Honoring an irreplaceable Island teacher and friend

JOANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Islanders gathered at the Ram’s Head Inn to rejoice in the memory of John Boylan.

“If I had to eulogize John Boylan in church, I’d have nothing to say. And it’s a good thing the little kid just left the room,” Andrew Payne said as he spoke about his tutor and friend to a group of over 50 people at the Ram’s Head Inn on Sunday.

Mr. Payne was the first to speak at the “Time of Remembrance” for a man he called “a force of nature,” mentioning many “Johnisms,” most of which can’t be printed.

The memorial service was spearheaded by Theresa Kilb, who wanted to give people a chance to share their memories of the man who was so much of a part of the Island.

There was laughter and a few choked-up voices as people stood at their places and shared their experiences. Billy Theinert was tutored by John for three weeks while he recovered from Lyme disease. “He just wanted to teach people and keep them learning,” he said. After tutoring Carolyn and Rick Denning’s son in math, John called them late at night to tell them that her son Nick had not only passed his final exam but earned an 85 out of 100. “He opened up a whole world of math to my son,” Ms. Denning said.

When Jennifer Maxson explained to her 9th grade class what a Renaissance man was and then asked them who would be in that category,

“By a ratio of three to one they mentioned Mr. Boylan.”

Many people spoke of his intense love for his wife, Bea. He could be a hard and difficult man, according to Mr. Payne, but extremely sensitive, too, especially when Bea was taken to the hospital. He said John broke down sobbing in the car because he didn’t know what would happen to her.

His intelligence was mentioned. “He scored the highest on the LSAT ever,” Mr. Payne said. John was invited to attend a fellowship in geology at Columbia University and to earn his Ph.D., he wrote a dissertation that was 580 pages long. “Even among brilliant people, he was brilliant,” he added.

Mr. Payne also told one of the best anecdotes of the afternoon, to much laughter and nodding heads from the members of the gathering.

It seems he visited John when he was teaching at Southampton College, and John gleefully pulled Andrew into the men’s room to show him what was scrawled above the urinal: “Professor Boylan may not be crazy but if he found himself in [a mental hospital], he’d have a hard time getting out.”

After speaking about John’s kindness to his young family when he worked for him, Mike Mundy summed up the feelings in the room: “I hope John realized in his life how much he meant in our lives.”