Dana W. Eldridge
November 5, 1931 – January 8, 2021
On January 8, 2021, the Cape lost a true Cape Codder when at the age of 89 years old, Dana Wilbur Eldridge passed away. Dana was born on November 5, 1931, at Cape Cod Hospital, a 13th generation Cape Codder on both sides of the family and the son of Wilbur “Wib” Eldridge and Elizabeth Nickerson Eldridge from whom he got his deep love of all the beauty and bounty that the Cape had to offer.
His love for the Cape was evident in three published books, two of which were stories about growing up on his beloved Cape Cod. Dana was a gifted storyteller. He delighted readers of the Cape Codder newspaper for 22 years, often colorfully describing happenings both past and present in his day-to-day life and the lives of his family and friends. The essays always included thoughtful observations of nature and, in particular, the watery world around him. John Hay, the well-known author of books on nature, said, “Dana Eldridge writes with an infectious sense of humor and an unembarrassed love of the past...His boyhood adventures remind you of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.” Dana, in one article, lamented the lack of “characters” left on the Cape. In truth, Dana, himself, was a Cape Cod character.
Dana was one of 12 students who graduated from Chatham High School in 1949. At 19 years old, Dana volunteered to serve in the Korean War as an infantryman and was in the battle that ultimately defined the North/South line. Upon returning to the Cape, Dana found peace and comfort back on Monomoy Island, where he had had countless adventures as a child and teen roaming the sandy dunes, driving Model Ts, and bunking in the family camps with family and friends.
After returning from the war, he went back to school, ultimately getting a Master’s Degree at UMass, Amherst. He lived and worked for a time in Virginia at the Institute of Marine Science, developing new oyster aquaculture techniques. He returned to the Cape so his three small boys could enter school here and began a career in Real Estate.
After the real estate crash in the ’70s, Dana developed the Marine Occupations program at the Cape Cod Technical High School, and for 15 years, mentored many students in the ways of navigating the ocean and life. He was often approached by former students thanking him for the positive effect he had on their lives.
For ten summers during this time, he worked on and finished building Cataluña, a 32’ Catboat from plans that were altered to accommodate his 6’6” frame. He and his wife Lynne lived on board for several unforgettable summers, commuting to work via tender that they would tie up at the dock.
At his retirement from Cape Cod Tech, Dana embarked on another rewarding career, this time at the Cape Cod National Seashore as an interpretive ranger. He worked happily for several decades, threading together stories of the natural landscape and local history for thousands of captivated visitors and sometimes bringing them home for dinner to share more stories.
Dana is survived by his sister Beth Fletcher and her daughter Samantha Stone, his first wife Jane Pedersen and their three sons and their wives: Dana T. and Molly of Eastham, MA, Lincoln of Virginia Beach, and Scott and Laura of Brewster. Dana leaves behind the love of his life, Lynne, with whom he had just celebrated their 30th anniversary, and his stepchildren: Susan Goodyear, Cary Horneman, and Daniel Goodyear. Dana loved the idea that he was a patriarch of a wonderfully blended family of 6 children and their spouses, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He loved them all and loved nothing more than to have as many of them as possible seated around a large table overlooking Meeting House Pond. He will be sorely missed.
We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to the staff at The Terraces Orleans who tirelessly helped care for Dana through the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.
Letters of condolences can be sent to Nickerson Funeral Home. 77 Eldredge Pkwy, Orleans, MA 02653 (508) 255-0259.
A gathering to celebrate his life will be held at a time when it is safer to do so.
Dana W. Eldridge
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January 19, 2021
My children and I met Dana when he was National Park Ranger, when we were on holiday from England. With immense generosity he invited us to his home and the following summer we had a jolly holiday with Dana and Lynne in their home. Those weeks were among the happiest ever. Dana was full of life and full of love. What I loved about Dana most was how much he loved his Lynne, his family and his beloved Cape Cod. We will never forget Dana. My children and I loved him.
All our love to Lynne and all Dana’s family. We carry you in our hearts.
Pippa Oliver and Charlotte Hockton from Hertfordshire England
January 16, 2021
On a fishing excursion with Dana in 2003.
In his words, as only he wrote, from "dana's view".
"The birds were in a riot of wheeling, screeching ecstasy over a school of bait, a sure sign of bigger fish below. We unlimbered our poles and waded in, just in time for those threatening clouds to release their burden. We were well and truely christened.
"Now, while all of this sounds terrible, it was really as good as it gets. But I did have to wonder and worry a bit about how Tim would take this onslaught of the elements. The wind was really whistling, and even rain soaked, the wind driven sand was lifting off the beach and making itself known against our bare legs. I needn't have worried, he was delighted.
"What a delight it is to take otherwise sane guests to the shore, to introduce them to our Cape when it isn't bucolic and still have them "get it". And Tim "got it". I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that he will never forget the hour or two he spent in a Cape Cod tempest. Nor will I.
"Life is a journey hightlighted by this type of event.The mundane, the everyday, is eclipsed by the unusual and noteworthy. What is illuminated in our minds for all time are the experiences that transend the norm.
"Looking back, the adventures, the high spots, are as stepping stones down through the years. Stepping stones that enhance our lives."
Meet you back there, sometime, Dana.
January 15, 2021
I treasured reading every one of Dana's stories in the Cape Codder and I especially loved his book comparing his Korean War journal with his distant grandfather's Civil War diary. Dana was so unique, so in touch with what is important about our human experience that he will never be forgotten. He lives on in my heart and in others too, I trust. May your grief be buoyed by an ability to celebrate a life extraordinarily well lived.
January 15, 2021
My deepest condolences to Dana’s family. I considered myself one of the fortunate people Dana would grace with his wisdom, laughter and common sense. As a washashore,I learned so much about life here on the Outer Cape from his visits and his writings. Dana was a unique and gentle soul. I’ll miss him and will think of him whenever I’m on his beloved Pleasant Bay.
January 12, 2021
We have so many memories of times shared with Lynne and Dana. Dana was a special person who so appreciated his life. He always felt so lucky to have grown up on the Cape. Cape Cod Lucky described Dana and his love of the Cape and all that came with living on the Cape.We will miss him and his wonderful stories and want to say Thanks for the Memories.
With sympathy and love
Ed and Lorraine Berry
January 11, 2021
It seems impossible to imagine a world without Dana. He had such a keen appreciation and gratitude for the blessings of life on Cape Cod, and he inspired the same attitude in his readers. He shared his immense knowledge so generously and graciously. I have all his books and have also given copies to friends. It was a privilege to know him. I am comforted by the knowledge that he is again with Wib and Betty, and I believe he will also meet our beloved Eliot up there. His legacy will live forever. My thoughts and prayers are with you and all the family.