Flags were lowered to half staff yesterday in Oak Bluffs in honor of Nelson Amaral, the former longtime Oak Bluffs fire chief who died on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the age of 86. A lifelong Oak Bluffs resident, he was widely known and respected around the Island for his skills as a master plumber and his longtime leadership in the fire department. He began as a junior firefighter at the age of 14 and spent 56 years in the department, 35 of them as chief. The Wing Road fire station in Oak Bluffs is named for him.

Mr. Amaral died at home surrounded by family. He was the husband of Eleanor (Klein) Amaral for 50 years.

Nelson William Amaral was born in Oak Bluffs on August 26, 1925, to the late William R. and Helen (Nellie Sylvia) Amaral.

He graduated from the Oak Bluffs High School where he had a perfect attendance record for all four years. He then graduated from a plumbing trade school in New Bedford. After that he joined Amaral Brothers, his family’s plumbing business on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. In 1969, the Uniform Plumbing Code came into effect and Nelson became one of only two licensed master plumbers on the Island.

When Nelson was just 14, he joined the Oak Bluffs fire department. During his 56 years in the department, he served in many capacities. He started as a junior firefighter, worked his way up the ranks to captain of Engine 4, and spent his remaining 35 years in the department as fire chief. Nelson instituted fire safety education in the Oak Bluffs School and with the 4-H groups.

Nelson served his community not only in the fire department but in numerous areas such as gas inspector, plumbing inspector, finance committee, building committee for the Everett A. Rogers Municipal Building, and as Pony League coach.

Over the years he served as president of numerous organizations including the Martha’s Vineyard Plumbers Association, the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club,Dukes County fire chiefs association, and Tom’s Neck Farm Game Preserve and Chappy Sportsman Club. He has been an honorary member of the Oak Bluffs firemen’s civic association, the Holy Ghost Society, and Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club.

Nelson was an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting, fishing, golfing and shellfishing. He was a diligent steward of this Island’s natural bounty and a beloved mentor to many young men and women.

In addition to his wife, Eleanor, Nelson is survived by his children, Jacquelyn Amaral of Lakeville, David Amaral of Oak Bluffs, Linda Dickson and her husband Glenn of Vineyard Haven, and Tracey Olsen and her husband Keith of West Tisbury; his grandchildren, Meredith Amaral Cestrone and her husband Jimmy, Beth Amaral, Amanda Dickson, Melanie Dickson, Nelson Dickson, and Aiden Olsen; his great grandchildren, Anthony, Teia, Farrah, and Faith Cestrone, Michael Dickson, and Benjamin Parker; his sister, Catherine Deese of Chilmark, his sister in law Susan Klein of Oak Bluffs, his brother in law Ronald Klein of California, and many nieces and nephews.

Nelson was predeceased by his siblings William and Albert Amaral, Phyllis Alwardt, Mary Jane Bergeron and Bobby Ann Gibson.

Visiting hours in the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs will be on Friday, Jan. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m.

His funeral service will be on Saturday, Jan. 21, in the funeral home at noon; interment will follow in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Oak Bluffs. A reception will follow at the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs. Please bring a dish to share.

Memorial donations may be made in his name to the Oak Bluffs Firemen’s Civic Association, care of Eleanor Amaral, P.O. Box 413, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, for the restoration of the sign on the Wing Road Fire Station that bears his name.

Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs. Please visit ccgfuneralhome.com for an online guestbook and information.