A tribute to the “Fisherman Farmer”
By Dorothy Walker
Born on an Island and raised on a farm, John William Waller was indeed the “Fisherman Farmer.”
Having worn a suit and tie for much of his long career as superintendent of various public water facilities in both Massachusetts and Virginia, he was most at home in casual attire pursuing his life-long interests of fishing and farming.
John loved fishing the waters surrounding his home on Martha’s Vineyard. He entered his last Island Bass Derby in 2005, casting his line beside his beloved nephew Zachary Waller and his best friend “Brother Steve.” He was thrilled to catch a very substantial fish that year and had the pictures to prove it!
John’s love of farming came from working with his siblings alongside his father and Granny Waller on “Muskoday,” the family farm on the Vineyard. There were cows to milk, chickens to feed, and rows to hoe; some of which he failed to keep quite straight. As a young adult he owned many farm animals including horses, goats, pigs, and chickens. His last adventure in farming was a flock of chickens kept in the backyard of his Culpeper, Va., home.
John was also a lover of cats and had as his faithful companions for the last 15 years his precious cats Sharmie and Mariah who, much to John’s relief, will continue to be lovingly cared for by his sister Dorothy and his brother in-law Paul.
John graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1962. He attended Boston University and served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam conflict. He was then, and continued to be, a true patriot. Fourth of July was his favorite holiday and an American flag still flies today at his home in Virginia.
Before being appointed Superintendent of the Edgartown Water Dept. he built wharves and docks for Morgan Marine. He spent many seasons scalloping and owned and operated the Chappaquidick Seafood Company. In 1980, he relocated to South Hadley where he was Superintendent of the So. Hadley Water Dept. While in South Hadley, he served as President of the Lions Club and spent much of his spare time at the Redcliff Canoe Club learning to fish in fresh water.
In addition to fishing and farming John also enjoyed many other hobbies and pursuits. He loved music and was a talented self-taught guitarist, mastering the 12-string acoustic guitar. His taste in music was varied, ranging from classical to folk to blues. Some of his favorite artists were Tom Rush, Leadbelly, Phil Ochs, and the Kingston Trio. Irish music was also a favorite of John’s, perhaps because of his St. Patrick’s Day birthday. He could not resist a mournful Irish ballad, a jaunty Irish jig, or a lilting Irish lullaby, especially as sung by the Clancy Brothers.
John also loved flying and earned his private pilot’s license at an early age at Katama Air Field in his home town of Edgartown. So fond was he of that place and time in his life that one of his last requests was to have his memorial services held there.
John was also a lover of words. He was a gifted writer, a gifted speaker, and a gifted Scrabble player taking great delight in trouncing quite easily any and all opponents, much to the chagrin of his family and friends.
He was an intelligent, talented, engaging man who developed many enduring friendships wherever he lived throughout all of his too short 67 years of life and he will be greatly missed.
He was born on March 17, 1944 in Oak Bluffs. John was the fourth child of Robert M. and Mary Medeiros Waller. He died on October 1, 2011 at his home in Culpeper, Va.
Survivors include his son John “Patrick” Waller of Philadelphia, Penn., and his former wife, Sandra E. Waller of South Hadley. Also left to cherish the memories of happier days are siblings: Robert R. Waller, Mary E. Gazaille, Althea L. Morgan, Steven A. Waller, and Dorothy Walker. A host of extended family including nieces, nephews, and cousins, dear friends both near and far, and a very devoted brother in-law and friend, Paul Hedrick, who along with his sister Dorothy were John’s primary care givers for the last two years of his life.
There will be a memorial celebration of John’s life to be held on Martha’s Vineyard at the convenience of the family.