Hazel W. Hunt


Hazel Wald Hunt, who spent her childhood summers in North Tisbury and who leaves five first cousins on the Vineyard, died on August 20 in Lucca, Italy, of heart failure. She was 68 and had been in ill health for some time. She leaves a brother, Godfrey G. Day, in Falmouth.

She was born Hazel Sanborn Day in New Haven, Conn., in 1943. Her maternal grandfather was James F. Sanborn, a prominent civil engineer in New York City and owner, since the early 1920s, of the former Henry H. Norton property at the top of Indian Hill. Here, in two weathered-shingle farmhouses dating to the 1700s, the Sanborns — there were five siblings — spent their summers.

The property comprised some 30 acres of field and woods, and Mr. Sanborn, well before his death, divided it among his children. His daughter Joan, who married Joseph Mitchell, received one of the original farmhouses. Mr. Sanborn built a third house, a shingled bungalow on a hilltop with a broad view of Vineyard Sound, for Ms. Hunt’s mother, Margaret. In 1940 Margaret married C. Godfrey Day of New Haven, and the bungalow, for the next 24 years, was the Days’ summer home.

A fourth house was built on the property by Ms. Hunt’s uncle and aunt, Peter and Elizabeth Sanborn Mitchell. The lone Sanborn brother, Robert, had sold his inherited house lot, and a sister, Dorothy, had died, but three Sanborn sisters and their families now had summer houses close together on Indian Hill.

There were eight cousins, and they formed a lifelong bond during those Island summers. Hazel Day was the second oldest and a ringleader in their games and mischief. It was a time when children could be safely out of doors from morning till dusk without adult supervision. The cousins played in Charles G. Norton’s goat barn and rowed a skiff on Daggett’s Pond. They invented games. They roamed. They called on Mr. Norton and his wife Bessie. They called on David and Helen Lilienthal in their summer home, and on George A. Hough in his.

Ms. Hunt’s father had taught school in New Haven and, beginning in 1947, at Lake Forest Academy in Illinois. In 1951 he took a job as a writer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Days moved to Woods Hole.

Ms. Hunt attended Lawrence High School in Falmouth. She was precocious and spirited, and when she was 16 she was sent to the exclusive Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., an experiment that fizzled, predictably, within the year. She came home and finished school in Falmouth.

In 1962 she married David Wald, the son of George Wald, the Harvard Nobel Laureate and political activist. The couple attended the University of California at Berkeley together for two years and were divorced amiably, their fondness for each other intact, in 1965. Ms. Hunt returned to Berkeley to study paleontology and did not stay quite long enough to graduate. She lived in Falmouth for a time and taught herself, with some success, to weave.

She was a tiny woman, not five feet tall, with a keen intellect, sunny disposition, a natural bent to nonconformity, and an indifference to what the conventional world thought of her. She traveled widely and lived, among other places, in Mozambique; Tuscany; Taos, New Mexico; and Virginia City, Nevada.

She was living in Virginia City when she met John Hunt, a tall, bearded former Nevada cowboy and an accomplished artist. They were married in 1996 and some years later moved to Taos, another compatible venue for Mr. Hunt, whose subject is the West, past and present.

After the 2004 presidential election, Ms. Hunt said she no longer wanted to live in a country run by George W. Bush, and so she and her towering and genial husband moved to Italy, where Ms. Hunt had lived before. They settled first in Florence, then in Lucca. The couple adored each other. Ms. Hunt always made the most of things, but these latter years were particularly happy. They’d been there five years at the time of Ms. Hunt’s death.

Ms. Hunt is survived by her brother, and by seven first cousins: Dorothy Sanborn Elliot of Kansas City; Anna Mitchell Kularski of Boxborough; Gilbert Sanborn of Vineyard Haven and Weston, Conn.; and by Katherine Mitchell Hough, Patrick W. Mitchell, Lucy C. Mitchell, and Julia Mitchell Christensen, all of West Tisbury.