Sumner Z. Silverman


Doctor Sumner Z. Silverman died peacefully on Dec. 9, 2022, after a long battle with Parkinson’s and Lewy body diseases, two days after his 80th birthday.

He was raised with his brother, Ron, in Worcester. They remained close for all their lives, until Ron died of COVID in January 2022.

Sumner earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Denver in 1976. He opened a private practice in Cambridge that year. His specialty was working with artists by tuning into their lives and focusing on their inherent talents, setting higher goals and helping people achieve their highest potential.

He married Sally Pierce of Newburyport in September 1982. They lived in Cambridge, and created a second home on Martha’s Vineyard in 1993. They took up permanent residency on the Vineyard in 2003.

In addition to being a brilliant and caring psychologist, Sumner was a skilled jeweler. He was a master carver in wax, amber, fossilized mastodon and walrus tusk. He made many of his carving tools, and they were never far from his side. His unique creations captured the essence of his creative mind and skilled hands.

He was an extraordinarily gifted gourmet cook. He specialized in unique combinations and flavors in loaves of bread. Anyone who was fortunate enough to have a meal prepared by Sumner and Sally had a truly unforgettable culinary experience. Many of the organic ingredients in their meals came from the abundance of the surrounding ocean and their vegetable garden, as well as the many fruit trees that were carefully cultivated on their property. Without a doubt, he grew the best figs on Martha’s Vineyard, and knew what to do with them. He was also fully immersed in the slow food movement.

But Sumner was in his element when he was at the annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. He attended the approximately weeklong event for 13 years in a row, until COVID shut it down, and then Parkinson’s began to take its terrible toll. To Sumner, the Burning Man was the way life should be: an annual event that created a “city” with 80,000 inhabitants freely expressing their ideas and arts, all loving, caring, sharing, inclusive. All appreciating the gift of life. As part of the 10 Principles of Burning Man, there is no trace left behind when the event concludes. Sumner’s participation was teaching resin inlay jewelry for the Oasis 47 Theme camp, for which he carved in wax the famous bronze pendants that were the symbolic theme for many years. You can find his jewelry and his story in the book “Jewelry of Burning Man,” and his beautiful jewelry has been in eight museum exhibitions. He was cremated in one of the outfits he wore at the festival.

Celebrations of his life are planned for the spring in Boston and on the Vineyard.

Sumner liked the idea of walking lightly on the earth, but he left more than a trace in life. He left an indelible mark on the souls of everyone he encountered. 

Sumner leaves his beloved wife Sally Pierce, his niece Amy, and her husband Rick; two grandnieces; and a great-grandniece; as well as many dear friends from a widely diverse cross section of our society. His quick wit, unending surplus of excellent jokes, and keen grasp of the issues of our time will be forever missed.