Robert Gray of West Tisbury died on October 28 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Shapiro Cardiovascular Center in Boston. He was 62 years old.
Bob was the son of Jean Gray and late Alden “Onie” Gray. Born on July 7, 1951, in Boston, he was raised in the Boston area until his teens when the family moved to Randolph, New Jersey. Bob was a track and field star during high school, and his last standing record was only recently broken.
Bob left his parents’ home after high school, making his way to Woodstock, an iconic destination for his generation. He loved to share his stories from that adventure. Bob first discovered Martha’s Vineyard when he was in his early twenties. He and his future wife, Wendy, met back then, but their story was not quite ready to unfold and she set off for college. Later, Bob and his partner, Joan Richards, left Martha’s Vineyard and moved to Nova Scotia, Canada, where Bob’s two oldest sons, Nathan Gray and Noah Richards, were born. Bob built his first homestead in Nova Scotia, where he cultivated a strawberry farm.
In the early 1980s, Bob journeyed to Stephen and Ina Mae Gaskin’s commune, “The Farm,” in Tennessee where he was put in charge of tending the horses. Ever a man devoted to family, Bob missed his boys too much and moved back to Martha’s Vineyard where they had settled with their mother. It was then that he met Wendy again, some 12 years later. Bob said he knew right away after this second meeting that they would end up marrying and he was right.
The couple married in 1984 on Easter Day. They bought a piece of land in West Tisbury, camping out for six months while building their home, and they moved in just before it snowed. Wendy was pregnant with their eldest daughter, Emily, at the time. The couple’s younger daughter, Molly, and then their son, Caleb, were born over the next several years. Bob and Wendy filled their home with warmth and laughter.
Bob embodied the true essence of a loving patriarch, making sure that everybody who crossed the threshold of his beautiful home felt welcomed and loved. He also had a fun and quirky sense of humor and neither his family nor his friends knew when it might strike. Bob was a man of few words; his sincerity and devotion to family were what he set his compass by. “Papa” was so very proud of his five children and caring adults they have become. They were the greatest joy in his life and he spoke about them to everyone.
Bob was a master carpenter, extremely well respected and sought after, and he has left his mark on many Island homes. His skill and creativity as a craftsman will carry his spirit on in the very structures that he helped build over the past 40 years. Bob was always willing to pass on his carpentry skills and many younger builders have learned from him, especially his children.
More recently, Bob took his love of creating beauty from wood into the realm of nature by building beautiful shelters for bluebirds and owls. Bob’s appreciation for natural beauty was also evidenced by another emerging hobby of his. He became an accomplished nature photographer, capturing images that he shared mostly with his family only. These photos will forever remind them of his enduring appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us.
Bob is survived by his beloved wife, Wendy, and his children — Nathan Gray; Noah Richards and his spouse, Michelle Aluia; Emily Gray and her fiancé, Oliver Becker; Molly Gray; and Caleb Gray. He is also survived by his beloved grandchildren, Autumn and Isaac Richards; by his mother, Jean; by his brother, Gary, and his wife, Nancy; by his sister, Nancy, and her husband, Leo; and by many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and a grandnephew.
Donations in Bob’s name can be made to the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Development Office, 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, MA 01773.
A memorial celebration of Bob’s life will be held in December. An announcement will follow with details.