Priscilla Lynne Hjelm Sylvia died peacefully at home on June 5. She was 81 and had lived in Oak Bluffs since 1965, where she was a well-known figure and active in town affairs.

She was born Nov. 25, 1939, in New London, Conn., the daughter of Walter K. and Ethel M. Hjelm. Her father was a high school teacher and coach, and the family moved frequently when Priscilla was young. In her early years she lived throughout New England, including Connecticut, Vermont, Duxbury and West Springfield. She graduated from West Springfield High School where she was a member of the school band and a singing group.

She attended Bates College from 1957 to 1961 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. She made lifelong friends there, and for many years they held an annual reunion. While at school in Maine she began spending summers on the Island, where she met Ralph Sylvia. They married in 1961.

Prior to becoming a full-time Oak Bluffs resident, Priscilla lived for several years around New England while Ralph pursued a college professorship. She taught sixth grade elementary students in Amherst for two years. Her son Carl was born in Oak Bluffs in 1962. She began teaching fifth grade at the Oak Bluffs School in 1965, a position she held until she retired in 2000. Her teaching career in Oak Bluffs saw generations of families and she is fondly remembered as a tough teacher and the best many students ever had. Early in her career she earned a master’s degree in education from Bridgewater College, and she continued professional development throughout her career.

She became involved in the Oak Bluffs planning board in 1978. This started her involvement is local planning, land preservation and town politics that lasted for 40 years. In 1980 she joined the Friends of Oak Bluffs and served as its treasurer for many years.

In 1984 she attended a meeting about the possibility of establishing a land bank for Martha’s Vineyard. This started a lifelong effort to establish, fund and direct the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. She served as land bank commissioner from 1986 until 2019, and worked with commissioners, notably Pam Goff, and director James Lengyel to preserve thousands of acres of treasured Vineyard land. Her efforts and the efforts of her fellow commissioners has set aside land for residents, visitors and wildlife in perpetuity.

Priscilla was a passionate gardener. She was proud of her yard and the public gardens around Oak Bluffs. She was also a highly skilled seamstress, master at knitting and avid bird watcher.

Care for Martha’s Vineyard, the town of Oak Bluffs, her hundreds of students and her family defined Priscilla’s life. She dedicated her passion, formidable intelligence, heart and time to care for all of these. Her death is a loss to all who care about the Island, to all who learned from her, and most of all to the family and friends who shared her life.

She is survived by her sisters Karen Hjelm of Columbus, Ohio and Louise and her husband Alan Davidson of Dublin, Ohio; son Carl and his wife Kirsten of Hailey, Idaho; their children Alexandra Linn and Chase Dougherty and their spouses; grandson Griffen Harmon of Utah; many nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and nephews; and two great-granddaughters. She was predeceased by her mother and father.

Donations can be made to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.