Robert J. Mocarski


An accomplished pilot, his first view of the Vineyard was from his Cessna 172 high over Nantucket Sound on his approach to the airport. The year was 1982 and Robert J. (Bob) Mocarski and his wife, Sandy, were that day flying with friends from their longtime home in Holyoke for a picnic at one of the Vineyard’s beautiful beaches.

Day trips for picnics had long been a weekend pastime for Sandy and Bob: Provincetown, Montauk, Nantucket, Chatham were all on the list, but the one they kept coming back to was the Vineyard. At that time Bob and Sandy owned their own business in Holyoke and they often asked themselves the question, “What would it be like to have a house here [on the Vineyard] and stay longer?” Later that year they bought land in Oak Bluffs, not far from the Lagoon. They soon built a house and found themselves traveling from Western Massachusetts nearly every weekend.

Gradually they refined that original question to: “What would it be like to live on the Vineyard all the time?” It took just a couple of years to decide; they sold the business, sold their house in just two days, sold most of the furniture and moved their two dogs and a few remaining possessions to Oak Bluffs. They loved the beaches. They loved fishing. They figured they would find something to do before the money ran out.

Bob would travel to Wasque for blues, save the heads and the rest, and use them to bait lobster traps. They learned about scalloping, bought a used boat, got a commercial license, and spent that first winter professionally scalloping on Lagoon Pond. It was a good season for scallops that year. Sandy began studying for her realtor’s license; Bob started a landscaping business, Lawnworks of the Vineyard, which he would run for the next 20 years. He met hundreds of people. “The first thing about running Lawnworks,” he said, “was you need to show up. Just showing up surprises a lot of people.”

And that’s what Bob was always: surprising. He was a landscaper, but he was also a teacher, taking on scores of seasonal employees and teaching them what it took to care for other people’s property, to be good employees, to care about the work, and about each other. He took them on annual excursions to Wasque to fish and picnic. He also taught much to the hundreds of property owners who were his customers, earning their respect and often their friendship. “You need to do this to get that kind of lawn,” he would explain to the owners. Lawnworks customers had showpiece lawns.

Bob and Sandy bought a small boat to fish the close-in rips, and then a larger one, the Bobby Mows, suited for offshore fishing, and along with friends learned the ins and outs of places to the south called Fingers and The Canyon. For 20 years he had the #777 badge in the Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. One year he was a finalist, but his key wasn’t the one.

More surprises. Bob imported bees from Georgia because his fruit trees seemed to do better with them. He collected Tinker Bell memorabilia. He bought a Turquoise 1955 T-Bird and took a first place trophy at the local car owners’ gathering. In between, he patiently taught his friends how to fish, scallop, and clam, how to care for plants and distressed animals, and ultimately, again, how to care for each other. Above all else, Bob was a very good teacher.

One more surprise: four years ago, Bob sold Lawnworks, and with Sandy, who, after 20 years as a Vineyard realtor, the last 15 at Sandpiper Realty, began a new journey, reminiscent of one that brought them to the Vineyard in the early 80s. This time they headed in the other direction. They sold their house, put the contents into the hands of Good Riddance, loaded what they could on a trailer and moved to Oro Valley, Arizona, just north of Tucson. They found warmer weather, quiet deserts, spectacular mountains, closer stores, new challenges, and Bob went from lawn expert to cactus expert. It took him about two weeks to make the transition. Now he was teaching about desert plants and drip irrigation…new lessons, same Bob.

Bob was born in Holyoke on November 7, 1947, to Michael and Anne (Sigda) Mocarski. He had four sisters three of whom, Dianne Delisle, Barbara Dufault, and Joan Mocarski, still reside in Western Massachusetts. The fourth, Elaine Coffee, is in Ft. Washington, Penn. His brother, Michael, died in 2000. Bob’s brother-in-law and sister-in law, Robert and Eileen Vautrain, live in Whitinsville. Bob had 14 nieces and nephews, numerous great nieces and nephews and scores of friends, both old and new.

After graduating from Holyoke High School in 1965 and attending American International College, Bob volunteered, at the height of the Vietnam War, for the Army Corps of Engineers. He shipped out for Vietnam in November of 1968. He built a few bridges, but actually spent more time on the front lines. He was teaching there too, of course, this time showing the men in his command how to soldier and how to survive. He was honorably discharged from the service in 1969, attaining the rank of 1st Lieutenant, and had earned, among other honors, two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star for heroism, and the Gallantry Cross with a Silver Star, presented by the Republic of Vietnam.

Upon his return from Vietnam, his first job was with Model Cities in Holyoke, and then was executive director of the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, and later the YMCA, before starting his own business. He met Sandra Vautrain and they were married in 1973.

In the fall of 2009 Bob was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and gave his dozens of family and friends his final lessons: how to fight with tenacity, and how to stop fighting and go in grace. He died in the early morning of July 5 at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Ariz., surrounded by friends and family and his wife of 37 years, Sandy. A memorial service was held in Oro Valley and another private gathering is planned for the fall in New England.

Memorial donations can be made to the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge at the Mayo Clinic, 4550 E. Bell Road, Suite 126, Phoenix, AZ 85032. Hope Lodge provides housing for needy patients and their families who are being treated at the Mayo Clinic.