John Edwin Leaird, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend, died peacefully on May 22, 2016, of complications from metastatic prostate cancer. He was 75. Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale to Jacqueline Poe and Joseph (Eddie) Leaird, he was raised under the Florida sun with a fishing rod in one hand and a basketball in the other.
John played forward for Lauderdale High’s Flying L’s, which primed him for the next 60 years as possibly the Celtics’ most ardent fan. An avid fisherman, he could never eat shrimp because “that is bait.” He preferred foggy morning beach strolls to sun — when the air is thick and you can only see a few feet in front of you. This may be why he migrated north and made New England his home.
He met his wife, Kay, in an elevator when they both worked at the Massachusetts Department of Education. She remarked to a friend, “He looks nice,” and six months later they were married. They first came to Martha’s Vineyard in 1976, and while strolling the streets of Edgartown, fell in love with the Island and each other. They spent the next 35 years dividing their time between New Jersey and Oak Bluffs, and later West Tisbury. In 2013 they made the switch, living on the Island year-round.
John served in the Air Force. and attended the University of Florida, where he received his master’s degree in journalism, writing his dissertation on preserving the Everglades that he loved as a boy. He was a writer and an ad guy. He was a tech geek before it was fashionable, and the go-to for all things computer-related, as long as they were Apple. His passion for music was a constant — from Cat Stevens and Keith Jarrett to Yo-Yo Ma and Mahler. This passion extended to audio equipment — speakers, amplifiers, receivers — which he bought and traded the way others do baseball cards.
But most of all he was a family man. John is survived by his wife, Kay Lane Leaird; daughter Kim Leaird and grandsons Sam and John; son Jeff Leaird, wife Jen, and grandchildren Amanda, Brittany, and C.J.; daughter J.T. and husband Joe Schiltz; and daughter Katie Leaird. He also leaves behind his brother Bill Leaird and nephew Kelly Leaird of Florida. He was so proud of his family, and especially his kids — he was the rock upon which they all rested. He had a big laugh, a twinkle in his eye, and was kind and gentle, showing his love for them in innumerable ways. He will be so missed.
In the months after he was diagnosed with cancer, he ticked off a bucket list of special trips that included a Patriots and a Celtics playoff game, trips to New York City and Cabo, and many cherished moments with his family. A lifelong avoider of pets, he became enamored with a little King Charles goldendoodle he named Punkin’. They were inseparable.
There will be a memorial service at 10 am on Saturday, May 28, at Allen Sheep Farm. His daughter, J.T., will be married the very next day in the same spot. In lieu of flowers, a donation to Camp Jabberwocky, a camp for kids and adults with disabilities, is requested. John loved that place, and for years threw an annual barbecue for the whole camp each August.