Peter MacLaren Williamson, retired Oak Bluffs police chief who was devoted to his family, community and gardens, died at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston surrounded by his family on Jan. 23 after a brief illness. He was 70.
Oak Bluffs police chief from 1966 until his retirement in 1993, Chief Williamson, as he was known even years after his retirement, was widely respected for his integrity and fairness. He was acutely aware of his community and often said the best part of his job was that he was able to help people, and help them he did.
His professional demeanor and crisp police uniform helped mask a gentle soul. He loved classical music and jazz and was especially moved by the beautiful singing voice of his daughter Julie.
Peter tended his gardens and yard with pride and care at the house on Bayview Avenue in Oak Bluffs he shared with Judith, his wife of 43 years. Judith loved flowers so he grew them for her and was always happy to pick the prettiest one and present it to his wife.
His love of nature was reflected in a yard filled with birdhouses, feeders, and birdbaths, a refuge for a variety of wildlife visitors. Squirrels were particularly welcome. He invited them happily to the back deck where he would sit contentedly in the sun surveying his world.
He took delight in holding a peanut in his hand as one of his granddaughters sat in a bouncy chair near him. Often a squirrel would trust him enough to sit on his lap and eat the peanut out of his hand.
Peter Williamson was born in Arlington in 1937 to Elizabeth (Manderino) and David Williamson. His family roots go back to Italy and Scotland. His parents moved to the Vineyard in 1944 when his father took a job as an electrician at the former Naval air station located at the airport.
Peter graduated from the Oak Bluffs High School in 1956. That same year he enlisted in the United States Army and served proudly until his discharge in Nov. 1958.
He returned to Oak Bluffs and worked at DeBettencourt's Garage where he met State Police officer Bob Lucas, who encouraged him to apply for the position of patrolman on the Oak Bluffs Police Department. Their friendship lasted a lifetime, as did many of the relationships in his life. Peter became a summer police officer and began his lifetime career in law enforcement.
On Oct. 3, 1964, he married Judith Mary Catlow, the love of his life, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Oak Bluffs. Their life together would center on family, friends, and their community. Together they built a beautiful life based on love, values, loyalty, trust, and a shared faith that always sustained them.
Peter was active in town affairs and served on numerous town and Island committees and boards during his tenure on the police department and in retirement.
He served on the board of the fledging Martha's Vineyard Community Services. In 1980 he joined the Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank board of directors and served on the finance and security committee. He served on the transition committee during the successful merger of the Cooperative Bank and the Dukes County Savings Bank that created the Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank where he served as a trustee.
He was proud to have served on the board and loved the friends he made over the years.
In 1980 he returned to school and received an associate degree in criminal justice from Cape Cod Community College. He was also a member of the All-Island Police Chiefs Association and the Massachusetts Police Chief's Association, often hosting its membership to meetings on the Island.
Peter's life was defined by his devotion to his family and the pride and love he felt for his children and their spouses.
He was proud of his oldest daughter, Julie, who exemplifies everything a daughter, wife, mother, and friend could be. And her willingness to share her many gifts especially her voice, which uplifted his heart. He loved his son-in-law, John, who lovingly called him Dr. Whiff. He was proud of his son Timothy and the man he became as a husband, father, and police officer and proud that he followed in his career footsteps. He loved his daughter-in-law, Liza, and took pleasure in the fact that she worked in the courthouse where he had spent so much time.
The greatest gifts came as his grandchildren came into the world and into his life. He loved Elmo as much as they did. He often taught his lessons without words, but by example and with great tenderness. He was Papa to his precious granddaughters - Caroline, Emma, and Maggie Mei, and Grandpa to his grandson, Max, who was such a gift.
We think of Peter at sunset in Gay Head casting into the surf, visiting Tarpaulin Cove in his boat, raking for quahogs in Sengekontacket Pond with a friend, traveling with his brother Tom, making a putt at the Turkey Shoot at Farm Neck Golf Club, shucking clams for Hospice, giving his wife the kiss of peace at mass, hugging his children and celebrating their joy, watching the moonrise on the beach at Lauderdale by the Sea or State Beach, building a sandcastle or reading a story with a grandchild, tossing peanuts to a squirrel.
Be at peace, Peter, you were so deeply loved and are so dearly missed.
He is survived by his wife, Judith, and his two children and their spouses: Julie and her husband John Moffet of Edgartown and their children Caroline, Victoria, and Margaret Mei Xiao. His son, Timothy, and his wife, Liza Hanley Williamson, of West Tisbury and their daughter Emma Grace Williamson and son Maxwell C. Ferro. His sister Elizabeth and her husband Ronald Lopes of Osterville and their children Matthew and Heather Jenkinson of Milford and Nancy Jean of Hyannis. A brother, Richard Williamson, and his wife, Gloria, of Sacramento, Calif., and their children.
He was predeceased by his beloved brother, Thomas David Williamson in 1986, who is survived by his children Jennifer and Howard Marlin of Vineyard Haven, Jessica Williamson and Alex Czarowicz of Hanover, and Gregory and Lesley Williamson of Vineyard Haven, and all of their children.
A funeral mass was held on Monday, Jan. 28 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Oak Bluffs. Interment took place in the Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Donations may be made in his memory to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA. 02557.