The Maine Fishermen’s Forum has created this page to honor those fishermen who have crossed the bar.
We want to honor our heritage, our history, our friends and family members. We encourage you to submit a picture and a paragraph of your fisherman or woman so that we can share it with others.
Mark Wells (67) passed away on Nov. 13, 2021 from complications of Covid.
Brought up in a family of 6 kids to a military father, Mark traveled across America and overseas to Africa. He gained his love of hunting and fishing from his parents, Bert and Faye Wells. Mark had worked with his grandfather, Dutch Albertson, lobstering as a teenager in Sebasco Harbor. Mark’s appreciation for commercial fishing stayed with him, and after 6 years in the Navy, he worked as a lobsterman for decades. He bought his own boat F/V Miss Betsy in the 90’s. He fished out of Sebasco Harbor with his son William, lobstering and tuna fishing. Mark also participated in the Maine Lobster Boat Races, where he won several trophies.
Gary E. Thorbjornson, 41, died Wednesday, July 13, 2005, when his fishing vessel “F/V Sirius” was lost at sea. As the vessel foundered, Gary made sure his son and another young fisherman on board had their survival gear before going back inside his sinking ship to retrieve his own gear. His likeness is engraved on the St. George Fishermen’s Memorial, at the seashore in Port Clyde.
Born in Rockland, November 15, 1963, he was the son of Jacquelyn Kaler Thorbjornson and Edward Thorbjornson. Growing up in Rockland and St. George he attended local schools, graduating from Georges Valley High School in 1982.
Following graduation Gary began his career as a commercial fisherman. He worked as a deck hand aboard the “F/V High Chapparal” and the “F/V Sea Trek.” In the early 1980 he became captain of the “F/V Joe’s Lady.”
Gary later joined his family’s business as Captain of the “F/V Sirius” and the “F/V Erika Lynn,” which he helped restore. Gary enjoyed his career as a commercial fisherman for 26 years.
On July 29, 2000, Gary married Tammy Davis, at the home of his father in St. George.
Gary loved spending time with his family and friends. He enjoyed coming home to his wife and two children after a long fishing trip.
An avid outdoorsman, Gary loved snowmobiling, skiing, camping and freshwater fishing. He even enjoyed learning about football from his wife as they watched games together.
While doing gear work in Port Clyde, Gary was always accompanied by his beloved dog “Tyson.”
Travis Lee Thorbjornson, beloved husband, father, grandfather and son, perished at sea tragically Friday, March 26, 2021 in Port Clyde. Born in Rockland, August 12, 1966, he was the son of Edward and Jacqueline (Kaler) Thorbjornson.
Travis’ family was the most important thing to him. He was an amazing father and spent countless hours teaching his children about nature, especially the fishing industry. Travis was proud to be part of a third generation, hardworking, Swedish immigrant family. His grandfather Erik Thorbjornson, along with his father Edward, were Travis’ role models. He wanted nothing more than to make them proud of him.
As a young man, Travis began his fishing career working with his brothers on the family owned fishing fleet. At the age of 22, he left the family business and began captaining locally owned fishing vessels. A few years later, Travis rejoined the family business and became the captain of the F/V Lauren Dorothy, followed by the F/V Lauren Dorothy II. In 2019, Travis fulfilled a life-long dream to purchase and captain his own boat, the Lauren Dorothy III.
An avid outdoorsman, Travis loved fishing, snowmobiling and hunting. Along with his wife, children and close friends, they made many great memories on their snowmobiling adventures. However, the water is really where Travis felt most at home. He frequently would come home after being gone for several days offshore fishing, only to grab his fishing pole and head out with his children or friends to leisure fish on various lakes and ponds.
The Thorbjornson family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to the community of St. George, Maine Marine Patrol and the Coast Guard for their search and rescue efforts. They would like to especially thank Travis’ lifelong friends, Gerry Cushman, Raymie Upham and Justin “Buzza” Libby, for recovering Travis from the sea.
Robert “Bobby” Waugh Blethen, Jr. of Georgetown, Maine passed away when the fishing vessel Emmy Rose was lost to the sea on November 23, 2020.
Bobby was born on November, 20th, 1979 in Portland, Maine and raised in Yarmouth, Maine. He was a caring child who easily connected with those around him and who was often found taking things apart and putting them back together at an early age. He began working in the fishing industry as a teenager. He excelled at the challenging work and went on to captain several boats, most recently the F/V Emmy Rose. Bobby was a respected member of the fishing community.
