Dennis Winthrop Norton died at his Vineyard Haven home on July 21, 2020, surrounded by the tender arms of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. He was 74.

He was born on Oct. 16, 1945 in Vineyard Haven, the son of Mildred Harriett Legg and Winthrop Mayhew Norton. He followed a long succession of English ancestors who washed ashore centuries ago and grew up in a bygone era of simpler Island life. He didn’t care much for book learning and joined the U.S. Navy after his schooling. He was first stationed in Pensacola, Fla., where he met and married the love of his life, Linda Nell Richmond. He was then transferred to the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, Tex.

Dennis fondly reminisced about his time in the military and visited The Blue Ghost, the nickname for his aircraft carrier, later in life.

A typical Islander, he was drawn to the water. He was a lobsterman, first out of a Novi skiff and then he upgraded to the lobster boat Sea Foam out of Menemsha. In 1995, he bought a new lobster boat, the Linda D. Not usually seeking the limelight, both he and Linda had a grand christening that summer during a spectacular Menemsha sunset that was enjoyed by all attendees. His nephew Jesse credits Uncle Dennis for teaching him how to fish and they enjoyed their excursions at Quansoo. Dennis also did some shellfishing in the waters of Vineyard Haven and worked for the Tisbury fire and water departments.

When he hung up his oilskins for the last time, he retired to his home on Bernard Circle. He was an avid gardener, apparently a genetic trait inherited from his great-grandfathers who were Vineyard farmers. Both Dennis and Linda loved authentic Texas barbecue and good old-fashioned fried chicken. His niece Jennifer fondly remembers her uncle frying pancakes on the wood stove. Most notably, he loved his cats. It was not unusual to see him heading to Menemsha with his furry felines in the truck.

If you met Dennis for the first time, you may have been intimidated by his stature: he was over six feet tall with a husky build and hands as big as catcher’s mitts. He had a thick, bushy mane of hair and usually sported a beard, mustache or long sideburns. But with sparkly blue eyes, puckish grin and gentle manner, he was a charmer. He was a soft-spoken, kind-hearted man.

He is survived by Linda, his wife of 53 years; nieces Jennifer Basford of West Gardiner, Me. and Sharon Spencer of Mashpee; and nephews Jesse Steere 3rd, James and John Tripp, all of Oak Bluffs. He also leaves behind many friends from near and far and his fellow Island fishermen.

His ashes will be interred at a later time in the Norton family plot at Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven.

His extended family would like to thank Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, especially Cheryl Enos, for their professional loving care during his illness. Linda Norton is living in Maine and cards can be sent to her at Memory Care Facility, Woodlands Senior Living, 152 Wintrop St. Hallowell, ME 04347.