Christopher Jesse Sears of Vineyard Haven died unexpectedly on Sept. 1. He was 32. Chris was the son of Patricia Stere Sears of Washington Depot, Conn., and Richard C. Sears of Cornwall, Conn., and brother of Megan S. Caldwell of Beaverton, Ore. He was born in Albany, N.Y., on July 14, 1981.
Chris was a lover of nature and hiking, cooking vegetarian meals, travel, reading, organic gardening, animals large and small, and especially meeting and enjoying people. He was a loyal friend to many people throughout the world.
Growing up in Washington Depot and known by his friends as P.K., Chris freely shared his vigor with friends and family through sports, scouting, photography, music, love of the outdoors and just plain fun.
Always the explorer of new places and cultures, in high school he travelled to Italy to see its artistic wonders and also to Jamaica, where he worked at a Quaker orphanage. Both these ventures profoundly nurtured his love of art and his caring for children, especially those in need. A 1999 graduate of Shepaug High School, in state competition Chris won the Silver Key for his photograph of the Shepaug River, served as manager of the boys’ basketball team and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Although he did not consider himself religious, Chris had a deep spirit. During his teen years he found a spiritual home, loving acceptance, fun, and many friends through participating in Quaker youth retreats held in Old Chatham and Silver Bay, N.Y.
At Ithaca College, history and psychology vied for his love of learning, and he graduated cum laude with a major in psychology. After graduation he was a welcoming presence at The Pantry in Washington Depot, saving for his two-month solo sojourn in Thailand in the fall of 2004.
A person with a tender heart for those in need of help or encouragement, Chris’s twin passions of caring for children and horticulture blossomed at Green Chimneys School in Brewster, N.Y. There he worked for three years expanding the school’s organic gardening program with special needs children.
Chris’s love of travel next took him to New Zealand. His work at numerous farms through the World Organization of Organic Farms made possible his exploration of every corner of the north and south islands. He finally settled in Christchurch where he attended Canterbury University and received his master of arts in social work in 2009. During and after university he worked with refugee families from the Pacific Islands who had relocated in New Zealand.
Chris settled on the Vineyard — a place that had what he loved: nature preserves, beaches, and the sea. Over the past two years, he deeply touched many lives, old and young, as a social worker at the Island Counseling Center. He was near to completing his goal of becoming a licensed clinical social worker.
In addition to his immediate family, Chris is survived by his maternal grandmother, Betty Geanne Bishop of Martinsburg, Pa.; brother in law Robert Caldwell and nephews Connor and Cameron; aunts Linda K. Stere of Nashville, Tenn., Peggy Oliva and husband Robert of Smithtown, N.Y., Susan Clifford and husband John of Salem, N.H., and Melody DeLozier and husband Stephen of Hollidaysburg, Pa.; and cousins Julie Oliva DeSalvo and husband Dan, Eric Oliva, John and Peter Clifford, and Jesse and Deanna DeLozier. Chris was predeceased by cousin Daniel Reeseman.
Friends are invited to celebrations of Chris’s life. The first will be held Wednesday, Oct. 2 at North Tabor Farm in Chilmark, with a gathering at 2:30 p.m. and service at 3:30 p.m. A Washington Depot, Conn. outdoor service under a tent will take place Saturday, Oct. 5 at 11 a.m. at 58 Upper Church Hill Road.
Chris’s family, friends, colleagues and clients will sorely miss this “moment’s sunlight” who made life better for many during his brief journey here. Thank you, Chris. Chris’s family especially thanks all who have expressed their love and support during this time.
In a statement, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services expressed condolences to family, friends and colleagues. “Chris was a committed and capable clinician who supported a large cross section of the Island’s youth, adults and elderly,” the statement said.
Grief counseling resources are available by contacting the Island Counseling Center at 508-693-0032.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Christopher Sears Memorial Fund c/o Union Saving Bank, P.O. Box 391, Washington Depot, CT 06794. Chris’s family will contribute to organizations that support Chris’s two passions: special needs children and sustainable agriculture.