Nicholas Thayer of West Tisbury died on April 14 of complications from a stroke. After battling several chronic illnesses over the years, he was able to die peacefully at home, surrounded by his loved ones, including his wife, Nina, and his three children, Nika, Matthew, and Rob.

Nick was born on December 15, 1951, in Bryn Mawr, Pa., the third child of John and Imogen Thayer. The family, including Nick’s older brothers, Sigi and David, his younger sister, Dido, and little brother, Jamie, moved to Bedford, N.Y., when Nick was young. The man known as Pops to his grandchildren often told stories about the family’s two pet donkeys, Tony and Angela, which the kids would ride around town as if they were majestic steeds. At one point, Nick and Dido, a fellow artist, also adopted a raccoon. They named him Travis, secretly built him a nest in the attic, and were heartbroken when he returned to the woods several months later.

Thanks in part to his mother, an artist and dressmaker, Nick was often surrounded by art, and he honed his drafting skills in a life-drawing class with Bernard Shirley Carter next to his mother’s shop. Of course, there was the perfunctory brand of education, too. He attended the Rippowam School in Bedford before moving on to the Wooster School in Danbury, Conn. After finishing his senior year at local Fox Lane High School, he earned a spot at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

At the Museum School, Nick studied printmaking and began working as a draftsman for William Kelly Simpson, the head of the museum’s Egyptology Department. He also grew closer to his longtime companion, Nina Congdon. As occasional wedding crashers, the pair came to know the joy of nuptial celebrations, and they didn’t see the use in waiting for one of their own. They were married on Nick’s birthday in December of 1973, surrounded by their parents’ friends.

After graduation, Nick traveled to Egypt on several occasions, tracing hieroglyphics at archaeological dig sites, then returning to the museum to formalize the sketches for publication. In Egypt, he also met his great friend, the archaeologist Charles Ewell. At night, Nick and Charles would repair to the Nile Hilton’s Safari Bar to enjoy the air conditioning and one or more Tom Collins cocktails.

As the Thayer family grew, and the young parents welcomed Nika, then Matthew and Rob, the life of the draftsman proved impractical, so Nick applied for a job as the Lower School art teacher at Milton Academy in Milton, Mass. He forged an instant connection with the Lower School principal at the time, Betty Buck, and she hired him without delay. The school and its sprawling art room became Nick’s home for the next two decades. He treated the creations and ideas of his young students as seriously as he’d consider those of an adult – perhaps more so. One of his former students, in the days since his passing, remarked that Mr. Thayer was the first adult to truly treat him with respect. In recent years, graduates in their forties would walk into the Night Heron Gallery to surprise him, and the decades between meant nothing. “I taught you in second grade!” he’d say.

While at Milton, Nick also became involved with the Freelance Players, a nonprofit theater troupe in the Boston area. He designed sets for the group’s performances, but it was also the sense of community that came with their regular Wednesday night dinners that attracted him.

But he may have saved his greatest creations for his own children and, later, grandchildren. He was a master bedtime storyteller, concocting endless tales of Matt and his horse, Jayhawk, and Nika, Peter, and the magic flute. When the stories proved too exciting, and the kids needed to be calmed down, he’d switch to singing Puff the Magic Dragon or The Circle Game and other Joni Mitchell songs. On Halloween, Nick made fantastic costumes for himself and his kids – even when they wanted the packaged version.

He never quite kicked this habit, either. Last Halloween, feeling far away from his grandkids, he painted his face white and blue, donned a floppy hat, chomped down on a paintbrush, and sent the children a selfie of his alter ego, the Ghost Artist. They were delighted, but not entirely surprised, as they’d long since learned that their Pops would do anything to make them smile.

In 1991, Nick took a sabbatical from Milton, and the family moved to Italy for a year to live with Ewell at Borro al Fumo, his home in Tuscany. Nick apprenticed with the ceramicist Giuseppe Rampini; he learned the art of painting pottery and, to his on-a-budget family’s chagrin, enjoyed a luxurious lunch each day at the workshop. He also began painting again for the first time in years.

Not long after returning to the U.S., Nick began suffering from kidney disease, and Nina’s sister, Hope Callen, and her husband, Brock, invited the Thayers to stay on the Vineyard with them for the summer while Nick was undergoing dialysis. He couldn’t imagine doing nothing, though, so he began painting pottery and selling his wares at the flea market. In 1994, Dido donated one of her kidneys, granting him an extension on life, and Hope gave him one of her own more than a decade later. Nick used to joke that these two foreign kidneys helped him get in touch with his feminine side.

After more than two decades, Nick retired from Milton Academy in 1997, and the family moved to West Tisbury full-time. As Nick became a regular selling his lemon bowls and fish platters at the flea market and the Artisans Fair, he continued teaching. For the past 12 years he worked weekly in the Charter School’s Artist-in-Residence program, and he was also a member of the Board of Trustees. “All the students loved art and Nick,” said Bob Moore, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. “He was a mentor and friend to many in the charter school community.”

More recently, Nick worked to revitalize printmaking at the Featherstone Center for the Arts. He taught monoprinting year-round and hosted open printmaking sessions for more experienced artists. His students and fellow artists recall fondly how they’d arrive to find everything set up, the newspaper laid out, and Nick brimming with ideas and enthusiasm as his beloved NPR or jazz played in the background. “There was always something new going on in the print studio,” recalled Emme Brown. “His love and support fostered many wonderful and inspiring relationships with fellow printmakers and artists.”

Nick was also a proud member of the Night Heron Gallery in Vineyard Haven, where he displayed his more recent experiments with abstract prints of landscapes and crows, and, at his family’s urging, his delightfully odd illustrations. He was a voracious reader, a maker before the term was coined, a master of midnight floor hockey and nocturnal croquet, a natural athlete, and an absolutely devoted grandfather. Of all the roles Nick played throughout his life, he was most proud of being Pops. He could charm any infant with his wide-eyed cartoonish expressions and detachable eyeglasses, and he loved nothing more than spreading huge pieces of paper out on the studio floor, equipping the kids with markers or paints, and watching them work. If coloring was their choice, he’d dash out an illustration of a pig twirling a fox, a girl hoisting a boa constrictor over her head while balancing on a turtle, or some other whimsical scene in a matter of minutes.

In addition to his wife, Nina, and his three children and their spouses, Nick is survived by six grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, a handful of unofficially adopted young men and women, and countless friends. Although he lived many places, the Vineyard was his true home. He’d often stop and stare at the ocean from the beach at Long Point, then shake his head and declare, “We are so, so lucky!” And his family and friends were all lucky to have known Nick Thayer. He was an artist of pottery and prints, but also of life, friendship and love.

A celebration of Nick’s life will be held on May 30 at 4 p.m. in the Grange Hall. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation on Nick’s behalf to either the Featherstone Center for the Arts or the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.