Richard W. Hess, a retired Episcopal priest and former longtime summer resident of the Vineyard, died at the Falmouth Hospital on Oct. 8 following a brief illness.

He was born in 1932 in Stewartstown, Pa., in the heart of Dutch country, the only son of the late Walton and Alice Hess, both farmers.

Educated in the local public school system, he excelled in all his endeavours. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955 and then began his theological studies at Drew University, finishing at the Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria, Va.

In 1960, Richard was selected to start a new parish, St. Christopher’s, in Oxford, Pa. He went on to become an assistant at Old St. David’s Church in Wayne, Pa., where he eventually became rector, serving from 1967 to 1983. During his tenure at St. David’s, he grew the parish to more than 700 families and put great effort into maintaining the historic property.

Following his retirement from St. David’s, Richard served in various positions at Trinity Cathedral in Miami, Fla., Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Calif., Bethesda by the Sea in Palm Beach, Fla. and St. John’s the Evangelist in Chicago, Ill.

He was an expert gardener and loved his gardens wherever he was. He was particularly known for his gardens at his summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, where he spent many enjoyable years with his family. He was proud of his home on the Vineyard and prouder still of the opportunity it provided for his family, to live and grow in such a beautiful place.

In 1996, he moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and got permission from the city to restore an abandoned stairway that dropped 100 feet to the sea from the main part of town. The old stairway previously had five levels of gardens and fountains that had become overgrown. Richard enlisted the help of local cab drivers to take him to various florists and nurseries once a week to pick up donated plants. Over a two-year period working three to four days a week, he restored the stairway to its former beauty. He was later thanked for his efforts with a fiesta in his honor by the city and local people.

In his later years, Richard was a resident at Atria Woodbriar Place in Falmouth. He helped care for the gardens there and over time became known as The Mayor. He adored all the people at Atria, residents and employees alike, and was very much at peace within the environment there.

Richard Hess was gifted in his approach to ministry. His care and compassion for all mankind was ever present and he derived particular satisfaction in exercising the rich and diverse functions of the priesthood especially in the areas of Christian education, parish and hospital visitation and stewardship development. He was considered an effective preacher of the gospel.

He is survived by his former wife, Sandra Hess Karger and her husband Robert of Wayne, Pa.; son Mark C. Hess and his wife Kelly of Edgartown,; daughter Elizabeth C. Hess and her husband Peter Kelly of Needham; son John S. Hess and his wife Bernadette of Wilton, Ct.; and several grandchildren.

He always gave of himself to all.

A memorial service will be held at st. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pa., on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 3 p.m. A reception will follow in St. David’s hall.

Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Polly Hill Arboretum P.O. Box 561, West Tisbury, MA 02575.