Maitland Armstrong Edey

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Maitland Armstrong Edey,  81, sailor, jazz musician, philosopher,  died on Dec. 30 at Massachusetts General Hospital of complications from multiple myeloma.

Mait was born on Dec. 28, 1935, the oldest child of Maitland and Helen (Kellogg) Edey. He grew up on Long Island and spent summers in Edgartown, where his love of sailing was born.  He successfully skippered his wooden Beach Boat to many a victory at the Edgartown Yacht Club.  In sailing races, his expert racing skills and subtle knowledge of Vineyard waters made him a force to reckon with.

In 1968, Mait and his friend Peter Duff founded the renowned boat shop, Edey & Duff. His aesthetic for the lines of classic wooden sailboats motivated him to build fiberglass versions of the Crocker Stone Horse and the Herreshoff Doughdish. Mait’s deeper purpose was to revive the beauty and functionality of traditional wooden sailing craft for the general public, whose appetite for ‘modern’ fiberglass designs saddened him.

As a young man, Mait spent time living in Europe with his first wife, Anna Jufors, with whom he had three daughters. Mait and his family then moved to Brooklyn, where he had a popular jazz radio show called “The Scope of Jazz” on WBAI; and then to Cambridge, where he and his band played frequent gigs in the greater Boston area.

Mait’s connection to classic jazz was so great that it moved him to tears to hear a solo or riff played by one of his many favorite musicians — even if he had heard it a thousand times.  He could recognize all the great players of that era by their voicings and tone; they would only have to play a few notes, and he could identify each one, like family.  His deep love of this music prompted him to start playing himself. He enrolled at the Berklee School of Music in his 20s, learning piano and composition techniques.  He founded a small independent record company, Seeds, and his band made several records of original tunes.  His almost ecstatic embrace of this musical genre sustained him throughout his life.  He continued to listen and to play gigs until he got too sick to do so.  His last public appearance was at the grand finale of the  2016 Pathways Gathering Space, which can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/167325060

Mait graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, where he won the Philosophy prize. His intellectual curiosity remained one of his most notable attributes throughout his life.  Mait was an unusually voluminous reader; a large stack of the books he was currently reading defined all of his favorite spaces and was a mark of his presence. He had a committed meditation practice, and was a dedicated philosopher and writer.  He continued to focus on his philosophical works throughout his various activities, writing on consciousness and on the question of subject and object. He published articles in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and was working on a much longer book at the time of his death.

Mait served on the board of the Vineyard Conservation Society, and spent one term as its president. He was on the board of the Edey Foundation.  He fervently believed in living lightly on the earth, and was a recycler, energy conserver, and generally right-minded citizen long before these things became politically correct.

Mait and Fausta Hammarlund met and fell in love in 1978;  in 1988 they were finally married on the Vineyard at a celebration at Seven Gates Farm. The two of them cruised frequently in New England waters, walked the beaches in all weather, and made an effort to tame the local crows. Many evenings would see the couple ghosting through Tashmoo opening in his dory, Mait bent, barefoot, and smiling at the oars, bound for a sunset or moonrise viewing.  

Mait is survived by his wife, Fausta Hammarlund Edey, of West Tisbury; by his children, Lisa Pierce,  Kirsten Edey, and Annika McCann; by his stepchildren Marc Hammarlund, Nooni Hammarlund, Shira Hammarlund, and Erik Hammarlund; by his sisters Beatrice Phear and Marion Edey; and by 18 beloved grandchildren who brought joy to his heart: Laura, Russell, Zane, Eva, Riley, Elijah, Abigail, Shiloh, Bluma, Sadie, Delilah, Oscar, Simon, Jonah, Zuki, Levi, Zeke, and Estelle.

Mait was a gentle spirit: a kind, focused, patient, honorable, intensely deep-feeling man.  He wanted to minimize his wake, living his life with empathy and generosity.  He did not like to be rushed, nor did he rush others.  He was calm and soft-spoken, but could be raised to a joyful passion by the arc of a jib or the wail of a saxophone. When he found his passion he brought a fierce intensity to bear, whether for his own sake or to help another — this, combined with his underlying brilliance, was the source of many of his proudest accomplishments.

In his personal life he was outwardly reserved, but was immensely caring, loving, and connected to those who were closest to him. His solidity of purpose inspired loyalty in his friends and caring in his family. He tried to live the golden rule, treating all beings as he would want to be treated.  His deep spiritual practice, which was probably the most profound part of his existence, tapped into his natural pure-hearted core; he tried to manifest this openness, however imperfectly, throughout his entire life.  To know Mait was to feel somehow changed for the better.  He wasn’t trying … he just had that effect.

The family is trying to assemble a book on his life, and would be deeply appreciative to receive any relevant writings, clippings, or photos from anyone who wishes to contribute. The mailing address is Fausta Edey, P.O. Box 814, West Tisbury, MA 02575.

There will be a memorial service for Mait on Saturday, May 6, at 2 pm at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.