Walter Sheldon Gifford Jr. died peacefully in front of a warm fire surrounded by loving family members at his home called Rocky River in Lyndeborough, N.H. on April 3. He was 88.

Born August 8, 1929 in Schenectady, N.Y. to Walter Sheldon Gifford and Katherine Peck Gifford, he graduated from The Albany Academy in 1948 and attended the University of Virginia for engineering. He worked at Arrowhead Farm in Chilmark and other farms during summers, fostering a love of agriculture. In 1954 he received his bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry at U Mass.

Mary Lee Everett became his wife on August 29, 1953 in Belmont, two years after they met in Harthaven. They owned Oronacah Farm in Elnora, N.Y. In 1962, they sold their dairy operation and started raising corn and wheat, eventually increasing to 2,100 acres. Later they added a “Pick-Your-Own” berry business with retail stand, where all family members participated.

He was a long-term member of Farm Bureau and taught agriculture classes at Union College. As secretary of the Clifton Park Rotary, he published the newsletter. He also ran in 1962 for the New York State Assembly; Conservative party. He enjoyed math and took numerous graduate hours at Russell Sage, SUNY Albany, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Many unique and clever wooden structures, designed and constructed in Elnora, Lyndeborough and Martha’s Vineyard, will be part of his legacy. His artistic creation The Taj Mahal was featured in The Outdoor Shower book by Ethan Fierro. He was a builder of buildings, business, and family.

His Vineyard connections began as a child at his grandparents’ home in Harthaven. A love of boating developed as he explored Farm Pond with his cousin John Boardman. Later in life, he enjoyed cruising Cumbrae, his 21-foot Fenwick Williams-designed cat boat with the “Yale blue” sails. He was a member of the Edgartown Yacht Club and raced Cumbrae in the Moffett and Gaffriggers’ races. For many years he played saxophone at the Oak Bluffs bandstand. In 1975, he and his wife purchased Harthaven’s Stanley Hart home, where he installed the schooner-inspired flagpole, and early Travis Tuck Newfoundland dog weathervane. Over the years, he collected Vineyard art, including pieces by Joe Wheelwright, cousin Bill Abbe, and niece Rebecca Everett. He also acquired land at Abel’s Hill in Chilmark. Utilizing his example of stewardship, the family “swarms” every spring in Harthaven to maintain “The Big House.”

As an avid traveler, opera lover, and life-long learner, he attended Chautauqua Institute for over 30 years and traveled to Mexico, England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Belize. Inspired by Chilmark’s Tim Eddy, the Giffords provided construction at an orphanage in Nicaragua. In Portugal, he rented a castle for his extended family. He and his wife also toured extensively with Harthaven residents Mary and Richard Everett, his sister and his wife’s brother. Ever generous, he hosted his family at the Mt. Washington Hotel for three days after Christmas for 16 consecutive years. Those getaways provide precious family memories to be cherished forever.

He was predeceased by his parents, his younger brother Folger and his older sister, Virginia. He leaves the love of his life, Mary Lee Gifford, wife of 64 years, his sister Mary Everett and her husband Richard of East Haddam, Conn., and four children, who had the benefit of the teaching of his craftsmanship, patience, and encouragement to take risks: Margaret Charpentier and her husband Kurt of Lyndeborough, N.H.; Walter S. Gifford 3rd and his wife Teresa of Schaghticoke, N.Y.; Robert Gifford and his wife Cynthia of Schaghticoke, and Katherine Sherras and her husband Brian of Rupert, Vt. Survivors also include his beloved 10 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, seven nieces, and one nephew.

Interment of ashes will take place in the future at the family plot in Warren, Conn.