By Linda Cicoira — Native Chincoteaguer Delbert “Cigar” Lee Daisey, 89, died Wednesday leaving a decoy carving legacy across North America.
“Accomack County probably lost its best known resident,” carver and Supervisor Grayson Chesser told the board of supervisors at a meeting later that day. He cited Daisey as being among his mentors. “People will be upset from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the provinces of Canada to Louisiana” to hear of his passing. “We lost a good friend,” Chesser added.
A funeral is being planned for next weekend around the schedule of the 47th Annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival in Ocean City.
According to the Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art website, “His nickname was given to him by a game warden when he lost some cigars while stealing ducks from the warden’s traps,” the website stated. “Some say he left the cigars to taunt the warden, but we may never know. One of the last surviving people who made a living as a market hunter, Daisey became an avid conservationist later in his life, serving as the resident carver at Chincoteague Island’s Refuge Waterfowl Museum.”
Daisey’s carvings are recognized for both artist value and as working decoys. His works include black ducks, mallards, redheads, red-breasted mergansers and his most well-known decoy, the ruddy duck, often crafted in pairs.
The only fully decorative decoy he ever made was a 1973 pintail, created as a present for his wife. The piece was featured in National Geographic in June 1980. Its value was once estimated at $150,000. In addition to the Ward museum, his work appears in the Smithsonian Institution and the Chincoteague Refuge Waterfowl Museum.
Daisey was also known for his keen sense of humor.