Kent Healy, a West Tisbury select board member and a longtime civil engineer, died Sunday morning. He was 89.
“Everybody loved him,” select board member Cynthia Mitchell said. “He was an incredibly decent and wonderful man.” Mitchell recalled Healy as someone who gave “endlessly” to the town and to his neighbors and friends. She said she had known Healy and his wife Maureen, who passed away last spring, for decades.
“Both Maureen and Kent were very close friends of mine,” Mitchell said. She said Kent Healy “will be very sorely missed.”
West Tisbury select board chair Skipper Manter described Healy’s passing as a “tremendous loss,” and said Healy “just did so much for so many.”
“This loss touches me deeply, because Kent epitomized what one would call a ‘kind soul,’ a rarity these days and times,” West Tisbury Health Agent Omar Johnson emailed. “I can’t recall ever seeing Kent angry. There were times he disagreed or wasn’t happy, but I never witnessed him exhibiting any behaviors that would have offended anyone personally. I will always be thankful and remember the times he took to teach me various lessons, and the times we spent in the field, where he used his hand auger instead of employing a backhoe like all the other engineers. The Island has lost a very special person.”
“Everyone knew him, everyone loved to work with him,” engineer Chris Alley of Schofield,
Barbini, and Hoehn said. Alley described Healy as knowledgeable and “very practical.” Alley recalled how he respected Healy’s measured approach to problem solving, and eventually adopted that approach himself.
“Let’s make sure we have a problem before we try to solve it,” Alley said to sum up Healy’s engineering philosophy. “He’ll be missed by everyone in the engineering and surveying community on the Island,” Alley said.
“Kent was a terrific help to me and to the town of Chilmark,” Chilmark select board chair Jim Malkin said. “He was able to use common sense and logic to cut through very complicated issues and projects, and inevitably came up with simple and elegant solutions to issues that the town faced — from Squibnocket to the West Dock in Menemsha, to the Basin Road in Menemsha, and many culvert and water issues as well.”
“I always thought of Kent Healy as a friend,” Aquinnah town administrator Jeff Madison emailed. “I think everyone thought of him that way. But he was also a professional. Always willing to provide informed, caring, thoughtful guidance on issues when asked. I will miss him dearly.”
“He was a super guy, and I’m going to miss him,” Edgartown select board member Arthur Smadbeck said. Smadbeck said he’d known Healy more than 30 years, and recalled how Healy used his expertise at the dawn of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Waste District as chair to keep the nascent organization moving forward. “Kent was great,” Smadbeck said. Smadbeck said West Tisbury was “very fortunate” to have been served by somebody of Healy’s “stature and ability.”
Oak Bluffs select board chair Brian Packish said he was fortunate to have known Healy for most of his life.
“Kent was always smiling and kind.” Packish texted. Packish wrote it was “impossible” to walk away after having a conversation with Healy and not feel better. “He never stopped looking for ways to help in any way he could,” Packish wrote. “Kent was a shining example of service to our community, and will be missed by all who were lucky enough to know him.” Packish extended love and prayers to Healy’s family.
“We were friends,” John Keene of John Keene Excavation said. “We worked together for 30 years. He was an unflappable gentleman. Whether we were out on a job and it was 90°, dusty, or freezing cold … he always had a cheerful smile, and his techniques were always great because they were very uncomplicated. He always just kind of got right to the heart of things, and always thought about the most simple, effective way to get things resolved.”
Keene said Healy’s former skills as a teacher came through in his professional relationships. “Everytime I’d interact with him, he’d always teach a little thing in an unassuming way, which was great about him,” Keene said. “He helped people understand things fairly easily.”
The West Tisbury select board issued a statement Monday morning: “The select board of West Tisbury extends its deepest condolences to the Healy family for the loss of Kent. Kent was a valued member of the select board, offering a straightforward approach to town issues tempered with kindness and compassion. Among his many gifts, Kent lent his engineering skills and expertise to the town on hundreds of projects over many years, and was Keeper of the Dam at the Mill Pond for the worldly sum of $1 a year. He was a monitor and caretaker of the physical environment, regularly spending hours measuring and documenting the rise and fall of the water along Mill Brook and the Tisbury Great Pond. Kent was always there when you needed him, and often before, and lived his life with humor and humility. A man of unfailing decency, he will forever be missed.”