Richard “Dick” Mack of Nantucket died Monday, June 5, 2023, at home on Polpis Road. He was 90.
Dick was born on March 18, 1933, in West Stockbridge, MA and moved to Nantucket when he was 5 weeks old. He was the only child of Robert and Alice Mack.
He graduated from Nantucket High School in 1950 and joined the US Coast Guard in 1952. After boot camp in Cape May, NJ, he was stationed briefly at Station Brant Point before attending Electronics Technician school in Groton, CT. He then served outside the continental United States from 1954-1955 while attached to Coast Guard Loran Station Miyako Jima, Japan. He finished his service at Station Woods Hole from 1955-1956 where he was often called upon to fix all manner of electronic problems on Coast Guard vessels and bases all along the Massachusetts south coast. He was honorably discharged on November 3, 1960, with the National Defense Service Medal and Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal at the rank of ET2 (Electronics Technician 2), after having served four years active duty and four years as a reserve.
Shortly after his Coast Guard active-duty service, Dick answered an ad in the Boston Globe and went to Alaska to work on radar sites as an electronics technician on Cape Lisburne and Hinchenbrook Island. Upon returning from Alaska, he secured a job for the Federal Aviation Administration as an electronics technician at the Nantucket Memorial Airport. Dick and his co-workers at the airport were proud of their work in maintaining all the equipment that kept air travelers safe while flying in and out of ACK. He retired from the FAA in 1989 after 32 years of service.
Dick was proud of his Coast Guard service, and he really found his niche as an electronics technician, a specialty which would serve him well in the future. He spoke often of his time spent on the USCGC Eagle during training voyages. He told wonderful stories of his adventures and the people he met in Japan, Alaska and at the Coast Guard bases, vessels and lighthouses he serviced. He was proudest, though, of his service aboard the Nantucket Lightship LV-112 in the mid-1950s when he completed several 45-day tours of duty. He was also a member of the “Dirty Dozen” a group of Nantucket friends who returned the Nantucket Lightship to the Island in 1975, where it served for several years as a museum and educational vessel.
After being discharged from active-duty service, Dick spent the summer of 1957 back on Nantucket. At the same time, a recent graduate of Emmanuel College and Everett school teacher named Catherine “Kay” Bailey decided to spend the summer with several girlfriends waiting tables at the Downyflake Restaurant. They only worked for a couple of days before taking the rest of the summer off. Another Nantucket summer worked its magic and before long Dick and Kay fell madly in love. They married in April 1958 and settled into their home on Polpis Road where they raised eight children.
Although his years in the Coast Guard prepared and molded him for the future, Dick is best defined by his years as a husband and father. As soon as he married Kay and settled into that role, he really began to shine. He fully devoted himself to his wife and children, and although he had little time for himself while working and raising eight kids, this was truly what made him happiest. After work in the summer, he would quickly eat dinner and load all the kids up in the van for a couple of hours of surf casting for bluefish at Madequecham. The family spent every Friday night in the summer at the sulky races at the Miacomet racetrack. There were cookouts at the beach, trips to Coatue for the day, pond fishing adventures, blueberry picking (one of his favorite pastimes) and in the winter, ice skating, sledding and walks on the moors. All with 8 kids and usually a dog in tow. Sundays were for church, and Dick and Kay were devout Catholics who never missed a mass. As time went on, the Mack’s took up a couple of pews at St. Mary’s every Sunday.
After he retired from the FAA and with all the children grown, Dick had time to really enjoy Nantucket. He went commercial bay scalloping for several years in the winter and had a lawn mowing and caretaking business. Later, he worked part-time at the Cranberry Bogs and at the Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum as a docent where he was able to showcase his best trait- storytelling. On any given day he could be found on the water, either sailing, fishing for stripers in Polpis Harbor or bay scalloping. He and Kay got to spend more time together and they started an annual tradition of visiting Wellfleet where Kay summered as a child.
Soon there were grandchildren, and Dick and Kay would drop whatever they were doing and dote over them whenever the opportunity arose. All the grandchildren have countless fond memories of visits and adventures with Nana and Pa. As he started to slow down and stay close to home, he developed a voracious thirst for knowledge and would read every book he could get his hands on. Dick was great man, an awesome husband, father, friend, and role model.
He was predeceased by his wife, Catherine. He is survived by his eight children, Mary Ellen Castle and her husband Mark, Richard and his wife Mary, Robert, Martin, Donald, Catherine and her partner Harvey Lynch, Jerome and his wife Rebecca, and Daniel and his wife Susan, all of Nantucket; and by 7 grandchildren, Sara, Sean, Katie, Amanda, Natalie, Christian and James.
A Catholic funeral mass was held at St. Mary’s Our Lady of the Isle Church on June 13.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Nantucket Lightship LV-112 preservation here.