Bobby was a generous man. He took pride in being able to help friends and loved ones. Material possessions did not concern him and he readily gave away anything he had to someone who wanted or needed it. Bobby always had a story to tell and had an energy that drew people to him. In recent years he was happiest when spending time with his son, Jack. Never one to sit still, he kept busy even when home, fixing up his family’s new house, playing outdoors, and socializing with his many friends.
He was survived by his partner, Ann Preble, and their son, Jack Blethen; his daughters, Taitum Rice and Haylie Caron; his parents, Robert and Debora Blethen; his sister, Lisa Blethen and her husband, Jonathan Pohorilak; his nephew and niece, Jonas and Edith Pohorilak; and his mother and father in-law, Judy and Chip Preble. He was preceded in death by his grandmothers, Edith Twombly and Nancy Blethen.
Michael John Porper Jr. was born Feb. 12, 1982, in Gloucester, Mass., and was living with his fiancé and daughter, Grace, in North Berwick when Mike was lost at sea. On the morning of Nov. 23, 2020, Mike was on his way home from a fishing trip aboard the F/V Emmy Rose, when tragically the boat sank.
Mike was a loving father to two beautiful daughters, Myiah Olivia Porper and Grace Ann Porper. Michael loved what he did he was always proud to be known as a fisherman. Michael had one living grandparent, Betty Hurst. He would always say, “that’s my girl,” bringing her a few filets of fish from trips while “Nana” would bring Mike his favorite sandwiches from a local shop in Gloucester.
Michael was born in Gloucester, Mass., to loving parents: a mother, the late LeeAnn (Hurst) Porper and a father, Michael Porper Sr. Michael had three siblings: A brother, Jarred Porper and two sisters, Lindsay Porper and Lisa Pento. Michael had many nieces and nephews. He leaves behind from family to friends kids who all called him “Uncle Porper”. Everyone loved Uncle Porper. Mike left behind many aunts, uncles and cousins. He also left behind the love of his life, his fiancé, Ashley Gross. Michael and Ashley lived here in Maine and would always be traveling between Maine and Massachusetts for Michael’s work. Never knowing whether they were coming or going, Ashley would always just be waiting for the call that Michael was coming home to his family.
Michael will be greatly missed by all who knew him – he was always the guy making you smile and he himself had a smile that could brighten up a room.
We all hope that Mike is at peace with his late mother LeeAnn, who he loved deeply, watching over the family and smiling down on us all.
Jeffery Matthews, 55, sank with his crew and went to heaven as a legendary fisherman on November 23, 2020 while he was at sea on board the F/V Emmy Rose doing what he loved. Jeff, above all things was a family man. He lived and breathed for his 3 children and grandkids. He was the definition of selfless, always giving, helping and doing for others. If he wasn’t at sea fishing, he was with his family, whether it was helping to fix a car, teaching his grand children how to ride a bike, or giving his time to anyone who needed help. Jeff spent over 35 years as a commercial fisherman. Some people might say he enjoyed being on the water more than he did being on land. Fishing was his life and soul. He was a hard-working old-school fisherman. He was always there to help his crew no matter what the circumstances were.
When he wasn’t on the sea he was surrounded by his family. Family was his everything. He did more for everyone else than he did for himself. He always loved working on and driving his old jacked up trucks. He loved spending as much time as possible with his grandchildren. He also loved taking care of his mother Sandra, spending time with her or bringing her fish to cook. He was a dedicated individual in all aspects. While his passing came as a surprise to all, we know that there was no other place that Jeff would’ve wanted to be brought to heaven. He always said that he didn’t want to die in bed old and not be able to do anything. If he died, he wanted it to be out on the water.
Jeff was survived by his 3 children, daughter Racquel Matthews, son Jeff Matthews, and daughter Reyann Matthews, mother Sandra Schiefer and her husband William Schiefer, brothers Charlie Matthews, Joseph Matthews, Bobby Matthews and sister Mary Ouellette, his grandchildren, AJ, Alexis, and Camden, niece Natasha Dobson and Dana- Michelle Fagone, many other nieces and nephews, many cousins, his girlfriend Amy Brown, ex-wife Christina Leavitt, mother in law Cheryl Leavitt, all his crewmates and many close friends. He was predeceased by his father Robert Matthews, and two brothers, Dana Matthews and Tony Matthews.
