What seemed like a few hundred gathered in the pizza-oven heat of Sunday, July 21, at Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark for the graveside ceremony that laid to rest the ashes of Conrad Neumann, that wonderful teacher of the sea, that might-as-well-be mayor of Menemsha, that poet of the not-so-common man. We will not see the likes of him come this way again.

We gathered under the noonday sun like mad dogs and Vineyarders to support his family and pay our respects. We listened as his children spoke warmly and deeply from the heart, choking back tears, while his wife Jane and his sister Jane Slater drank it all in. Then we witnessed in graceful silence the lowering of an antique nautical box into the soil. Each of the mourners then contributed handfuls of fresh earth to bless and send Conrad Neumann on his way.

In the Gazette profile I wrote about my him, in July 2017, I said: “Conrad Neumann’s new book, Up-Island Poems, is a short lyrical diary of a poetic soul who went out and came in with the tides, an oceanographer who traveled the world to define and refine his career and returned to his Island birthplace to rest, to fish, to tell tales . . .

“He has the need to tell stories. [Neumann said,] ‘Years ago I asked an old Island doctor why I kept talking and telling stories. He told me ‘You’re nervous and should hang out with other nervous people.’ Guess he felt it might make me talk less because I’d see the error of my ways or wouldn’t get a word in. He called it oral hypertension. I turned it into poetry.’”

And he turned all of us into his willing listeners with his humor and kindness. All you had to do was meet him and you became his friend. And so that’s why the stifling temperature couldn’t keep us away Sunday. We finished the funeral with a lunch of fine fixings, many ingredients homemade by those in attendance, at the Chilmark Community Center, where we continued to tell tales about Conrad. He will surely and sorely be missed.

He will sail forever around my mind.

Arnie Reisman

Vineyard Haven