The great thing about yesterday's memorial service for Francis (Pat) West Jr. was hearing the echo of his voice.
A sailor, an engineer and a Vineyard character, Pat West died on the Fourth of July at the age of 96. But his kind words, his wisdom and his witty one-liners lived on in the memories and stories shared by friends and family.
It was a morning befitting a man who spent much of his life on the sea and around boats. A brisk wind was coming off Lake Tashmoo over the marshes and up to the sloping lawn of the old Herring Creek barnhouse in Vineyard Haven where Pat West and his wife Isabel had retired back in the 1970s.
Scores of people turned out for the event, carpooling their way down the dirt road. There were white chairs spread across the lawn, but the crowd was so big that most of them stood.
"Man oh man, would he love to be here now," said his son, Nathaniel (Dan) West as he took a look out over the throng. "The man loved a party."
The younger Mr. West then quickly displayed the family gift for storytelling, rattling off a number of tales about his father that were at once succinct and funny.
"We sailed Venture up from Long Island for a family vacation with three 16-year-olds for crew," he recalled. Somewhere in Block Island Sound, with Pat down below decks, the teenage boys came upon a lobster pot and decided to haul it up.
"We removed four good-looking lobsters," said Dan West, fessing up to the poaching incident.
But when Pat West came up and saw the lobsters, his reaction was pointed. "‘Where'd these come from?'" he demanded.
"A nice fella came by and heaved these into the cockpit," I told him.
"‘Well, I'm the captain of this ship,'" he remembered his father saying.
"Then he glanced around the horizon and said, ‘Now get down below and get some water going.'"
It was a memorable sailing trip with Pat West as the skipper. Another one of those 16-year-olds, George Hartman, got up to speak and told how Pat West was like an adopted father and a mentor to him.
"On that trip Danny talked about, Pat realized I could not tie knots worth a darn," Mr. Hartman recalled.
Pat West then tried to motivate the teenaged sailor. "He was stern at times. ‘Hartman, you cannot have a beer until you can tie a bow consistently and correctly.'"
Laughter came easily at this memorial service, but there were also tender moments. Clearly, even with all the vivid memories that seemed to keep his spirit alive, Pat West is going to be missed.
"You took me out on the lake and taught me to sail," said his granddaughter, Alexandra West. "You'd sail inches from the rocks and say, ‘You'll be just fine.'"
The adjectives were plentiful. Pat West was kind, gracious, generous and clever as both a sailor and inventor.
Nat Benjamin, the sailor and boatbuilder, marveled at Pat West's abilities at the helm.
"I observed him work his magic in a relaxed and methodical way," he said. "And his creative engineering with pieces of string too short to use for anything around the house.
"You never heard him say, ‘There is not enough time,' " Mr. Benjamin continued. "In life he had a sense of the timeless. You sensed that. He gave it freely."
That generosity of time left its mark. For Ridge White, his Uncle Pat became a close friend.
"There's one language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see, and that language is kindness," said Mr. White. "He looked on the positive side of everything."
Pat West was a problem-solver, a lab engineer who worked for 30 years for the Sperry Gyroscope Company.
"Pat's serene countenance hid a restless imagination," said Mr. White. "He tinkered endlessly. He wrote articles extolling the virtue of gaff-rigged sailboats, and he designed and created sailing canoes.
"As the years passed, his boats got smaller," he continued.
When he was unable to go sailing any longer, Pat West discovered model boats and went out with Mr. White, setting their little boats out in the marsh and then chasing after them.
"Pat let out a whoop of joy: ‘Oh, look at ‘er go,'" said Mr. White. "We were like kids on Tashmoo."
Pat West's spirit seemed to be infectious. When Mr. White's daughter asked him for advice about marriage, his counsel was direct and simple: "‘Don't criticize.'"
"He lived simply and seemed to embody the proverb, ‘Rich indeed is the man who knows he has enough,'" said Mr. White.
Pat and his wife, Isabel, had been together 64 years.
"They appreciated and respected each other," said Mr. White. "Pat's genial nature could not have flourished without Isabel."