Legendary Chincoteague carver 'Cigar' Daisey dies

(Delmarva Now) -- A legendary Chincoteague decoy carver died Wednesday at age 89.

Delbert "Cigar" Daisey, born on Chincoteague on March 6, 1928, was one of the last surviving island residents who had made a living as a market hunter.

"It's the passing of a legend. He was a great character, a great friend," said Chincoteague Mayor J. Arthur Leonard, noting Daisey taught him "some things about carving."

Daisey earned his nickname from a game warden years ago after he lost some cigars from his pocket while taking ducks out of the warden's traps on Assateague Island.

"He had traps for the ducks. I said when it gets dark, I'm going to relieve him of some of the ducks — he's got too many. So I divided them up — one for the government, one for Cigar. ... I took about a hundred; that's all I could carry. ... I was in that trap running them ducks down and some cigars came out of my pocket. ... He found them the next morning," Daisey said in a May 2015 interview collected by the Museum of Chincoteague Island and the Chincoteague Island Library for an oral history project.

Daisey for years was the resident carver at the Refuge Waterfowl Museum on Chincoteague.

He worked on a survey crew for 13 years as a young man, along with fishing, trapping and waterfowl hunting around Chincoteague.

"It was a way of life, trapping and hunting and fishing. You might say it was my boyhood dreams. I mean, it's all I thought about," Daisey said in a 1989 interview with Dave Hall in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

"His lifestyle is vanishing from the Eastern Shore. ... The cultural history of the Eastern Shore is diminished by his demise," Leonard said.

Daisey described his carving endeavor as "making decoys on the side," and he did not make a full-time career of it until the 1960s, according to a Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art biography.

Fellow waterfowl artist and Accomack County Supervisor Grayson Chesser memorialized Daisey at the Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday night.

"The Bible says no man is a prophet in his own land — and I don't think we here on the Shore recognize just how widely known and respected he is. When news of his death gets out, people will be upset from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, the provinces of Canada and the bayous of Louisiana," Chesser said.

Daisey's decoys are included in collections at the Ward Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, among others.

His carvings, numbering some 1,900, are known for being functional as well as artistic.

The ruddy duck is his most renowned type of carving, along with others including mallards, black ducks and more. He often made male and female pairs of waterfowl.

A pintail he made in 1973 as a gift for his wife was featured in National Geographic magazine in June 1980.

"I think the thing that I'll miss about him the most was his sense of humor," Chesser said, recalling his first visit to Daisey's shop at age 16.

Chesser's father was the game warden at the time, and Daisey was well-known for flouting wildlife laws.

When Chesser walked into the shop, Daisey said to a friend sitting there, "You know who he is?"

The man said, "No, I don't, but he looks like he's familiar."

Daisey replied, "Well, you two have got to be related, as many times as his dad has caught you."

"We've lost a good friend," Chesser said.

Delmarva Now


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment