Earl Burdette Vorhees Jr., a longtime resident of East Hampton, died at home in Greenport on July 10 following a five-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia. He was 78.
“Husband, father, thespian, teacher, writer, factory manager, labor organizer, timber-framer, yacht and barn restorationist, skier, and sailor — he was passionate about them all,” his wife, Pat Mundus, wrote. “His friends half-jokingly called him ‘the most interesting man in the world,’ ” she said.
Mr. Vorhees was born on Dec. 3, 1934, in Wewoka, Okla., to Earl B. Vorhees, Sr., a foreman laying the Standard Oil pipeline network, and Stella Hancock Vorhees, a “formidable horsewoman.” As an only child, he was influenced by the fierce independence and courage of his parents, who made it through both the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Pragmatism and self-reliance were imprinted on his character early on, Ms. Mundus wrote.
His family moved to Wapakeneta, Ohio, in the late 1930s, where Mr. Vorhees’s early interest in both music and sports took shape.
In 1953, he married Connie Richardson, with whom he had two sons, Kirk and Sean. The marriage ended in divorce.
Mr. Vorhees first studied acting in Cleveland, then earned an associate’s degree from the Orange County College in Santa Cruz, Calif., which he attended on a football scholarship. But New York City proved his real education, Ms. Mundus wrote.
In 1959, he moved to Greenwich Village, where he pursued a stage-acting career. A regular at the White Horse Tavern and the former Cedar Tavern, he forged a bond with like-minded actors, painters, seamen, and dockworkers over such topics as racial equality and social fairness, Democratic principals he held dear throughout his life.
In the mid-’60s, he married Maria De Oliveira, a Brazilian dancer and actress. The couple moved to upstate New York, where he worked at a local manufacturing plant, later becoming the factory’s manager until the plant closed in the early 1970s. The couple also had lived together in her native Rio de Janeiro beeore splitting up. The expat bachelor’s life suited Mr. Vorhees’s temperament. While there, he taught at a language institute, learned Portuguese, and worked as a labor organizer. He became “a connoisseur of Brazilian music, culture, and dance,” Ms. Mundus said.
After returning to New York in 1980, he met Pat Mundus, his soul mate and partner of 32 years, at Fanelli’s Cafe in SoHo. Early on, she introduced Mr. Vorhees to the splendor of the East End’s natural world. The couple “fell in love while hanging over the side of a small rowboat wearing diving masks on Northwest Creek, watching the blue-eyed scallops dance in the eelgrass,” Ms. Mundus wrote. They later bought six and a half acres overlooking the creek, where they painstakingly dismantled and restored five antique barns.
For more than a decade, the couple traversed East End waters by boat, sailing and fishing aboard an engineless 28-foot Rozinante ketch sailboat named Pearl — a combination of their names. The couple had a “mutual love for self-reliance in the wild,” Ms. Mundus said. Twice they sailed a 17-foot custom-rigged kayak through the Exuma chain of the Bahamas, eating freshly caught conches and lobsters, and camping on the beach, with few supplies beyond onions, some olive oil, rice, and a bottle of Mount Gay Rum.
During the last third of his life, Mr. Vorhees became an experienced offshore sailor, completing a transatlantic voyage in 2000 and sailing on oil tankers alongside Ms. Mundus, a former Exxon oil-tanker captain. But despite his exotic travels, his real love remained the simplicity of a good, small boat. Paddling his kayak into the middle of Northwest Creek at sunset, Mr. Vorhees sat every summer evening for two decades, soaking up the quiet.
Mr. Vorhees and Ms. Mundus were officially married in 2005, but, she said, “We had a 27-year marriage without a piece of paper.”
After 25 years on Northwest Creek, the couple sold their barns and moved to Greenport, where he hiked the waterfront each morning, appreciating the boats. A self-taught student of yacht design and classic yacht history, he was known to pose friendly challenges about yachting esoterica and design details during many a dinner party.
In addition to Ms. Mundus, Mr. Vorhees is survived by his two sons, Kirk Reed of New Corydon, Ind., and Sean Reed of Oxnard, Calif. He also leaves behind four grandsons and seven great-grandchildren. His previous wives died before him.
Rather than mourn his passing, Mr. Vorhees asked that his family and friends celebrate his life. He was cremated. A celebration of his life is planned for the fall.
Memorial donations have been suggested to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048 Westhampton Beach 11978.