Albert O. (Ozzie) Fischer Jr., a Chilmark farmer and one of the last of a disappearing generation of agrarian Islanders, who had lived close to the land for more than nine decades, died peacefully at home on Tuesday, July 26 surrounded by his family. He was 96.

“Not living in America. There’s still the water between me and it. That’s what I like,” he said about living on the Vineyard in a 2000 interview with the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

Farmer, husband, father, former Chilmark selectman and longtime member of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, Ozzie Fischer was in many ways the very symbol of up-Island life, who lived simply and richly in a way that money can’t buy.

“Somebody said to me a while ago when we were talking about Island land prices, but what would you do if you were offered a million dollars for your property?” he recalled in the magazine interview. “I said I wouldn’t want it. I want my home. If I sold it, somebody would come in with a bulldozer and knock it down and build some monstrosity.”

Albert O. Fischer Jr. was born on Oct. 5, 1914, at home in Vineyard Haven, the son of Albert O. Fischer and Ethel Luce Fischer. His mother had grown up in Vineyard Haven. His father had come to the Vineyard from New Jersey as a teenager and was a former fisherman who had operated a salt cod business with his brother. The senior Mr. Fischer ran a marine hardware store on Water street in Vineyard Haven and owned and operated the first gasoline pump on the Island.

One of four children, Ozzie grew up in Vineyard Haven and attended schools there, graduating from the Tisbury High School. He worked in his father’s store and had a love of the outdoors at an early age, roaming the town with his brother Arnold (who later would become the owner of Flat Point Farm in West Tisbury). In the summer the boys would pick currants in a patch across the road from where Morrice the Florist is now located, and sell them for three cents a pint. “Our house was somewhat of a hangout for the young people,” he recalled in a 1999 interview with oral historian Linsey Lee for her book More Vineyard Voices. “Mother, she always made doughnuts and molasses gems. Dad had a small orchard and there were always apples, and we’d sit around the dining room playing cards.”

After high school he went to the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, which later became the University of Massachusetts at Stockbridge, where he majored in poultry raising. He returned to the Vineyard and got a job at the Iselin Farm in Vineyard Haven (today Pilot Hill Farm).

In 1938 at a Memorial Day dance at the Chilmark Tavern he met Regina Suzanne McLaughlin, a Maine girl who had moved to Belmont to live with relatives after her mother died. Rena, as she is known, and her sister had a summer hairdressing business in Edgartown. In an exchange that has been told and retold through the years, Ozzie asked her out on a date but she hesitated, saying she didn’t know him. “Columbus took a chance, why don’t you?” Ozzie famously said. Eventually she agreed to a double date with her sister and his brother.

They were married on Jan. 25, 1940 in Belmont. They had four children: Douglas, Marie, Suzanne and Albert O. 3rd.

In the early years they made their home in Vineyard Haven and also Edgartown. During World War II Ozzie worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the government on a project testing depth charges from a schooner. He was due to be drafted but the Navy deferred his military service in favor of the work in Woods Hole. He commuted between the Vineyard and the mainland daily.

After the Iselin Farm he went to work at the Dunroving Farm in Chilmark. “The feeling in town was, I came and I took a job away from a local boy,” he recalled in the More Vineyard Voices interview. “In Chilmark you were an outsider for a long time before you were accepted . . . We’d probably been there at least 10 years before you really felt comfortable. I guess I was more or less accepted then. We certainly made a lot of friends up here afterwards.”

In 1946 Eldon Keith was looking for a manager for his Middle Road Farm. Ozzie took the job and stayed for 37 years, clearing the vast fields and creating the ponds that are today a landmark vista across Middle Road to the Atlantic Ocean. He raised pigs, dairy and beef cattle, and poultry on the farm. “We tried sheep once but that wasn’t successful. You have to have so much good fencing. Stone walls weren’t good enough,” he told Ms. Lee in the oral history.

He was active in town affairs, serving as a Chilmark selectman from 1967 to 1971 and holding virtually every other office in town at one point or another — assessor, constable, board of health, planning board, fence viewer, surveyor of bark and lumber, forest warden. He was fire chief and dog officer for many years. He was a long-serving member of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society.

In 1980 Ozzie retired and he and Rena moved to Beetlebung Farm next to the Keith Farm, where he devoted his full-time attention to his gardens and tree culture. He inspired generations of young farmers, including in his own family. His daughter, Marie Scott, farmed Beetlebung Farm for many years, and grandson Chris Fischer took over the farm operation this year. Ozzie was out helping Chris plant the fields just a few weeks before his death.

An expert arborist in his own right, much like the late Polly Hill in West Tisbury, Ozzie grew unusual things, sometimes out of their zone and often from seed, nurturing hardiness. Douglas fir, larch, Chinese chestnuts and espalier pear, peach and apricot trees all grace his farm. He was especially proud of a sequoia (redwood) tree he grew that came from its native California. “The first year I didn’t know what to do; I kept it in the house,” he told Ms. Lee in More Vineyard Voices. “The next year I put it outside, put a cage around it in the fall with oak leaves so it could breathe. Then I said, the heck with this. If it’s going to live in New England, let it live.” The tree grew to 50 feet in height.

He was saddened by the loss of farmland to development on the Vineyard and spoke openly about it in interviews.

Another famous Ozzie Fischer story centered on a rosebush that did not bloom for years. “One year I stood there and I pointed at it and I said, if you don’t bloom next year, I’m going to kill you,” he recalled in the interview with Ms. Lee.

The rose bush bloomed the next year and every year after that.

In addition to his wife of 71 years, he is survived by his four children: Douglas Fischer and his wife, Bari, of Fort Myers, Fla., and Derby, Vt., Marie Scott and her husband, Jonathan, of Chilmark and Castleton, Vt., Suzanne Bunker of Chilmark and Albert O. Fischer 3rd and his wife, Linda, of Aquinnah; 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

A funeral mass will be said this morning at 10 a.m. at St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven, with the Rev. Father Michael Nagle officiating. A memorial celebration of his life is planned for the fall and will be announced in a future edition of the Gazette.

Donations may be made in his memory to the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, P.O. Box 73, West Tisbury MA 02575.