Robert Scott Durkee, 65, of Maury Island, passed away peacefully alongside family members on Sunday, October 8, 2023 in one of his favorite places on this earth– his family’s summer home on Wellfleet Harbor, Massachusetts.
Born on April 24, 1958, Scott (“Durk” as he was often known) grew up in Framingham, MA, and spent his summers in Wellfleet, roaming the beaches with his siblings, friends and cousins; fishing or digging for clams; and playing music and singing with extended family on his grandmother’s porch. It was there that he discovered his love for sailing, becoming an enthusiastic sailor and instructor, with the reputation for going out no matter the weather as long as the wind was blowing. Scott shared his passion with friends, often taking them out for their very first sail, and encouraging them with, “Here, just take the tiller for a few minutes…” Before you knew it, you were sailing.
One of his favorite memories, and a story he would often tell, was of an afternoon spent sailing his family’s Rhodes 19 – one of his favorite boats – with friends from high school. It was a beautiful summer day, with strong wind and big waves. Two friends were sprawled out on the bow of the boat, and every time the boat pitched and a wave crashed completely over them they would shriek with delight. Scott was in his element – sharing his love for the ocean, his appreciation for the specific taste and smell and feel of this place on earth, sailing fast and true with good friends along for the ride.
Scott’s life-long love affair with music began when his father brought home a guitar for him from a trip to Spain. He took to it quickly, and soon could play countless songs by ear, from any genre. When asking friends for the name of a song they wanted to hear, he would say, “Pick anything, I’m a human jukebox.”
Scott had a unique way of pulling people together. He loved cooking and hosting dinners and parties with friends to sing and play music, often organizing musical “jams” at home that lasted into the wee hours.
Active in the music scene on the island, he was a frequent participant at the Coop, the Red Bicycle, and Snapdragon, where he organized “Durk and Company Play the Dead” – a community event in which a rotating cast of singers and musicians joined him on stage to celebrate songs of The Grateful Dead. The most recent Dead show was this past March at Snapdragon. More than once, Scott’s former partner Andrea Walker, an accomplished flutist, and his wife, Allyson Hopkins, a vocalist, joined him on stage together. Friends from across the country came to join and support him, and by all accounts it was one of the most joyful musical events in recent memory.
An environmentalist at heart, Scott attended the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, graduating with a degree in Human Ecology. Scott cared deeply about the effects of human behavior on our planet, and lived a lifestyle that reflected his deep commitment to leaving the planet better than he found it. He maintained an organic garden and orchard for produce, often supported by WWOOFers (World-wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) from all over the world. Scott loved to mentor them, and with both Andrea and Allyson, shared with them the joys and challenges of producing their own food, and teaching them the steps and complexities of composting, water conservation and processing and preserving produce – all while advocating for ecological responsibility.
His “second home” on Vashon was Andrew Will Winery, where he began working 25 years ago, helping to make the wine, run and fix machinery, and stepping in to do odd chores as needed.
Scott was remarkably self-sufficient, designing and building numerous houses, finding unique and clever ways to fix just about anything, and referring to himself as a “free-lance factotum” (his word for Jack-of-all Trades).
Scott wanted to know as much of this beautiful planet as possible, and his adventures in traveling began with a solo backpacking trip across Europe when he was 18. Over the years that followed, he traveled to 5 continents and 37 countries; served in the Peace Corp in Nepal for two years with his former wife, Liz Hopper; took several motorcycle trips across Europe; and led his family on a six-month journey around the world from New Zealand to Thailand, Cairo, the Himalayas, and Europe.
Scott loved being a parent, and enthusiastically embraced the role of stay-at-home-dad when his son, Jeevon, and daughter, Kerewyn were young, while supporting Liz as she worked her way through nursing school. He coached Tee-ball and baseball, read books to elementary school classes and took Jeevon and his friends snowboarding every winter.
A frequent contributor to the Beachcomber, usually submitting articles about environmental concerns, Scott’s writing took a deeply personal turn this spring when he was diagnosed in January with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a disease that carries a grim prognosis. He was quite literally just getting back on his feet after a series of orthopedic surgeries last year, and the diagnosis took everyone by shock and surprise. Friends and family rallied around him to finish the new house he had been building for the past 3 years so that he and Allyson could move in before summer.
Despite both traditional and alternative treatments, nothing stopped the progression of his illness, and Scott finally made the heartbreaking decision to stop looking for a cure, and to spend his last days in Wellfleet, surrounded by family in a place that connected him to the happy times of his childhood. He sailed, walked along the beach, played guitar, and sipped sun tea on the deck overlooking the harbor with the soft sea breeze and the smell of the ocean all around. He was drawn to play the Avett Brothers “No Hard Feelings” during these last weeks, and it was this song that his family played in the moments as he drew his last breath.
Scott was preceded in death by his parents, Lester Stephen Durkee and Nancy Foster Montgomery of Framingham. He is survived by his wife, Allyson Elizabeth Hopkins; former wife Liz Hopper (Lorin Reinelt); former partner Andrea Walker; son Jeevon MacGregor Durkee; daughter Kerewyn Elizabeth Durkee; brother Stephen Durkee; sister Susan Durkee (Craig Latham); niece Sela Kenan; nephew Asher Kenan; many cousins and an international tribe of friends that Scott created by extending himself across the globe and into the lives of others in that special way only he could.
Dear Scott, we will miss your Original Medicine. May your landing be soft in the next world, with fair winds and following seas …
Until we meet again …
A celebration of life has not yet been planned but details will be shared here and around town. If you would like to participate, please contact Allyson Hopkins (firstname.lastname@example.org) with ideas or suggestions. Our sincere thanks to all the family, friends, people about town, fellow musicians, WWOOFers and earth-lovers who so enriched Scott’s time on earth.