmark and started clearing the land to build a studio.
She had promised her grandmother that she would have a riding stable on the farm where Trina was born, but the farm never came to her. After the death of his grandmother, he went to Trina’s three siblings, in the hope that they would return to the vineyard.
She and her husband started to build a house.
Trina was divorced in 1974 and resumed her wanderings, living and working in the Thomaston, Maine Fire Department where she was the first woman to hold that position in the state. She lived in Westhaven, Connecticut, driving daily to teach horseback riding in New York State; then to Casey Key, Florida, where she was a private nurse.
Eventually, all of his travels would take him to 12 countries, 23 states and the West Indies!
Trina had spent some time as a traveling reporter for the Vineyard Gazette prior to her travels, and she continued to write, paint, produce incredible manual labor, and develop her property.
For 17 years, she wrote an original column on the town of Gay Head and contributed poems and drawings for the Martha’s Vineyard Times.
She had a great love for animals, both inside her house and outside in the fields and woods. She often made special holiday meals for her critters, enjoying their feasts when they came to eat.
Her last dog, Alice von Wolftrap, was the only dog featured in Lynn Christopher’s book, “Island Cats”. The only way Lynn could include Tossu, Trina and Alice’s cat, was to have Alice in the book too. Trina was also mentioned in Holly Nadler’s book, “Island Confidential”.
Perhaps the best known of his many works of art are his detailed and comprehensive “Wildflowers of Martha’s Vineyard” and his accompanying piece, “Butterflies of Martha’s Vineyard”.
She continued to participate in the annual agricultural fair, winning ribbons in the hall for her work and until the age of 21, she competed in the annual horse show. After that, she entered the lumberjack competition, which included a chainsaw carving.
In January 1977, Trina asked David Berube of Edgartown, considered one of the best shellfishers on the island, to teach her the correct way to fish for scallops. She said, “He’s kind of a cross between Andrew Wyeth and the ‘old man and the sea’. she and her pal Dale Robinson have been festooning partners for several years.
Trina Kingsbury graced the world with her wit, her wisdom, and a touch of wickedness. Many knew of his generous nature. Her natural curiosity led her to grow in more and more directions. She befriended the children, encouraged them to learn and develop their own skills, and to enjoy life the way she did.
Her life ended in the same four-poster bed where she was born. All of his travels, adventures, and earnings were over. His life is now over and nothing can be added or subtracted. Trina’s musing as her life drew to a close: “Knowing that I only had a few months to live was great, in the sense that it was kind of a long Christmas.” I didn’t tell my friends I was about to croak, instead I said I was cleaning my house. I enjoyed giving away things, things that I had made and treasures that I had collected during my wanderings.
She will rest on the hill of Abel, an eternal monument to her adage: “Live while you live, then die and be done!” It’s hard to imagine Trina Kingsbury would ever be done with this.