Obituary: Eileen Dolphin

Thu, 04/05/2012 - 1:09pm

Eileen Dolphin, a longtime summer resident and West Side Road homeowner, died on Monday in New York City. She was 60. The cause of death was a heart attack complicated by a decade-long case of Lyme Disease.

Dolphin was a dedicated New Yorker who loved the city and took advantage of its many cultural activities. She was particularly a fan of the theater. She not only regularly attended plays but was also active in several theater groups and encouraged young people to get acting experience. Eileen especially enjoyed New York City in the winter, when, as she said, she could close her apartment door and then watch the snow come down. The winter of 2011, though, was a little too much even for Eileen.

For most of her life, when the weather turned warm it was time to go to Block Island. Since she was a youngster, her parents brought her to the island. Her father was a lawyer with one of New York City’s major firms, but wanted her to get out of the city for the summer. She talked warmly all her life of growing up in the Cutting Cottages – the forerunners of the existing buildings on Corn Neck Road. She later marveled about what a gloriously simple life it had been for youngsters in those days, to enjoy the freedom of the outdoors and the pleasure of other children on the island.

After graduating from Marymount College, Dolphin had a very successful career doing social work in and around New York City. She had a tough love approach to the under-privileged and demanded that they do more for themselves. She knew the challenges, but was demanding.

For many years, Dolphin was an active supporter of Block Island groups. Through the St. Vincent de Paul Foundation, where she was a board member, she regularly obtained financial support for children’s programs at the Island Free Library. She also helped launch a program with the Block Island Maritime Institute that for the past eight years brought inner-city high school students to Block Island for a week, and helped create, host and support the Block Island School’s 8th grade cultural diversity trip to New York City.

She never knew for certain where she contracted Lyme Disease, but was certain it had been on Block Island. She began having symptoms of the then little understood medical problem almost 10 years ago. New York City doctors, who did not have much experience with it, didn’t recognize it for about five years. She always hoped eventually to be able to return to work, which she had been forced to give up, but that proved impossible.

Dolphin talked only to close friends about her long battle with Lyme, but to them she argued strongly that the island was not paying sufficient attention to the crippling illness. For the past year she suffered constant pain. Dolphin left her body to science in hopes that the medical community will be able to learn something about the terrible disease. For that reason, there will be no funeral. A memorial may be announced at a later date.

Cheryl Blane, Edith Blane, Don McCluskey and Sue Black have created a fund in Dolphin’s name thorough the Block Island Ecumenical Ministries. Donations to the fund will help to continue her good work by supporting island-based cultural programs for youth. Please send tax deductable donations to BIEM, with Dolphin Fund in the memo, at PO Box 134, Block Island, RI 02807.