Islander Lew Gaffett, 82
Born Lewis Howard Gaffett on Aug. 29, 1936 in his great-grandfather’s house on Spring Street, he was the son of Lewis Nathaniel Gaffett and Deborah (McGlone) Gaffett. The fifth of six children, he lived on Block Island all of his life except when his father worked in a defense factory during the Second World War and during the time Lew and his wife Sandra finished college in the late 50s.
Lew didn’t play golf, bowl, sail, hunt, play cards, or have any other hobbies. He loved people and getting to know them — not particularly rich or successful people, but the everyday person on the street. His biggest joy was talking to his friends and acquaintances, especially at one of the taverns he owned or visited. He loved business, was a dedicated entrepreneur and was involved in about 45 businesses from breeding parakeets to manufacturing cement blocks. About half of the businesses were outright failures, and another twenty would make a living wage only if you were willing to work twice as hard for yourself as you would have to work for someone else. The remaining four or five businesses he worked at and enjoyed immensely. He ran a trucking business for twenty-five years, a cement contracting business, several local pubs, and he developed and built the Samuel Peckham Inn from a vacant lot in New Harbor to a hotel/restaurant/resort which he eventually converted to condominiums. That last business is the only one that made any real money but he enjoyed all his businesses equally well.
He was a former member of the New Shoreham Town Council and the New Shoreham School Committee, and he was the Town Moderator for several years. He was active in the Chamber of Commerce, and he was a member of the board of Directors for the Tourism Council. He was a former secretary for the Block Island Volunteer Fire Dept. and Master of the Masonic Lodge.
Lew had a large capacity for love, especially for his wife of 55 years and for his five children. Sandy pre-deceased him in June of 2011, and his long-time partner, Carole, died in January of 2012. He is survived by his daughter Kimberley of Block Island, son Nat of Block Island, daughter Beth Tengwall and her husband Patrick of Block Island, daughter Heather of North Kingstown, daughter Kerri of Block Island; and grandchildren Paige, Caitlyn, David, Sam, Virginia, Sally and Ian, as well as many nephews and nieces. He is also survived by many friends on and off-island.
Although he traveled throughout Europe with Sandy and their three oldest children and toured the United States in a camper with Sandy and the two youngest children, Lew never wanted to live anywhere except Block Island. Although he owns property in places as diverse as central Maine and Culebra Island in the Caribbean, his home when he died was where he wanted to live and was less than two miles from where he was born.
Services will be grave side at the Island Cemetery on Aug. 29, 2019. Reception to celebrate his life will follow immediately, at a location to be announced. Gifts to the Fred Benson Scholarship Fund may be made in lieu of flowers.