John Svetz


John A. Svetz, 89, of Oak Bluffs passed away on April 5, 2024, after a brief illness, and is now with the Lord he served.

John was born on May 11, 1934, in Corry, Pa., to Thomas and Mary Svetz. Mary passed away shortly after John’s birth, and he was raised by his mother Pauline Svetz after her marriage to Thomas. 

John met his wife Joan working at General Dynamics. At 24, he married Joan, and like his mother Pauline, John adopted Joan’s three children and raised them along with their two sons in North Stonington, Conn. After designing submarines for 20 years, John wanted to go back to his childhood roots, and asked Joan to move to Spartansburg, Pa., to run a dairy farm. Eventually, they settled on Martha’s Vineyard, where John was a caretaker and plumbing and heating technician. He later opened his own business, Vineyard Heating, which he operated well into his eighties. Even after “retiring,” he found many of his longtime customers looked out for him and kept him busy supervising the work of other contractors, a testament to his trustworthiness and technical skill.

John had a passion for education, and was a member and president of the board of education in North Stonington for many years. He helped start Mohegan Community College, now known as Three Rivers Community College, in Norwich, Conn. John and Joan were well-known Island gardeners with expansive gardens and intricately designed ponds by John. They were highlighted in the gardening book “A Garden Lover’s Martha’s Vineyard,” by New England garden writer and radio personality C.L. Fornari.

John had a mischievously dry sense of humor and a gift for storytelling. He had many interesting tales about the famous people he met while working on the Island, including the time Carly Simon composed a song while asking him questions about his work. He made many friends and touched many lives in his more than 35 years on the Island, and will be greatly missed.

John is survived by sons Gary Svetz and his wife Christine of Meadville, Pa., James Svetz and his partner Patrick of Palm Springs, Calif., and son Mark Svetz of California. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Rebecca (Erik) Claussen, Jonathan (Jen) Palmer, Joshua Svetz, Matthew Svetz, and Samuel Svetz; great-grandchildren Lilli Claussen, Kayla Palmer, and Katalina Palmer; and his son-in-law Fred Palmer and sister-in-law Dee Svetz. Besides his parents, John was also preceded in death by his wife Joan, daughter Cheryl Palmer, son Jeff Svetz, and siblings Steve, Joe, and Mary Ann Svetz.

Per his wishes, John will be cremated and laid to rest with his beloved wife Joan. Services will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, anyone wishing to honor John’s memory, please consider donating in his name to the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging, attn: Rose Cogliano, 21 Wamsutta Ave., Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.

The family wishes to express its deep appreciation and gratitude to the Royal Nursing Center staff and Fidelis Hospice for their care of John during his final days.

Arrangements are being handled by the Chapman, Cole and Gleason funeral home on Martha’s Vineyard.


  1. Always enjoyed chatting with John, whether at the Post Office or elsewhere. Such an affable fellow. Peace, John.

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