A crowd of nearly 1,000 people filled the West Tisbury Agricultural Hall to overflowing Wednesday afternoon to remember F. Patrick Gregory for his kindness and gentle spirit, his passion and generosity.
“His even-handed guidance became my edification,” said Timothy Gregory, Pat Gregory’s son. “He was a whistler, a believer in the human spirit.”
Mr. Gregory, 69, was fatally shot on a remote hiking trail in northern California on May 16. The news stunned the Island, where he was well known as a civic leader, businessman and former teacher.
On Wednesday afternoon people streamed into the Ag Hall from every direction for the service and celebration of life for Mr. Gregory, many of them carrying covered dishes for the potluck that followed. The event was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. but was delayed as people filled the hall on a gray-sky day with chilly, misting rain.
White azalea plants flanked the West Tisbury School podium usually seen at annual town meetings, where Mr. Gregory had presided as town moderator for the past 23 years. A trio played Irish music. And then the room fell silent and members of the Gregory family walked in hand-in-hand. The Rev. Cathlin Baker of the West Tisbury Congregational Church and Father Michael R. Nagle of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Oak Bluffs presided over the service.
“We are stunned and speechless and just finding the voice for our grief,” Reverend Baker said. “Let us relish the community love and support we have together,” she said.
“There were so many of us touched by Pat, he had a special presence that was reflected in his love and faith for all,” Father Nagle said.
A handful of speakers made remarks.
“He was a fine public servant and a true friend,” said West Tisbury selectman Cynthia Mitchell.
“Wherever he went, whoever he met, he brought joy and a zest for life, a sense of optimist that was infectious,” said Joe Arceri, who had been Mr. Gregory’s college roommate. “It’s impossible for me to think about a world without Pat.”
Tim Gregory called his father a “moral lighthouse” and best friend.
Shannon Gregory Carbon, Mr. Gregory’s daughter, thanked the community for their support and love during the past few weeks. She noted a letter sent to her mother Dorothy that described Mr. Gregory as a person with “uncommon decency.”
“Dad was not a man of vengeance,” she said. “I believe we must learn from his death. Look around at your loved ones. Make sure we are treating them with uncommon decency.”