Eleanor Bronson Pyle, a regular visitor to and sometime resident of the Island for the past 51 years, died on April 12 at the age of 79 in Belmont after a long illness.
Eleanor first visited the Island in 1962, and in 1966 she and her husband purchased land on a ridge off Indian Hill Road in West Tisbury, near the family home of Henry Beetle Hough. The Vineyard Gazette of June 3, 1966 reported that the family “took possession, so to speak, of their new domain, the ridge lot they are purchasing from Charles G. Norton. They did so in the old-fashioned way by pitching a tent and camping over the weekend.” In the early years her family would stay in a tent on the property, and only with reluctance, over time, did Eleanor relinquish the simplicity of camping for a solid house, electricity, running water and indoor plumbing. She spent many summers in West Tisbury with her family in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as her sons grew up. In the 1990s she lived for a year off Lambert’s Cove Road in Vineyard Haven.
Eleanor was born and raised in Yakima, Wash. She came east to attend St. Mary’s Hall in Faribault, Minn., and then Radcliffe College. Although she always resided in Massachusetts after college, she retained her love of the Pacific Northwest, and frequently returned to visit friends and to stay in the town of Seaside, Ore.
At Radcliffe, Eleanor majored in English and was elected class president in her senior year. She graduated summa cum laude in 1955 and was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa. After considering a career in medicine, she earned a master’s degree in English from Harvard and then took a job with the publisher Houghton Mifflin. Throughout her life she maintained her interests in English and medicine as she worked in research at Massachusetts General Hospital and taught a literature class to nursing students. Later in life Eleanor volunteered at the Deaconess Hospital, assisting the families of surgical patients.
Eleanor married Warren Pyle in 1959 and had two sons, Eric and Alexander. Eric is a graduate of Oberlin College, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is now a software build manager living in Vermont with his wife, daughter and two step-sons. Alexander graduated from Wesleyan University, the University of Southern California and Harvard Law School and is now a lawyer living in the Boston area with his wife, daughter and son. Eleanor is remembered as a loving and compassionate mother and grandmother who always enjoyed spending time with her family and friends, and who was passionate about social justice and animal welfare causes. She particularly loved cats and kept feline companions throughout her life.
In addition to her regular visits to the West Tisbury family home, Eleanor traveled widely to places as diverse as Antarctica, Hawaii, Scotland and Africa. When she was not traveling, she lived for the last 25 years in Cambridge.
She is survived by her sons, Eric B. Pyle of Thetford, Vt., and Alexander H. Pyle of Belmont; and her grandchildren, Seraphina E. Pyle, Andrew R. Pyle and Hannah R. Burford. Eleanor is also survived by her former husband, Warren H. Pyle of Concord.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at Fay House, 10 Garden Street in Cambridge. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Alzheimer’s Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011 or alz.org.