Herbert N. Putnam III died on March 9, at home, of pancreatic cancer. He was 59. Herb was a long-time and beloved Island resident who at one time or another owned, co-owned and/or operated many of the Island's most familiar businesses, among them the Hot Tin Roof, Island Food Products, the Atlantic Connection, Balance restaurant, Pomodoro and most recently, Vineyard Financial Services. He was instrumental in producing the Festival Network's Boston Pops concert last August in Oak Bluffs, and was working on making the concert an annual event.
Herb was born on Dec. 12, 1948 in Cleveland, Ohio. He first visited Martha's Vineyard in 1966 with friends and his first Island job was at Ralph's Kafe in 1967. He visited the Island during summers while in college (where among other jobs, he helped paint downtown Edgartown white), and became a full-time resident in 1971. During the 1970s, he worked at Lawry's and the Dock Street Deli and started his first business with the Bred Shed Bakery. He subsequently founded the Quarterdeck where he brought the "Swiss burger" to the Island. During the filming of Jaws in 1974, he expanded his job of babysitting the "Bruce the Shark" prop at night by arranging free tours of the machine.
Herb's best-known Island business may be the Hot Tin Roof, which he founded in 1979 with George Brush and Carly Simon. The partners managed to attract big-name acts to The Roof, transforming what Islanders could experience as nighttime entertainment. Herb managed The Roof for a second time in recent years, overseeing badly needed renovations.
In addition to his recognizable businesses, Herb tirelessly supported Island friends and organizations, often via fundraising but also with hands-on assistance. Many have remarked that they would not be on Martha's Vineyard if not for the music and services Herb brought to the Island that previously did not exist. For recreation, Herb adored golf; he was a charter member of Farm Neck Golf Club and won the Men's Club Championship in 2003.
More important to Herb than his business ventures were his friends and beloved family. He is survived by his wife, Marsha Smolev of West Tisbury, and her three sons, Lukas, Tyler and Davis Kendall; his parents, Herbert N. Putnam Jr. and Carolyn Putnam of Shaker Heights, Ohio; his sister, Sandra Guida and her husband, Patrick Guida, of Barrington, R.I., as well as their children, Ross Guida and Kristin Todd and her husband, Matthew; and his brother, David Putnam, of Garfield Heights, Ohio. He was pre-deceased by his loyal springer spaniel, Murray, and survived by his new springer sidekick, Zeke.
Herb was diagnosed in June 2005 with pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease, which usually kills within months. Herb fought courageously for over two and a half years, supported by his loving family and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to pancreatica.org to support research. A graveside funeral took place Wednesday morning, March 12.