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June 26, 2013

Harold Burt Dominy, 91


Harold Burt Dominy, 91

Harold Burt Dominy, 91, passed away on June 17 at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was born in Southampton on December 30, 1921 to Erastus Jones and Elizabeth Ginn Dominy.

Mr. Dominy grew up in East Hampton and graduated from East Hampton High School in 1938. He joined the Army Air Corps in January, 1940, and served for five years during WWII as a radio and radar operator. In August 1950 he again served in the Air Force during the Korean War for one year.

Mr. Dominy married Christine Simons in 1942 in Palm Beach, FL. They were married in what is now The Harriet Himmel Theater at the center of City Place in Palm Beach.

They settled in Wainscott, where Harold owned his own plumbing and heating business, "Little Village Plumber," until he retired in 1971. They then became "snowbirds," traveling to Boynton Beach, FL. during the winter months and returning to East Hampton for the summers.

The couple was happily married for 63 years and raised three children, Beverly Fick of Wainscott, NY, Sharon Dominy of East Hampton, NY and Harold R. Dominy of Boynton Beach, FL.

Not only was he an active ham radio operator, but Harold also followed in the footsteps of his family. At the age of 74 he revived a family tradition, one that had fallen victim to the might of The Industrial Revolution. He began making clocks.

The Dominy name has long been associated with clocks; the family of craftsmen arrived in East Hampton in 1669, just 20 years after the town was first settled. The Dominys, beginning with Nathaniel Dominy III (1714-1778), crafted clocks, furniture and even coffins for the people of East Hampton. Harold said "They were the only village furniture makers and clockmakers. Every village and town had one."

Generations followed in the craft, but as the years passed, the family shop couldn't compete with the mass production capabilities of mechanized factories. The Industrial Revolution put them out of business.

Harold began making clocks and wooden furniture as a way to honor his family's past, and its present. His clocks represent "a piece of old East Hampton," he believed.

His designs were not those of his ancestors — in fact, Harold professed not to care for the traditional Dominy look. "They're very narrow. They were made to tell time, that's all," he had said. His designs ranged from compact tissue-box style clocks to an elegant six-foot tall grandfather clock. He used a wide variety of woods in his creations; the door to the pendulum box in one of the grandfather clocks was made out of zebra wood, giving the square door the illusion of curves.

Mr. Dominy made his clocks in a basement shop, amidst tables full of tools and stacks of wood along the walls. One of his designs bridged the centuries separating him from his clockmaking ancestors. An amateur Ham radio operator since 1939, he came across some computer circuit boards while he was browsing in an electronic shop. He glued a clock face to the circuit board and built a wood casing — a Dominy clock for the 21st century.

Physical pieces of East Hampton were included in some of his works; wood from the elm tree that stood in front of the East Hampton Historical Society found its way into several of his clocks. He took wood scrap from Home Sweet Home when the museum was remodeled "just to say we got a piece of Home Sweet Home." The handle of a clam basket he made is composed of a gnarled vine he came across in an East Hampton cemetery.

When he worked, however, time was not of the essence. He didn't keep time, saying that "if I kept the time I wouldn't be making any of it."

It is estimated that he made between 30 and 40 clocks; many are in the hands of family members. He also made grandfather clocks for a number of East Hampton churches and the VFW Post in Amagansett.

Harold was preceded in death by his wife Christine.

He is survived by his daughter, Beverly and son-in-law Ronald Fick of Wainscott; daughter Sharon and son-in-law Herb Dollinger of East Hampton; son Harold R and Laurie Dominy of Boynton Beach FL: grandchildren Deborah Heusser, Paul Topping, Craig Fick, Stephanie Oddo, Heather Marshall, Robbie Vantine, Michelle Dollinger and Benjamin Dollinger: great-grandchildren Christopher McErlean, Nicholas McErlean, Emily Heusser, Racer Oddo, Alaina Topping, Annaliese Topping, Erick Marshall, Brandon Marshall, Brittany Fick, Tori Fick, Harrison Stoll, Evan Stoll, Tobias Dollinger and Carolina Dollinger: great-great grandchildren Aidan McErlean and Luke McErlean.

Mr. Dominy was cremated. There will be a graveside ceremony at a future date.

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