Quintessential Chilmarker David Flanders died on Thanksgiving Day, at 76
David Flanders, a lifelong Chilmark resident and well-known Vineyard figure, died on November 27. He had his family by his side and had just put his cows out to pasture. He was 76.
Mr. Flanders lived a life full of love for his wife of 52 years, Fran, his three daughters and his six grandchildren. He had a passion for his community and his country. He worked hard as a preeminent Vineyard Realtor, a farmer, and a long-time advocate for Martha's Vineyard and its people. Mr. Flanders took pride in hard work, but he also knew the importance of playing hard, whether with friends, while traveling, or in a game of horseshoes, which he usually won. Both at work and in play, Mr. Flanders lived life simply, purposefully, taking it, as he often advised others to, one day at a time.
David Mayhew Flanders was born at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital on July 30, 1932, to Oscar Bradley and Hope Rosalie Mayhew Flanders of Chilmark.
Photo by Susan Safford
Mr. Flanders attended the Chilmark School, and in 1950 was graduated from the Tisbury High School. As a boy, Mr. Flanders spent his summers digging potatoes for ten cents an hour. He later took up construction, building houses with former Chilmark selectman Herbert Hancock. He earned money how he could, scalloping and fishing and helping his father in the family moving business.
He was also a volunteer with the Chilmark fire department, and it was in the line of duty that he first met Frances Todd Crandell of Wellesley. On July 4, 1952, a call came in to the fire station. Three children had set off a firework in a small Chilmark field. David responded to the call and, after putting out the fire, got his first look at Fran, the children's nanny. He did not talk to her that night. He waited until the second time he saw her, down at the Menemsha docks, to make conversation. Fran had only just finished her freshman year in college, but the two soon became an item.
In 1953, Mr. Flanders was drafted into the United States Army. He was stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey during the Korean conflict and worked as the base postmaster. Mr. Flanders left the army in 1955 as a corporal, and the following year, he and Ms. Crandell were married in Wellesley, only a matter of days after she was graduated from college.
Following their wedding, Mr. and Mrs. Flanders moved to Chilmark. Mr. Flanders began work at Flanders' Real Estate, the company his mother founded in 1927. Mrs. Flanders was the bookkeeper for the company and, like her husband, wore other hats as well. She was a schoolteacher at the regional high school, a geologist, and she ran an antique shop in Menemsha. The couple had three daughters on Martha's Vineyard - Christine, Elizabeth, and Julianna.
As a realtor, David was tireless. He helped broker the Vanderhoop homestead at the Aquinnah cliffs, which today is the museum for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. He was instrumental in preserving the Peaked Hills Pasture land and also the Fleischman property on Middle Road in Chilmark. And he helped put together the original sale of the Onassis estate in Aquinnah.
Land was a passion for Mr. Flanders. He was a farmer, an avid hunter, a fisherman, and he gave countless hours to preserving the natural assets of the Vineyard. He was a life-time member of the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society, sat on the Land Bank advisory board, and he was a Chilmark fence viewer and surveyor of lumber and bark. He was a founding member of the Chilmark conservation commission and an original member of the town planning board.
His work did not stop with the land, however. Mr. Flanders sat on the boards of the Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank, the Martha's Vineyard National Bank, and the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. He was a member of the Chilmark cribbage league and was a trustee of the Chilmark Community Church, where he and Mrs. Flanders attended services regularly.
Mr. Flanders took his love of the land with him as he and Mrs. Flanders traveled the world, sometimes just the two of them, often with their children and their families.
He was a mainstay on Island roads. He was out the door before Mrs. Flanders got up in the morning, and made his rounds in his Chevy Suburban, always with a German Shepherd in the seat beside him. He checked in on his daughters, let out his cows, and often drove down to Menemsha Texaco or to the post office to see who was about or what the news of the day was.
On the day of his death, Mr. Flanders enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner at his home with his friends, family, and dog, Duke. After dinner, he, along with his family and friends, went to move a herd of cows.
He is survived by his wife, daughters Christine Hope Fielder and her husband, Evan Fielder, of West Tisbury, Elizabeth Campbell-Welch and her husband, Jim Welch, of Chilmark, and Julianna Flanders of Chilmark; and grandchildren David, Bill, and Bradley Fielder, Jessica and Mariah Campbell and Isabella Flanders Thorpe. He was predeceased by a brother, Richard and granddaughter Amanda Campbell.
A funeral service was held on Monday at 1 pm at the Chilmark Community Church. A graveside ceremony followed immediately at Abel's Hill cemetery, and a celebration of his life took place afterwards at the Chilmark Community Center.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Chilmark Community Church or the Chilmark Volunteer Fireman's Association.u
This obituary was prepared by the Flanders family.