Mary Page (Polly) Burroughs, the author of more than half a dozen best-selling books about the Vineyard, including Zeb, Celebrated Schooner Captain of Martha’s Vineyard, and Martha’s Vineyard Houses and Gardens, died on Jan. 8 in Wakefield, R.I, on her 94th birthday.

She was an Edgartown resident for more than 50 years. In 2011, she moved to Jamestown, R.I. to be near her son, Rick, a professor at the University of Rhode Island.

Mary Page was born Jan. 8, 1924 in Waterbury, Conn., a daughter of Florence (Wilcox) Page and Donald Page. She was a 1941 graduate of Miss Day’s School in New Haven. Then with World War II just under way, she took a wartime clerical job at the Chance Vought Aircraft Company in Stratford, Conn., a concern designing and providing aircraft for the war in the Pacific. There, she met and married Richard Hansford Burroughs Jr., an aircraft designer and the chief experimental test pilot for the company. The young couple settled in Orange, Conn., but in 1946, Mr. Burroughs was killed in an airplane accident. In addition to his wife, he left an infant son, Richard Hansford Burroughs 3rd. Polly and her son soon moved to neighboring Woodbridge. When she began reading to Rick, she became interested in writing. She became a reviewer of children’s books for the New Haven Register and then for the New York Times. Before long, she was writing a children’s book of her own, The Tale of the Dragon, illustrated by sometime Vineyard visitor, H.J. Beaufoy-Lane.

In the 1950s she and Rick first came to the Vineyard and summered in Chilmark. Polly liked what she found, but decided that they would spend the following summer in Edgartown, where Rick was more likely to find a coterie of friends his age. In 1967, when Rick had gone off to college, she decided to make Edgartown her year-round home and bought the Greek Revival Hastings house on South Summer street. In no time at all, she became an Edgartonian.

A devoted gardener, she quickly brightened the flower beds at the side and the back of her house. She cycled around town, joined the Edgartown Yacht Club and was an agile tennis player. She swam every sunny summer day at Lovell’s dock near the Edgartown Lighthouse. But she was also busily thinking about what book she would write next.

On the waterfront, she soon encountered Eleanor Doyle, the garbage collector for boats in the harbor. Always interested in looking after the environment, Polly decided she would write a children’s book about Ellie’s trips from boat to boat after garbage. The Honey Boat was her first Island book, and a 1968 Junior Literary Guild selection. Next, in 1970, came The Great Ice Ship Bear, a children's book about the revenue cutter Bear. It had rescued James B. Vincent of the Island after he was shipwrecked in the Arctic. One of the ship’s officers in its prime was Herbert W. Spear, whose wife was a Jernegan from the Vineyard. An inveterate researcher, Polly not only used the Dukes County Historical Society library for her research, but also consulted with Capt. Robert Douglas, skipper of the Shenandoah.

Two years later, she wrote an adult book about seafaring, Zeb, a Celebrated Schooner Life, illustrated with photographs by, among others, Alfred Eisenstaedt, a longtime seasonal Vineyard resident. It told the tale of Capt. Zebulon Norton Tilton and his love affair with the sea. The book became a Book of the Month Club selection. A film version of the book, called Zeb, a Schooner Life, was later produced. Meanwhile, Polly had managed to squeeze in writing an Explorer’s Guide to Martha’s Vineyard, illustrated with photographs by Mike Wallo, and An Explorer’s Guide to Nantucket.

In 1981, she collaborated with the artist Thomas Hart Benton, a Chilmark seasonal resident, on Thomas Hart Benton, a Portrait. In 1988, she provided the text for Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Martha’s Vineyard, and in 1992, with illustrations by Lisl Dennis and Vineyard photographers Mark Lovewell, Alison Shaw, Katherine Rose and Bruce T. Martin, she wrote Martha’s Vineyard Houses and Gardens. Her last work, in 1995, was an introduction to the book Alaska Essays, written by her great uncle, George Bird Grinnell, founder of the Audubon Society. By this time, she had sold her South Summer street house and built a new house at Planting Field Wood, which she sold when she moved to Rhode Island.

A ceremony and celebration of her life was held last Sunday at the Chappaquiddick cemetery. The Rev. Norman MacLeod officiated.

She is survived by her son Rick, of Peacedale, R.I. and her daughter in law Nancy Rowe Burroughs, and grandchildren Hannah Grinnell Burroughs of San Francisco and Nicholas Loring Burroughs of Stamford, Conn.

Contributions in her memory can be made to the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, P.O. Box 494, Vineyard Haven MA 02568, or to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Box 1310, Edgartown 02539.