Dee Moyer of West Tisbury, who managed to return home even as she declined from esophageal cancer, died Dec. 19 with her son Paul S. Moyer 3rd and friends by her side. She was 75 and had lived most of the past 40 years on the Island.

Always a maverick with a bit of mischief in her eye, Dee gathered a diverse group of friends over the years. For example, her 1966 marriage to Paul S. Moyer Jr. ended in divorce decades ago, but he remained family and there were many shared holidays with their son and his longtime partner Betsy McCarron. The elder Paul Moyer died in 2015.

“Dee was a no-nonsense kind of person yet very complex,” said her friend Barbara Dacey of Vineyard Haven. “She needed and wanted connection and experienced so much life through her friendships.”

Much of Dee’s desire for family and home came from a disruptive childhood. Born Dianne LaFlamme in Lebanon, N.H., she was abandoned by her parents and taken in by Austin and Doris Clough while still a toddler. The Cloughs became Dee’s chosen family and they remained close even after her father returned to reclaim her years later.

“She was like a true sister,” said Jean Clough Stichfield who now lives in Florida. “We were together for so many years and shared the closeness of her living with my family.”

Dee left her father when she was 18 and began an adventurous, risk-taking life. She married Paul Moyer when she was 23. Little Paul, as he was often called, arrived two years later. The family lived in a Chelsea captain’s house, tried their hand at running a tugboat and sailed the Boston harbor with the baby in a wooden banana box.

Paris came next, where Dee’s friend Ginny Welton joined them. Soon, Dee, Ginny and baby Paul drove through Europe with little more than a canvas bag and a Sterno burner. Dee’s friendship with Ginny would span nearly 60 years, including the 15 years they lived together raising Paul.

After renting for a few summers, they moved permanently to the Vineyard in 1971. Initially, they made their home in the Ferro house on the hill across from Farmer Green’s in North Tisbury. Ginny remembers bundling Paul up for his walk down the driveway to the school bus, only to watch him peeling off layer after layer along the way.

Eventually they bought the Saltonstall house at the top of Old County Road in West Tisbury. By then young Paul was already a devoted fisherman, and his early attempts at fly tying covered the kitchen table. There were horses at Mrs. Duy’s on Music street, where they rode.

Dee’s career on the Island was eclectic. She was the second manager of the Black Dog Restaurant soon after it opened in 1971. She started an employment agency with offices on Coastwise Wharf, and finally discovered real estate which would become her work and passion for most of her life.

Other significant relationships in her life included Barbara Dacey and Marilyn Nalbach on the Island, and Marty Maugh in Chicago, where Dee spent several years, although she nearly always returned to the Vineyard in the summer.

Despite the nomadic nature of Dee’s life, she always created a warm home. She returned to the Vineyard for good in 2005, and in 2011 settled into her friend Sally Anderson’s guest house at Blackthorn Farm in West Tisbury. There she retrieved antiques and family heirlooms including a remarkable art collection, much of it featuring boats, horses or Vineyard landscapes.

When her Chicago friends came most summers, Dee would find a rental on the water where they would go clamming and boating and share sunset picnics. There was always a round of golf at the Vineyard Golf Club, where she was a member.

“Dee had a big independent streak,” said Marty Maugh. “She charted her own path but she always brought people along with her wherever she was.”

Her son Paul was raised mainly on the Vineyard, spending his last high school years with his father in Shelburne Falls. He went on to run a farm and farm stand there before moving to Fort Pierce, Fla., where he is a commercial fisherman. An acclaimed wood carver, Paul acquired much of his artistic gift and independent spirit from his mother.

He recalled an unconventional family life and a relationship with his mother that grew into a deep friendship. There were many trips, including one to Mexico where they arrived early and simply camped out under the stars, just the two of them.

Dee’s broad circle of friends included Charlene and Bob Douglas, Alison Shaw and Sue Dawson, Karen Huff and Kathy Morris, Joyce Spooner, Joanne Lambert, her colleagues at Wallace & Co., Mary Breslauer, Ed McLaughlin and Mike Brindley, Karen Krist and Sue Millspaugh of Chicago, Jean Sharkey and Donna Crowell.

Marilyn Nalbach played an indispensable role in overseeing Dee’s care these final months.

She is survived by her son Paul and many friends who shared her sense of adventure and fun and feel grateful to have been on all or part of the journey.

A celebration of her life will be held in July 2019.