Wyatt (Wye) Garfield of Mystic, Conn., and Cuttyhunk Island, devoted husband of Katharine (Kitsy) Barney Garfield, his wife of nearly 64 years, and great-grandson of James Abram Garfield, 20th president of the United States, died on August 4 after a brief illness. He was 89.
Born on Oct. 8,1924 in Cleveland to Newell Garfield and Mary Louise Wyatt Garfield, he spent his childhood in Concord, Mass. He attended the Shady Hill School, Pomfret School, Yale University (graduating in 1948), and Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury. He served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific at the end of World War II.
His working years led him first to Pomfret School in Connecticut for 10 years as English teacher, admissions director and crew coach. Then he went on to the Bancroft School in Worcester from 1960 to 1981 as headmaster. An old farm in Princeton, Mass., was home to his family for 44 years.
He offered his skills in founding the Cuttyhunk Yacht Club in 1956, and later established the Princeton Land Trust. Over the years, he served as Cuttyhunk selectman, trustee of Pomfret and Applewild Schools, chairman of the Cum Laude Society, committee member in the NAIS, and an Eastern Sprints judge. In recent years, he volunteered in myriad ways at the Mystic Seaport, including a small role in the restoration of the whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan.
From his father he learned woodworking, which became a lifelong passion. He built boats with his teenaged sons, and sailboats and rowboats for children and grandchildren. He mastered the art of cutting jigsaw puzzles, and built practical furniture for his house. His pride was maintaining and shingling his house on Cuttyhunk, which became the touchstone of home for his family. In later years, his large workshop there became the place for many a repair or a good sit-down talk about life. There was nothing better than sharing wisdom and laughter with Wye, or taking a sail in his wooden Buzzards Bay day sailer, Beaver, his retirement gift to himself. On the land his sport was tennis and on the sea, sailing.
In all the communities, schools, towns or shipyards that Wye Garfield inhabited, there wasn’t a person that didn’t like or love him. From his boyhood club of escapades, the Red Devils of Concord, to his final involvements in Mystic Seaport, his spirit — silly, kind, thoughtful, caring, and yes, naughty — taught us how to enjoy life. His innate talent for teaching and for woodworking of all kinds; his humor, self-discipline and standards, all make us better people, and the world a clearer place to enjoy. For his children and students, particularly the young, Wye loved nothing more than reading stories, or better yet, telling them with many embellishments. His self-published tales of his youth were treasured by his children and grandchildren. He always believed you could be anything you wanted to be. As much as he worked in the educational system, he put the highest value on one’s being happy and enjoying work.
A deeply involved family man, he and his wife Kitsy made their island home the center of their lives, enjoying simple summer living. In time nothing came to matter more than this place called Cuttyhunk, where he could be seen walking town roads, meeting the ferry boat and greeting everyone he met. He worked to improve places for the benefit of the community or organization, never for himself. He did not need attention and accolades for all he did. He truly left the world a better place, and people better for knowing him and having him in their lives.
He will be dearly missed by many. Flags were flown at half mast on Cuttyhunk, which says it all.
He leaves a large and loving family who enjoyed his presence in their lives every day. Besides his wife, he leaves six children: Sarah Garfield Berry and her husband Allen; Louise Garfield and her children Katie Bachler, and Matthew Bachler and his wife Chrissy Lee; Wyatt Garfield Jr. and his wife Rachel and their children Rebecca and her husband Paul Aracena Oliver, Wyatt, and William Garfield; Seth Garfield and his wife Dorothy and their children Dianna and her husband Brent Robinson, Samuel, and Kassia Garfield; Angus Garfield and his children Caroline and Elizabeth Garfield; and Benjamin Garfield and his wife Amy. He was predeceased by his brother Newell Garfield and his sister Sarah Garfield Smith.
A reception to celebrate his life is planned at StoneRidge retirement community, 186 Jerry Browne Road, Mystic, Conn., on Saturday, August 16, at 11 a.m. A memorial service on Cuttyhunk will be held at a later date.
Memorial contributions may be made to Gosnold Community Fund (c/o Community Foundation of Southeastern Mass.), 63 Union street, New Bedford, MA 02740; Princeton Land Trust, P.O. Box 271, Princeton, MA 01541, or Mystic Seaport, 75 Greenmanville avenue, Mystic, CT 06355.