Dr. Howard Attebery, whose courtship and love affair with Cynthia Riggs captured imaginations and made news around the world, died on Feb. 1 at the home he shared with Ms. Riggs in West Tisbury. He was 94.

The couple first met when he was 28 and she was 18. They spent a summer doing research together, but in the fall Cynthia returned to Antioch College and Howie to his work. It would be 62 years before they met again, fell in love and married on the Vineyard in May of 2013.

The story was first told by Cynthia at Union Chapel for the Moth Radio Hour. The couple also wrote a book about their experience.

“I’m 81 years old and he’s going to be 91 when he gets here,” Cynthia said in an interview with the Vineyard Gazette prior to Howie’s arrival. “Really, how much time do we have? But you know, it really makes that amount of time precious.”

Howie and Cynthia were married in May 2013 at the West Tisbury Congregational Church. — Mark Lovewell

Howard Attebery was born on April 9, 1922, in Napa, Calif. In an obituary he wrote himself, he described his childhood as idyllic, growing up on his grandparents’ ranch in Napa. As a child he preferred the company of horses to sitting at a school desk. His attitude toward education would change drastically later as he accumulated four degrees during the course of his life, studying oceanography, engineering, microbiology, protozoology and becoming a doctor of dentistry. He also studied photography with Ansel Adams, and for a time was a forensic photographer for the San Diego County Sheriff's office.

After high school, Mr. Attebery said he was presented with four choices: “Work in a relative’s funeral home, work at Imola state institution for the criminally insane, enter the priesthood as wished for by my family or to use a college scholarship I had achieved.”

He chose college and never looked back.

During World War II he enlisted and worked in the Ninth Corps Area Laboratory, testing for tropical diseases on returning soldiers. He met Cynthia Riggs in 1950 while working at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, sorting and counting plankton at the San Diego laboratory.

“She was a geology major on a work program and I had a jeep and a rock hammer so we enjoyed time together,” Mr. Attebery said in an interview with the Gazette. They both returned to their separate lives after the summer, but he never stopped thinking about her, he admitted many years later. Both married and raised families, Howie in California and Cynthia on the Vineyard. Cynthia’s one marriage ended in divorce and Howie’s second wife died of cancer. In 2012, Howie sent Cynthia an anonymous coded letter that when translated read, “I have never stopped loving you.”

Dr. Attebery was many things: a dentist, veteran, photographer, scientist, microbiologist and quiet man who loved company. — Ray Ewing

The package did not contain a name or a return address, just longitude and latitude coordinates. Cynthia had to play detective to find out who her admirer was. She finally tracked him down through the dental association of California. What followed was a year of courtship by email and letters.

“This is the way everybody should court,” Ms. Riggs said in a phone conversation Thursday. “Long distance for over a year, sharing your intimate thoughts. Then when you meet, if the physical connection meets the mental connection you got it.”

Remembering those early days, she said that in the correspondences Howie told her he wanted two things in life: “Beauty and to not be alone.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” she added, noting that Howie was at heart a quiet man and Ms. Riggs has a large and extended Island family. A gathering of relatives who live here can easily reach nearly 40 people.

This suited Howie perfectly, she said.

“He intended to make a survey of all the freshwater ponds on the Island, tracking an organism he learned about in Texas,” Ms. Riggs said. “It was a little more than he could deal with. He did about 10 ponds, but identified 100 other sources he wanted to get to. We spent a lot of time together going out to collect water samples.”

Howie also helped Cynthia with her bed and breakfast at the Cleaveland House. His job was to set up in the morning and make coffee for the guests.

For the past 30 years on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, Ms. Riggs has thrown a large party at her house. The tradition will continue this year but as a celebration of life for Mr. Attebery. The party is from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cleaveland House in West Tisbury.

The event started, Ms. Riggs said, when she looked across the road and asked her mother who lived in those houses. “My mother didn’t know so she said okay let’s invite the people who live in the first three houses in every direction to come over on Groundhog Day.”

It was a day people could remember, Ms. Riggs said, and a time of year when people on the Island needed company. The circle of invites was widened every year until it included the entire Island.

“This year will be dedicated to Howie,” Ms. Riggs said.

A graveside service for the family is planned for March and there will be a party for the whole Island later this summer.

“When everything is bright and cheerful, we will have a grand celebration of his life,” Ms. Riggs said. “And everyone will be invited.”