The Rev. Robert Charles Day, a West Tisbury resident for the past 23 years, died peacefully on Jan. 23, 2018, in Sarasota, Fla. He had lived a full life of service, teaching, and community involvement in Boston and on the Vineyard. He was 90 years old.
Bob Day was born in Hackensack, N.J., on July 29, 1927, a son of Harvey Carter Day and Sophie Therese (Bausback) Day. He was graduated from high school in Delaware, and in 1945-46 served in the Army on Governors Island in New York City. He went on to graduate from the University of Delaware in 1949. Then, with the aid of a Fulbright scholarship, he taught English in in 1955-56 in Kavala, Greece. He earned a master’s degree in English language and literature at Oxford University’s Corpus Christi College in England in 1959.
Upon returning to the United States, he taught English at several preparatory schools, including Groton School in Groton, and St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., before heeding his call to become an Episcopal minister.
Bob earned his master of divinity degree at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge in 1965, after marrying Barbara Blackwell Whidden, whom he had met while she worked in development at Lincoln Center. In 1966, he was ordained a minister at the Advent Church. He performed many wedding ceremonies, baptisms, and memorial services, and each one was meaningful to him.
In the summer of 1964, Bob and Barbara volunteered at Mills College in Birmingham, Ala., a historic African American college where Bob taught English to freshmen. Bob explained later that both he and Barbara realized then “that elementary school is where we need to start; this foundation is the most important part.” The Advent School, which had been founded in 1961 in Boston, was the place, he said, where he believed “we could do something meaningful and enact what the nation has been trying so hard to do.”
So it was that shortly thereafter, in 1965, he became Head of School of the Advent School and remained there for 30 years. Building an elementary school that offered a progressive, integrated education was of paramount importance to Father Day, and the pupils, their families, faculty, and staff were very important to him. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared May 5, 1995, Robert C. Day Day in gratitude for Bob’s contributions to the city. Karen Cord Taylor included him in her book “Legendary Locals of Beacon Hill.”
In 1995, he and Barbara, an artist who loved painting Island landscapes, became year-round residents of the Vineyard. Barbara had a longtime relationship with the Island, going back six generations to early Blackwell family members.
In the Days’ summer Island years, Bob Day was frequently a substitute and assistant minister at Grace Church. After decades of summers in Vineyard Haven, the Days retired to West Tisbury, where they would have good terrain for Bob’s gardening enthusiasm. And he did, planting peonies, catmint, and hydrangeas in the yard on Willow Tree Hollow.
In no time at all, the Days became active in town and Island affairs. Bob volunteered as a counselor at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, and became a board member of the Council on Aging at Howes House. He was president of the Grace Church preschool board, and a member of the West Tisbury Conservation Commission. He also served on the West Tisbury Parks and Recreation Committee and the M.V. Chamber Music Society Board. He led a book group, and enjoyed the First and Third Men’s luncheons at the Harbor View Hotel. He and Barbara also ventured on exciting trips with friends and family around the world.
Bob savored long strolls and dips at Stonewall Beach and Quitsa Pond. Evenings, when children and grandchildren were on the Island, he liked playing charades and board games. He enjoyed classical music, good books, and holding Barbara’s hand while enjoying a cup of tea. A person of integrity, dedication, serenity, optimism, and quiet spirituality, Bob Day planted seeds in many gardens; these gardens will continue to bloom and honor his service to others.
In addition to his wife of 54 years, Barbara, Bob Day is survived by daughter Catherine Day-Carlson and husband Dave, of New York City, daughter Elizabeth Churchill of Menlo Park, Calif., and son Matthew and wife Tracy of Sarasota, Fla.; plus loving grandchildren Jessica, Luke, Scott; Fred, Bob, Lucy; and Jackson, Garrett, and Caroline. He was predeceased by his son-in-law John Churchill. A small family gathering was held in Sarasota, where Bob and Barbara had moved in October to be near their son and his family.
Bob Day will be buried at Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark. A celebration of his life will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven in July, at a time to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the Robert C. Day Financial Aid Fund at the Advent School, 15 Brimmer Street, Boston, MA 02108.