Thomas J. DeMont Jr., one of the country’s top scrimshaw artists, died at his home in Oak Bluffs on December 15. He was 70.
Tom was the son of the late Thomas J. DeMont and Adeline Metell DeMont. Tom was born on the Vineyard and attended all Island schools. You could find Tom setting up pins in the bowling alley or playing his guitar and singing in local pubs and coffeehouses in Boston where he attended the Massachusetts School of Art, where he majored in art education. After college, Tom taught art in the Walpole school system for four years until he returned to the Vineyard.
Tom became interested in scrimshaw in 1977 when a friend handed him a piece of ivory on which Tom etched a ship and sold the next day, starting a career that lasted for more than 40 years. The Edgartown Scrimshaw Gallery, which he opened in 1978, attracted Island residents and visitors as well as his many friends all over the world. Here Tom not only displayed his own work but the work of other top scrimshaw artists from around the country.
Tom was one of those exceptional artists who used fossilized bone and antique fossil ivory and ancient ivory from wooly mammoths which were found in Siberia, Canada, and Alaska. He has hand-crafted beautiful pendants, cuff links, bracelets, knives, and exceptional pieces for Nantucket Baskets as well and custom pieces on walrus and elephant tusks and sperm whale teeth. He also carved beautiful custom ivory watch faces, and was known for his exquisite whale carvings on wood which graced the walls of his gallery and are hanging in many Island homes. He had a passion for the art of scrimshaw, oil and watercolor painting, and for relaxation; you would find him either on the Island golf courses or playing in Vero Beach, Fla.
He is survived by his sister, Rita DeMont Bean, and her husband, John, of the Vineyard and Vero Beach, Fla., his nieces Rita Bean and Kim Leonard of Provincetown, Deborah Gantz and her husband, Larry, of Taunton and their daughter Adeline Gantz; nephew John Bean of Braintree his wife, Robyn Houston Bean, and their children Olivia, Nick, and Jake Bean.
There will be no service at this time, but there will be a celebration of his life for family and friends at a later date. If you wish, you can make a donation in Tom’s memory to the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School’s Art Department.