Edwin G. Tyra of Edgartown died at his Planting Field Way home on Sunday morning, Feb. 9, after a brief illness. He was 85.
A lifelong outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish, Mr. Tyra was also civic-minded and interested in conservation. He served as chairman of the Edgartown conservation commission and also as chairman of the Martha's Vineyard Commission for several years. He actively promoted the town land acquisition at Katama Farm and worked to ensure hunting rights on the property. He was on the town board of fire engineers and the town byways committee. He was president of the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club for 10 years. He was chairman of the board of directors for the Edgartown Council on Aging and served as a corporator and trustee and vice president of the Dukes County Savings Bank.
He was born in Pickerel, Wisc., on April 20, 1917, the son of Taylor P. and Adeline (Hofman) Tyra.
He attended Pickerel grade school, Crandon High School and Bowlby's Business College in Appleton, Wisc. His first job was at the Neopit Indian Reservation Office.
He grew up an outdoorsman. For many years his parents operated a hunting and fishing lodge on the shores of Pickerel Lake with cottages and a fleet of fishing boats to rent.
He met his future wife, Helen I. Shurtleff, in the winter of 1938 in St. Petersburg, Fla., where their families were vacationing. Three years later they were married in Edgartown and went to live in West Virginia where he was employed in the operation of a lumber mill.
During World War II he worked for a company that made gunstock for the United States government. His family of three moved across the country from Pennsylvania to Missouri as Ed bought walnut trees from farmers and built sawmills to turn the trees into logs, and later into gunstock through another company.
During one presidential election, Mr. Tyra and his wife could not vote because they had not lived in one state long enough to establish residency. They lived in nine states in one year. He was exempt from the military draft as long as he was working for the government. When Helen Tyra became extremely sensitive to the tall ragweed surrounding the cornfields in one place they lived, she and their young daughter returned to Edgartown by train. All the soldiers boarding the train wanted to help carry the little girl, but there was not as much help for the luggage.
When he found a replacement, Mr. Tyra returned to Edgartown and worked at the shipyard in Vineyard Haven building Navy boats. When his number was called he joined the United States Navy. He spent a year at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. On the day he was scheduled to board ship for New York to be shipped overseas, the Armistice was signed.
He returned to Edgartown and was employed by K.T. Galley and Sons as a carpenter. He soon formed a partnership with Ralph Case as a building contractor; after the death of Mr. Case, Mr. Tyra worked alone as a contractor.
In 1979 he was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis that did not go into remission for seven years, and he was forced to retire from business.
He was an inveterate dump-picker and yard-saler, and for many years he ran The Shop at the old ice house off the West Tisbury Road in Edgartown. At The Shop you could find almost any reclaimed building part you needed, from doors and windows to latches and doorknobs. With a characteristic twinkle in his eye, Mr. Tyra was always ready to haggle a little over the price, but for young people starting out, the price was never more than a few dollars, if that.
His love of the outdoors lasted until the time of his death and his hunting prowess was legendary. Two years ago during deer week he drove his old Wagoneer into the State Forest, and sat in the car reading the newspaper. He looked up, saw a deer, put the paper down, got his gun, got out of the car, and shot the deer.
"It's being outdoors. You see everything," he said in an interview with the Vineyard Gazette in 1998. "I love duck hunting out on the ponds in the morning. Sometimes you get a good sunrise. Sometimes that's all you do get is a good sunrise."
He was chairman of the Edgartown School Orchestra Association, which promoted music and the purchase of instruments for the orchestra. He was a member of Ducks Unlimited and volunteered with the Kids Fishing Derby every year on the Vineyard. In 1995 he was named senior citizen of the year by the Edgartown Council on Aging.
"Ed Tyra has good aim, not only when it comes to ducks!" declared a small story in the Vineyard Gazette at the time. "He loves people and they love him. He believes that most people are essentially honest, he trusts them, so they trust him. Only rarely has anything been taken from his shop without a later phone call. He can't say no to anyone who needs help."
He is survived by his wife of 61 years; his daughter, Patricia A. Tyra, and her husband, Harold Bauld, of Dania Beach, Fla., and Edgartown; his son, Gordon W. Tyra, and his wife, Ann, of Edgartown; Gordon's daughter, Karen, of Westmont, Ill., and her two children; a sister, Grace Juetten of Rhinelander, Wisc.; a nephew, George Juetten, and his wife, Sondra, of Boise, Idaho; and a sister in law, Dorothy Tyra of Pickerel, Wisc. He was predeceased by his parents and a brother.
A funeral service was held on Feb. 13 at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, with the Rev. Robert Edmunds officiating, and accompanied by a Masonic service with the Oriental-MV Masonic Lodge. A gathering for family and friends was held at the Anchors, home of the Edgartown Council on Aging.
Interment was in the Old Westside Cemetery in Edgartown with military honors provided by Martha's Vineyard veterans.
Memorial donations may be made to the Friends of the Edgartown Council on Aging, P.O. Box 1295, Edgartown MA 02539, or to a charity of one's choice.