The Rev. Richard Lloyd Aiken died on July 26, 2021 at his home on North Pamet Road in Truro of natural causes, said his son, Andrew. Rev. Aiken, who purchased Jack’s Gas on Route 6 in 1978 and sold firewood there after the station burned down, was 90.
The son of Frank Albert and Margaret Lloyd Aiken, Richard was born in New York City but lived away from home from a young age. He was educated as a classical singer at St. Thomas Choir School, a boarding school on West 58th Street in Manhattan. He transferred to the South Kent School in Connecticut before studying at Trinity College in Hartford.
At Trinity he became a football star, playing on its undefeated 1949 team. Dick was always on the field as starting tight end, defensive end, kickoff return man, or punter. He loved competition, and never lost his excitement over a clean hit or acrobatic catch, like the one he made to win a 7-6 game against Wesleyan in 1949. The highlight of that undefeated season, however, was his 70-yard punt, a Trinity record that lasted many years.
He was not a good student, so he took time off to work for the Episcopal Church in Hawaii. He found his vocation: teaching and counseling young people. He returned to college and turned his grades around. After graduation he married Carol Louise Chapin in November 1955.
Aiken earned a master’s degree at Virginia Theological Seminary in 1956 and was ordained as a deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church of Honolulu that same year. He served at the Church of the Holy Nativity in Aina Haina, Oahu, until 1960.
Returning to New England, he became a chaplain and counselor at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., where he worked from 1960 to 1971. He earned a master’s in education at Harvard in 1964. Lured by administrative assignments, he was dean of students and then head of the Choate School in Wallingford, Conn. from 1971 to 1976. In 1974, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Trinity College.
Finding administration more frustrating than fulfilling and wanting to work again directly with students, he took a final job in education as chaplain at South Kent School, where he had been a boarder himself, from 1976 to 1981.
Throughout childhood and during his 25-year career as a priest and educator, Aiken spent summers on the Cape, where he was known by all as Dick. For two decades he made plans to settle permanently in Truro. He bought one of the oldest houses in town on North Pamet Road from his grandparents in 1960.
In 1978, he bought Jack’s Gas from his old friend Diana Worthington. He ran the station in the summer, staffing it with students from the South Kent School. The station was open 24 hours a day, so Dick was able to employ quite a few of them.
Jack’s Gas became a sort of extension of the school, whose motto is “Simplicity of Life, Self-Reliance, and Directness of Purpose.” Many of the students were working away from home for the first time.
He also hired local kids, including Nathaniel Cook, who started pumping gas at 12, learned to cut and split wood, and became a master carpenter, now practicing in Western Massachusetts.
In 1981, Dick became a year-round Truro resident. He ran the filling station but focused increasingly on his successful firewood business, which he found simple and social. Jack’s Gas had won national fame as the purported model for Edward Hopper’s 1940 painting Gas, but the station was destroyed by fire in 2003. Plans to rebuild never materialized because of the environmental hazards of a gas tank leak and opposition from the Cape Cod National Seashore. For the last decade of his life, Dick rented the site to others to sell firewood.
Dick loved sailing. In 1960, he bought a 22-foot Sail Master, which he named Blueberry. Even though he knew the waters of Cape Cod, the Islands, and much of coastal New England, his voyages were not without mishap. In 1968, on a routine trip from Pamet Harbor to Plymouth with five people aboard, including three children, Blueberry was caught in a storm and struck by lightning. As electricity coursed through the legs of his adult shipmate, Dick said calmly, “I think we’re going to be all right.” They all were.
In the winters, Dick went to the British Virgin Islands (his forebears were said to be British mariners), where he would charter a sailboat to share with friends and family. He became a part of the fabric of local culture there. His Virgin Islands network had a quilt made for him out of T-shirts from local boats, bars, and restaurants. He will be wrapped in that quilt for his cremation.
Dick Aiken is survived by two children, Alison Aiken of Truro and Andrew Aiken of West Hartford, Conn.; his grandchildren, Mina, Saam, and Margaret Anna; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife, Carol.
A Memorial Eucharist Service will be celebrated at St. Mary of the Harbor in Provincetown on Oct. 23, 2021 at 11 a.m.