Leona DeVitt


Leona “Lee” Geise DeVitt died quietly on August 11 after a short illness, at the age of 93, in Mount Pleasant, Wis. She had moved there from the Vineyard in 2006 to be closer to her Wisconsin family.

A retired high school teacher, Lee wrote and published two children’s books set on Martha’s Vineyard. One was a whimsical tale, “A Clam Named Sam,” and the other, a true story titled “Laurie and her Vineyard Ladies.”

Lee moved to the Vineyard in 1986, where she renewed her love of the ocean, having spent her earlier adult life on the Pacific coast in Tillamook, Ore. When not babysitting her grandson, Lee volunteered at the Nathan Mayhew Seminars and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and knit hundreds of pairs of mittens for the Red Stocking Fund when she was not gardening or growing citrus fruit in her solar home in West Tisbury.

Lee graduated in 1942 from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., with a B.S. in biology. She was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and was a lifelong learner. One of her passions was studying turtles and collecting their images, as created by artisans throughout the world. Lee loved that the turtle symbolizes fertility, longevity, modesty, loyalty, and perseverance.

As a high school biology teacher at Craig High School in Janesville, Wis., Lee was most proud of the accomplishments of her students. She encouraged many to follow scientific careers by creating advanced placement courses in microbiology and genetics. An avid golfer, Lee was delighted when she hit a hole in one. She recounted that she fell backward on the grass and kicked her legs in the air with excitement. Lee was also an avid watercolorist, who was pleased that over 100 friends and acquaintances had purchased her paintings.

A lover of travel, Lee visited Europe several times, and South America, where she traveled down the Amazon River, visited Machu Picchu in Peru, and explored the Galapagos Islands. Months after having both knees replaced in 2001, Lee went to China, where she climbed the Great Wall.

Lee is survived by her three children: Bill DeVitt and his wife Monica Pappas in Seal Beach, Calif.; her daughter Patty Blakesley in Mount Pleasant, Wis.; and Steve DeVitt and his wife Deb in Marshfield, Wis. Six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren also survive her.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent in her honor to the Nature Conservancy, an organization she supported as a legacy member.