Stephen Currier Gentle was born in Houlton, Me., on July 23, 1912 to Edwin B. and Pearle Foss Gentle, and died on Oct. 25, 2001. He came to Martha's Vineyard in 1920 and attended the Island schools. He loved to fish and hunt and had a wonderful Vineyard childhood.
In 1939 at the age of 27, Steve, along with his friends Everett Whiting, Joe Mello and Preston Averill, started a flying club. With the assistance of an instructor from the Cape, they all learned to fly in their Piper Cub. Soon the war shut down all private flying, so Steve enlisted and became a flight instructor for the war training service. He later supervised the program at several airports and returned to Edgartown when these programs ended in 1944.
Once back on the Vineyard, he set about acquiring the grass airfield at Katama and all the land from the creek to the beach - some 130 acres in all. The hurricane of 1944 destroyed the original tin hanger and spread debris over the Great Plains. Mr. Gentle set out to level the runways and rebuild the hangar. He accomplished this with hand tools and the generous advice and energy of good friends who came each time a heavy beam needed to be raised.
Mr. Gentle never lost his love of flying and teaching others to fly, and he retained all that knowledge until the end of his life.
In the 1960s, Mr. Gentle and his wife, Dorothy, established Gentle's Realty Company, now owned by their son, Stephen E. Gentle. He was a member of the Edgartown Methodist Church, the Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club, a trustee of the Dukes County Savings Bank, a member of the Republican Town Committee, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Katama Association, the Deputy Sheriff's Organization and the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla., to name a few.
Mr. Gentle had a full and productive life and left a wonderful legacy to his family. His family includes Dorothy, his wife of 68 years; his son and daughter, Stephen E. Gentle and Jane West; his brother, Edwin Gentle; four grandchildren, Michael and Timothy Creato and Robert and Stephen Gentle, and four great-grandchildren, Zachary Gentle, Samantha and Maxwell Gentle and Eva Balboni. Several nieces and nephews also survive him.
A celebration of his life was held at the Katama Airfield on Saturday, Nov. 24. It was a memorable occasion for his many friends and family. His ashes were scattered over a few of his favorite Vineyard hunting and fishing spots, and at Katama Airfield, the place he loved best.
A new hangar is in the works to replace the old one at Katama Airport. Anyone wishing to make a donation in Mr. Gentle's memory is invited to contribute to the fund in care of the Katama Airfield Trust, P.O. Box 2908, Edgartown, MA 02539.