Roger Eugene Thayer died Dec. 12 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

He was born Nov. 29, 1926, in Ithaca, N.Y., the son of Paul Edward Thayer who founded the Thayer Radio Co. and Veda Mary Zellar Thayer, organist for State Street Methodist Church.

He graduated from Ithaca High School in 1944, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an air cadet and trained as a radar technician in Lowry Field in Denver. He was honorably discharged in 1945 and pursued his college education at Cornell University, where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1949. He obtained a master’s degree in his field at Cornell in 1951. He married Jane Hillis from New York city, who was also a student at Cornell, in June 1951. They moved to Washington, D.C. after she graduated in 1952 and Roger took a job with the National Security Agency, where he developed radio intercept equipment.

He got an NSA fellowship in 1955 to attend Harvard University where he received a master’s in applied physics, specializing in radio antenna theory and radio propagation. In 1957 NSA sent him to Japan to head their laboratory in Tokyo. There he was responsible for, among other work, Soviet radio intercepts, including those from the first manmade earth satellite Sputnik. It inspired the remainder of his career, conceiving, promoting and developing U.S. electronic spy satellites. In 1963 he was sent to the National Reconnaissance Office in the Pentagon where he was responsible for radar and communications intercept satellites, for which he was recently honored.

He retired from NSA in 1986. In 1989 he was called back to help write a history of SIGINT Satellite projects developed prior to 1975.

Since 1989 Roger volunteered for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, whose national headquarters and library is in Princeton, N.J.

He moved to the Vineyard in 1995, and was loaned recording equipment to continue work from his home in Sengekontacket. He amassed a record of over 6,100 hours of volunteer recording, more than anyone to date for the Washington Studio, completing over 48 books in their entirety and several hundred books of which he recorded parts or chapters.

Roger began singing as a kindergartner in Ithaca, sang in the Episcopal Boys Choir, Boynton Jr. High Chorus, then, as a tenor, in his high school glee club. He was president of the Cornell Men’s Glee Club, and sang in church choirs in Ithaca, Virginia, Maryland and Martha’s Vineyard. He was a member of the semiprofessional Paul Hill Chorale in Washington, D.C., singing over 100 concerts in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, including at its opening in 1971. On the Vineyard he had sung with the Island Community Chorus and the Jim Thomas Slavesongs Choir. He also played tenor sax and bassoon.

In 1998, after moving permanently to the Vineyard, he became secretary of the Sengekontacket community where he and Jane had lived since 1990.

He was a member of Unitarian Churches in Ithaca, Virginia and Maryland, was a friend of the of Martha’s Vineyard Unitarian Universalist Society, and sang in several UU choirs. His recent work with the UUSMV included working for peace.

He was predeceased in 2016 by Jane, his wife of 65 who inspired him in his writing and peace efforts; and by their daughter, Peggy in 2010. He is survived by their son, David; daughter Cyndy; his brother Larry; one grandson and numerous cousins, nephews and nieces.

A funeral service will be held at a later date.

Donations can be made to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 1478, Vineyard Haven, MA 02557 or to Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands, 68 Route 134, S. Dennis, MA 02660.

Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs. Visit for online guest book and information.