George Gustave William Magnuson Jr.


George Gustave William Magnuson Jr. died peacefully, surrounded by family, at Massachusetts General Hospital on April 17, 2015, after a brief illness. He was 90.

George was born on Sept. 4, 1924, in Oak Bluffs to Lillian Alley Magnuson and George Gustave William Magnuson, and raised in West Tisbury. He attended the West Tisbury elementary school in the one-room schoolhouse and graduated from Tisbury High School.

Following graduation, George enlisted and served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. Upon his return home from the war, he married his love, Priscilla Mae Silva, on April 20, 1949. They spent their early married years living in West Tisbury, first living in “the Coop” at Whitings Farm, and then in their first home in West Tisbury, while George honed his carpentry skills working for Daniel Manter.

After a few years they moved to Edgartown, where he worked on the Chappy ferry, which was then owned by his father-in-law George T. Silva. But he sorely missed carpentry, and he returned to that field and built the house that he and Priscilla would raise their children in, and would remain in for the next 60 years until his death.

In 1964 George and Sherm Burnham formed Burnham & Magnuson builders, and built it into one of the most durable and respected construction companies on the Vineyard. Part of his legacy includes the hundreds of well-built houses they took pride in, and which were admired. Their company recently celebrated 51 years in business.

One of his great hobbies and skills was his vegetable garden, which was legendary. People would pull in his driveway to admire and take pictures of his lush vegetable garden, grape arbor, numerous fruit trees, and giant sunflowers. George derived much joy with his hands working the dirt.

His other passion and talent was building things with his hands into furniture, and caning and rushing chairs. All of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will always cherish what their papa has made for them, be it baby cradles, bureaus, chairs, tables, or even a Chappy ferry replica.

George was very active in the Federated Church for many years, and always lent a helping hand wherever the Rev. John Schule needed him, be it ushering on Sunday, building the platform for the annual Christmas pageant, fixing a fence, or something in the Parish House. He was always quietly and humbly there for whatever was needed of him.

George was predeceased by his wife of nearly 64 years, Priscilla, in 2012, his sister Alice Scott, and his first grandchild, Gregory John Phillips, in 1976.

He leaves behind his daughter Barbara Magnuson Phillips, his son John Magnuson, both of Edgartown; his five grandchildren, Leah Phillips D’Amato and her husband Joe of North Reading, Andrew Phillips and his wife Vanessa Pisano Phillips of Carlisle, Rachel Magnuson Gonzalez and her husband Rafael of Onset, Geoffrey Phillips of Eastham, and Kenneth Magnuson of Edgartown; three great-grandchildren, Malik Magnuson, and Madeline and Mallory D’Amato; a niece, Nancy Burleson, and her children Kelly and Sam; and a nephew, Keith Lowe, his wife Pam, and their daughters Amy and Angie of Ohio and St. Augustine, Fla.

George’s graveside service was held on April 25, and officiated by the Rev. Terry Martinson and dear friend the Rev. John Schule.

Donations in George’s memory may be made to the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, P.O. Box 654, Edgartown MA 02539.