Hundreds of stricken Islanders, and especially West Tisbury residents whose civic debates Pat Gregory moderated for 23 years, gathered on Wednesday afternoon at the Ag Hall to come to grips with Mr. Gregory’s death at the hands of a murderous robber in California. Husband, father, grandfather, teacher, businessman, friend, genial, optimistic, and modest, Pat — everyone called him Pat, and still do — had, over his years in residence and his leadership of municipal decision making, combined, in the minds of many, all the characteristics West Tisbury residents cherish in their neighbors.
Bright Celtic music welcomed the crowd, which by their numbers delayed the start of the scheduled 4 pm memorial service, but the tunes fell upon a solemn audience, given occasionally to deep silence. Somberly, friends greeted friends, and often in the hugs sadness and tears, flimsily dammed, threatened.
Besides the sadness, there was anger, as Pat’s daughter, Shannon Gregory Carbon, acknowledged. She said she understood that people were angry because of the circumstances of her father’s death, but she was affected otherwise. She had recalled, in her description of her father, that he held that “the stories we tell of each other keep people alive” after death, creating a sort of heaven on earth. Her father, she said, “knew of life’s sorrow, but he wasn’t impressed.”
On May 16, Francis Patrick Gregory, 69, and a 76-year-old friend and hiking companion from the small nearby town of Manton, California, were not far from a trailhead just off heavily traveled Highway 36E, north of the county seat of Red Bluff in Tehama County, when they encountered a man who robbed and then shot them. The men did not resist, police confirmed. Tehama County law enforcement is investigating, and the sheriff has said his department expects to arrest the robber though he has not discussed in detail the progress his detectives have made.
The cavernous Ag Hall was filled, an historic crowd many times larger than any over which Pat presided, or earlier in the annals of West Tisbury history. Cynthia Mitchell, a selectman, represented the town. She described Pat as a moderator with “boundless energy,” who mounted the meeting stage and grasped the podium delightedly, but who was careful and measured in his leadership, to allow civic debates to air all sides. And, most of all, he liked to “move things along,” and he would at times seize on a pause for breath in Ms. Mitchell’s official remarks at a meeting, to say, “Thank you, Cynthia,” as if she were finished, and then open the meeting to comments from voters. She was amused by what she called the “running joke” between Pat and her, but in the telling of it, she needed to pause often to compose herself.
Ms. Mitchell brought word that the Massachusetts House of Representatives, on a motion by state Representative Timothy Madden of Nantucket, suspended its business on May 19 for a moment of silence, to recognize Mr. Gregory’s public service.
Joseph M. Arceri, a friend of Pat’s since they were teenagers and at college together, recalled 50 years of their close association. He described Pat as an optimist, joyful, zestful, “everything was an adventure to Pat.” And, of Pat’s wife Dorothy, Mr. Arceri said, it was “always Pat and Dorothy.” The Arceris and the Gregorys had double dated in college, dined and vacationed together, and Pat, Mr. Arceri recalled, had often said that he had married the love of his life.
Daniel Lima Carbon, husband of Shannon and for the past four years a partner with the Gregorys in the Educomp business, said that as he and his father-in-law brainstormed about the future of their business, he was struck by Pat’s eagerness to move forward, even to take considered business risks. He wondered aloud whether Pat wouldn’t rather play more golf or travel more, or do whatever he liked. “Pat said, ‘I’m doing what I like.’ Pat was truly happy.”
Mr. Carbon thanked the Educomp staff — he said the Educomp “family” — for their unstinting support during the days since Pat’s death.
Mr. Arceri, whose fond memories of Pat were, he said, not intended as a eulogy, explained, “There’s no need for a eulogy for Pat. You all knew him. Everyone knew him, and he enjoyed all of those relationships. Knowing him is best.” But, Mr. Arceri added that if a eulogy were in order, his friends could “pay forward his goodness to others,” and that would do.
Molly Conole, a member of the Educomp staff, added the lovely “An Irish Blessing,” which she composed, sang, and accompanied on the flute – “May the road come up to meet you, and the wind be always at your back…”
An inspired choice in the occasion’s program, decorated with a photograph of Pat at the West Tisbury town meeting podium — also used on the low stage in the Ag Hall Wednesday — were these few and definitive lines by Robert Burns:
An honest man here lies at rest
As e’er God with his image blest.
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of Age and guide of Youth;
Few hearts like his with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.