Dana Eldridge, 89, knew he was ‘lucky on Cape Cod’
“God made mud.
God has become lonely.
So God said to some of the mud, “Sit down!”
“See all that I have done,” said God, “the hills, the sea, the
sky, stars. “
And I was a part of the mud that could sit and watch
Lucky me, lucky slime.
Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
ORLEANS – When Cape Cod sat down, it looked like Dana Eldridge. Tall as a lighthouse, casting a joyful ray over people and places, illuminating for others what lived so vividly in his memory, beckoning newcomers and old alike.
“He was the first person to greet me in the neighborhood,” said Peter Kennedy. “He said that although I was a washashore, I was not a bad guy.”
Dana Eldridge, 13e Cape Codder generation, passed away June 8 in Orleans, 89 years after her birth at Cape Cod Hospital and after a lifetime of sharing her knowledge as a teacher, writer and general storyteller. His youth was well spent in the woods of South Chatham and on the magical island of Monomoy, his final years on the waters of Pleasant Bay or sitting in an Adirondack chair watching Meetinghouse Pond in Orleans.
Sue Haley, her ranger supervisor at the Cape Cod National Seashore for more than two decades, recalled that the Seashore’s canoe trips in the bay would end at the public disembarkation of the Meetinghouse. “It was not unusual for Dana after a tour to invite the group to return home for refreshments and more stories and conversations,” she wrote. “Dana loved hearing other people’s stories as much as telling her own.”
Dana “was a living story of the character and essence of Cape Cod and a living being of its nature,” Haley wrote. “He grew up immersed in Cape Cod’s natural resources, understood them on an innate level, and continued to develop this knowledge throughout his graduate studies… He was a great storyteller and had the funniest stories, most absurd and incredible to share.
Another Seashore colleague, Fire Officer David Crary, called Mr. Eldridge “true maritime and Cape Cod history google-pedia (my word) two decades before the Internet.” A fabulous performer for Cape Cod National Seashore due to family history (Cape Cod), upbringing (go UMass), wit and jokes, and ability to chat, spin, tell true stories , telling not-so-true stories (with twinkling eyes), and when totally serious and pragmatic – an absolute solid resource on biology and history (a fairly rare combination these days). “
Dr. Eldridge’s scientific side was expressed in his early work at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, where he worked on oyster culture techniques, and later at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, where he attended developed the marine professions program. He built a 32-foot catboat, the Cataluna, which Haley said needed a final fix. “It was time to hoist the sail,” she writes, “but the sail was so big and cumbersome, he decided to cut the mast and turn it into a motorboat, that he stayed until the end.
The old New England adage “use it, do it” won over Mr. Eldridge. Right after their first meeting, Kennedy was offered the use of the Eldridge Wharf. “His dock was an old garage door supported by a Hobie cat and maybe styrofoam blocks,” he says. “It was my introduction to his structural skills.”
Kennedy said the Eldridges resided in Catalonia for a few summers and recalled seeing Dana’s wife, Lynne, “row ashore in a tender, in a dress and high heels, on the way to work. at the bank.
Alan McClennen wrote that he and his wife Fran “live in a house that Dana built in 1962 on the shores of Pah Wah Pond… I knew him as an innovator. He started growing shellfish from the start. Our house has pipes that were connected to the Paw Wah Pond to bring salt water to the upwelling water it had on the lower level to help produce seeds for growing the oysters in the pond.
For McClennen, “Dana’s books and weekly articles in Cape Codder were always at the top of my reading list… It represented a wonderful bridge between ‘the way it was’ on the Outer Cape (pre WWII ) and where we are today. ” Mr. Eldridge’s books included “Once Upon Cape Cod”, “Cape Cod Lucky” and a unique combination of writings from an ancestor on Civil War service and his own combat experience in Korea, “A Cape Cod Kinship ”.
Old Cape Codder Senior Editor-in-Chief Carol Dumas said Mr. Eldridge “has always delivered his column in person; he insisted on it and I was looking forward to it. He always had a smile, a funny joke. He had an imposing presence, a tall and robust man with a shock of magnificent white hair and those bushy eyebrows. I also learned from him how to distinguish between Eldridges with an e and Eldridges with an i.
(In ‘Once Upon Cape Cod’ he wrote: “One of the many stories about various spellings is that the ‘i’ Eldridges were horse thieves and the ‘e’ Eldredges stole anything. we were in the ‘i’ Eldridges, and there weren’t many horses in town. ”)
“One last thing about Dana,” McClennen wrote. “Every time we saw each other he would approach me (every 6’5”) with that wonderful smile and say, ‘We are the luckiest guys in the world,’ referring to our respective wives. We will miss him.”
An obituary is posted at tinyurl.com/yxf9xm2k.