Longtime East Chop summer resident Austin D. Wise was remembered by family and close friends in a graveside memorial service June 28 in Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven. He died June 21 at Massachusetts General Hospital after complications from a stroke suffered on the Vineyard ten days earlier. He was 86.
Mr. Wise gave friends, family, and most of the people he met, a lot to remember. Gregarious and with a warm smile, he became a fixture on East Chop since coming to the Island as a teenager. Friends and family remembered his quick love affair with his future wife, Barbara Meleney, which began when he was 18 on adjacent courts at the East Chop Tennis Club in 1946. He became a summer regular, managing the tennis club one summer, co-founding the East Chop Brewers softball team, and introducing his parents, Jack and Peggy Wise, to the Island.
After serving in the Army’s policing operations in Japan after World War II, he married Barbara in 1950, settled in her home town of Bethesda, Md., and took a job with Meleney Equipment Company, the small company founded by his wife’s father, George Meleney. He became a partner in the company and worked as a manufacturers’ representative in the Washington area, where his charm made him a natural salesman.
After being graciously welcomed with his three children, Ellie, Tim and Carol, into the Meleney homestead on Prospect Park in East Chop, he and his wife built their own modest house on Dudley avenue behind the tennis club. It became its own homestead for the children and four grandchildren, Colby and Michael Perkins, Jackson Wise, and Eve Schauer.
He was always an avid sailor, and he was one of the first to buy a Sunfish when they came on the market. He used it to explore the Island, stuffing the hull into the back of his Buick station wagon, finding the hidden boat ramps onto the Island’s beautiful ponds, and loading the little boat up with cooler, beach chairs, crab nets, boogie board, towels and people. The annual hunt for the Great Blue Crab became a cherished family tradition.
He retired after 37 years with Meleney Equipment to Kilmarnock, Va., on the Northern Neck along the Chesapeake Bay, from which he and Barbara could cruise their sailboat in the spring and fall waters of the bay while spending summers at the Vineyard. After Barbara died in 2005, he moved to Sarasota, Fla., testing the waters there at the invitation of East Chop friend Boyd Cowper. He settled in Sarasota, found new companionship there with Ann Cluett and her dog Daisy, and returned to the Vineyard every summer until his death.
At Oak Grove Cemetery, he was remembered as a loving husband, a fun companion, a great father, a welcome addition to the Meleney family, and a true Island character.
He was survived by his children, grandchildren, and his companion Ann. He will be remembered fondly by scores of others on and off the Vineyard.
Memorial gifts may be made to The Trustees of Reservations, 572 Essex street, Beverly, MA 01915-1530, thetrustees.org/donate/honorary-and-memorial-gifts/.