Peter Vernam Behr, 51, Was Active in Red Cross

Peter Vernam Behr of Vineyard Haven, a wonderful father, excellent carpenter and doer of good deeds, died peacefully after a short and unexpected illness on Jan. 25 at the age of 51. He was the son of Frederic Howell Behr and Jeanne Perry White Behr of Morristown, N.J. He was the great-great-great-grandson of Commodore Matthew Perry.

Peter was born on April 21, 1952 in Dusseldorf, Germany while his father was a foreign service officer there. After his father's death in 1961, Peter spent the next eight years at boarding school, first at Fessenden School in West Newton, and then at Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Conn. During that time his mother moved the family to a farm in Sherborn, which is where Peter met perhaps the single most important influence on his childhood: a Yankee horse trader named Tim Burgess. It was there that Peter was to develop a love of animals and the outdoors that stayed with him his entire life.

Following high school, Peter spent the next eight years between Boston, New York, Martha's Vineyard and Vermont. He met his wife Diane C. Magnusson, in New York city in 1977. In 1978 they married at St. Andrew's Church in Edgartown and subsequently moved to Brownsville, Vt., where Peter started his first business in environmental design, known as Behr Essentials. He also built his own home overlooking Mt. Ascutney. A son, Matthew Perry Behr, was born to the couple on April 23, 1984. The marriage ended in divorce.

The association of Peter's family with the Vineyard began before he was born, when his grandmother came to Edgartown in the 1940s. He was lucky enough to spend almost every summer on the Island while growing up. In 1994 he decided to make the Vineyard his permanent home, and became a full-time carpenter. In 1996 his second son, Marcus Theodore Behr, was born to Lisa McGuire, giving him the joys of fatherhood once again.

Influenced by one of his early mentors, Ed Tyra, he built graceful, environmentally respectful barns and houses on the Island over the next 10 years. At the time of his death, he was putting an addition on his brother's house in Edgartown (originally the Daggett boat house, later moved to Pierce Lane as the guest house for the Behr family home). During several previous renovations he made it a beautiful and liveable house. He was excited about his current project and was up on a ladder admiring the view from the balcony on the day he entered the hospital.

Among the many things he offered his community was his work with the American Red Cross. As a director of disaster services for the Island, he brought his knowledge of computers and communication systems to the job. His enthusiasm and caring earned him the respect and admiration of his co-workers.

He is survived by his two sons, Matthew of Garrison, N.Y., and Marcus of Vineyard Haven. He is also survived by his brothers, Eric and Rick, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins, as well as many devoted friends who miss him terribly.

There will be a funeral service at St. Andrew's Church in Edgartown at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. the 31. He has been cremated and the interment of the ashes will be private. A reception will follow the service at the home of his cousin, Granville White, on Fuller street.

Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs.