The Vineyard is mourning the loss of F. Patrick Gregory, the longtime West Tisbury town moderator and Vineyard Haven businessman who was found dead on a remote hiking trail in northern California Friday.
The Tehama County Sheriff’s department confirmed Saturday that Mr. Gregory was the victim of a robbery and homicide; his hiking companion was also shot and critically injured and was in stable condition in a hospital in Chico, Calif., over the weekend.
The sheriff’s department said Mr. Gregory and his companion, a 76-year-old man from Manton, Calif., whose name had not been released, were hiking the Iron Canyon Trail north of Red Bluff in Tehama County late Friday morning. The trail is part of the Sacramento River Bend Oustanding Natural Area, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Authorities said between 11:30 am and noon, Mr. Gregory and his companion encountered a man who produced a firearm and demanded money and personal effects from the victims. “After the robbery was completed, the suspect then shot the victims and left them in the remote area about 100 yards from the trail head,” a press release said.
The two men were found by another hiker three hours later who returned to the trailhead to notify emergency services. Mr. Gregory died at the scene, authorities said. His hiking companion was treated at the scene by paramedics and airlifted to a nearby hospital. A manhunt was under way over the weekend for the suspect, who was still at large. Police detectives were were circulating a description for the suspect and seeking assistance and information from the public.
Mr. Gregory, 69, was well known on the Vineyard where he lived year round in West Tisbury and had taught mathematics in the elementary school. He was the owner of EduComp, a computer and art supply store located in the brick building at the head of Main street Vineyard Haven. He was married with grown children, had served on many boards and had been a soccer coach and referee. He had been the West Tisbury town moderator for 23 years.
The news of his death stunned the Island and expressions of mourning were seen and heard throughout the weekend.
A moment of silence was held at the start of a town picnic at the public saftey building late Saturday.On Sunday morning the town hall flag flew at half staff and the selectmen issued a statement. On Sunday afternoon flowers were placed on the front steps of the EduComp building with an oversized card that people could sign. It said "We Miss You Pat."
At day's end an informal gathering was held at Lambert's Cove Beach. People joined hands in a large circle as the setting sun scudded in and out of gathering clouds on a cool May day.
“Our hearts break for his family,” said Cynthia Mitchell, a West Tisbury selectman and friend, earlier in the weekend.
“The West Tisbury board of selectmen, with great sorrow, wishes to express its deep shock and sadness at the tragic death of long time town moderator Pat Gregory,” the selectmen said in the statement. “Our hearts go out to Pat’s family and friends and we offer our deepest condolences.
“Pat had served the town for 23 years as its always calm and collected moderator. We will miss his company and light touch at town meetings.
“We know we speak for all of West Tisbury and the Island when we say that we will join his family and friends to honor and celebrate his memory.”
In an interview with the Gazette several years ago, Mr. Gregory said he was inspired to run for the job of moderator by his experience as a teacher at the West Tisbury school. He said running a town meeting was not unlike running a classroom.
“You want to move things along, so the germane arguments are heard, but you don’t take forever to get done. I try to ensure no individual dominates, and reasonable voices on both sides are heard,” he said, adding: “Democracy works. That’s the bottom line. It’s pretty inspiring.”