Francis Cournoyer, 68, Was Well-Known Island Figure

Francis Cournoyer, a West Tisbury resident and home-grown Vineyard businessman who owned a large portion of the North Tisbury commercial district, died on Dec. 1 at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital after a long illness. He was 68.

Born in Oak Bluffs on June 14, 1936, along with a fraternal twin brother, he was the son of Edward and Mary Campos Cournoyer. He grew up in Vineyard Haven and graduated from the Tisbury High School in 1954. After high school he worked for Yates Pharmacy on Main street in Vineyard Haven. He aspired to become a pharmacist but later decided to enlist in the Army.

He served as a clerk from 1954 to 1956 and was stationed mostly in Germany.

After the service he was employed by Michael Fontes Sr. as a house painter. At the same time he worked for Howell's Laundry in Vineyard Haven.

Mr. Cournoyer married his high school sweetheart Gertrude M. Rogers on April 17, 1959, and they moved to the old Locust Grove School house on Indian Hill in West Tisbury, where they lived until Mrs. Cournoyer's death in 1985. They had two daughters.

In the late 1960s Mr. Cournoyer bought the Harborlight restaurant on Water street in Vineyard Haven from his brother, George. He operated the restaurant seasonally until the mid-1980s. He employed hundreds of Island teenagers and summer college kids, as well as his daughter Becky, who worked for him for many summers, and his mother Mary, who served as the fry cook. He was a tough but fair boss who taught his employees a strong work ethic, which he learned from his mother. If he caught one of his "kids" slacking off, he was known to say: "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

The Harborlight is still fondly remembered by Islanders and summer residents for its steamed hot dogs and frosted mugs of old fashioned root beer drawn straight from the barrel.

Mr. Cournoyer pursued a number of business ventures through his adult life. Proficient at title research, he acquired properties in Gay Head, Chappaquiddick and Indian Hill. He owned and developed a long stretch of the business district surrounding up-Island Cronig's (formerly the Up-Island Supermarket), including the building that houses Conroy Apothecary and also the commercial complex across the road that houses Dr. Raymond Rocco Monto's sports medicine clinic. He sold the land that is today the campus for the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School and the land that now houses the town public safety building.

He had a keen interest in the stock market and enjoyed playing the investment game. He was a low-key, hands-on commercial builder who liked to sketch his own plans and swing a hammer on the job.

He served as a West Tisbury assessor and was a member of the town resident homesite committee. He was a member of the board of directors for the Dukes County Savings Bank and served on the bank's investment board. He was a member of the Portuguese American Club.

In 1993 he married Janice Feltz and they lived in a house on Indian Hill across the road from the old school house until his death this month.

He is survived by his second wife; his daughters, Mary E. (Molly) Cournoyer and Rebecca Cournoyer Bettencourt, both of West Tisbury; son in law Mark Bettencourt; grandson Connor Bettencourt of West Tisbury; a sister, Jean Pimental of Acushnet; five brothers, Edward and his wife Gail of Harker Heights, Tex., George and his wife Muriel of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Donald of Pelham, N.H., twin brother Frederick and his wife Sandra of Oak Bluffs, and Charles and his wife Maryann of Vineyard Haven.

A graveside service was held on Dec. 4 at the West Tisbury Cemetery.

Contributions may be made in his memory to the Tri-Town Ambulance Association, P.O. Box 340, Chilmark, MA 02535, or to the Vineyard Nursing Association, P.O. Box 2568, Oak Bluffs MA 02557.