Ethan Mathew Ward, 23, of Pownal, passed on from this life on Nov. 23, 2020 as a member of the crew (Captain Robert “Bobby” Blethen, Jeffery Matthews, and Michael John Porper, Jr.) on the F/V Emmy Rose, which was lost at sea. Ethan was born Oct. 22, 1997 in Portland. He attended schools in Pownal and Freeport, graduating in 2015 from Wayfinder School in New Gloucester. He was the firstborn to everything and everyone; son, grandson, and cousin.
He got started fishing when his mother would take him brook trout fishing when he was just in a little carrier. Then when his brother Jacob was born Ethan was old enough to hold his own pole. Ethan was a hardworking young man. He worked doing flooring which he really enjoyed taking lots of pictures, also worked putting docks in. Then at age 19 he joined the crew on the F/V Titan out of New Gloucester, Mass. He went to the F/V Perseus fishing for eel, and a lobster boat out of Portland. Then finally this past summer ended up as a crew member on the F/V Emmy Rose. He loved that boat and its crew. Bobby, the Captain, took him under his wing and was working with him so that he could become a Captain. That was Ethan’s goal. He loved the money he made from his hard work and was finally able to catch up on bills and bought a car for his partner, LeeAnn, for it would be safer for her and driving the children in. He loved the views of sunsets and sunrises from that vessel, and took lots of pictures. When Ethan was out to sea he felt the most at peace with himself. He got to put his troubles behind him and see the beauty of the ocean. Ethan was a loving and caring father to his two beautiful children, Noah (6) and Aleah (3). He and his partner, LeeAnn, had a wonderful co-parenting going on with Danica, Noah’s mom, which was a true blessing.. Ethan was the most honest friend, of which he had many, with a huge heart, full of honest opinions and he would give you the shirt off his back if he felt you needed it. He would go out of his way to help anyone who needed it. Ethan had a contagious smile that was full of life. He is going to be dearly missed by all who knew him. He is known for his loving hugs, always giving them out freely.
We sadly lost a valuable member of our Georgetown community on the evening of August 24, 2020 with the passing of Stephen C. Dexter, 70, favorably known as “Critter.” Critter grew up in North Yarmouth, graduating from Greely High School in 1968. He was an easy-going and caring soul. His even-keeled nature had a way of drawing people to him. He was thought of as a beloved friend and father to many. Being a self-employed fisherman was the finest kind to him. Always up well before the sun, hard work was a part of his daily life. He started lobstering in the 1970s out of the Stripper 1. From there he went tuna fishing, dragging for scallops and shrimp, and then spent the majority of his fishing career lobstering off of Sequin Island out of the Kristin Leigh. He was instrumental in establishing the Georgetown Fishermen’s Co-op as the president for a good number of years and remaining involved a couple weeks prior to his passing.
Arnold “Arnie” Gamage Jr., 67, of South Bristol, passed away unexpectedly on the afternoon of March 4, 2020 in Rockport. Arnie began lobstering at the age of 10, following in his father’s footsteps, and creating a family tradition that continues to this day.
Arnie was very involved in Maine’s lobstering industry, and was one of the founding members of the South Bristol Fisherman’s Co-op, serving on their board for many years. He was also a longstanding board member of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, serving for over 30 years, advocating for lobstermen and the lobstering industry. Since the late 1980s, he has worked with the Darling Marine Center by taking researchers aboard his boat to study lobsters.
In 2004, his dedication to the industry was rewarded with the Golden V-Notch award by the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. He was also to be presented an award of excellence from the Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner, at this year’s Maine Fishermen’s Forum, just three days after his passing.
Arnie was a proud life-long resident of South Bristol and a true Mainer. Besides lobstering, he had a great love for hunting, fishing, and more than anything, his family.
Arnold Alvin “Joe” Nickerson IV 60 yrs., a resident of Arundel died tragically on Thursday January 23, 2020 after his boat, the F/V Hayley Ann sank in the Atlantic Ocean – 50 miles off Portland, Maine.
Joe was born in Saco, Maine on January 7, 1960 the son of Arnold A. Nickerson III and Susan Hanson and graduated from Kennebunk High School, Class of 1978. He attended diving school in California where he received his commercial hard hat scuba diving certification. He was always willing to drop everything to help friends, family, and neighbors.
Joe spent his life on the water. In his early years, he spent time lobstering with his dad out of Cape Porpoise before running a number of fishing vessels out of Portland, Maine and Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
When Joe and his wife had their daughter he purchased his own boat to be home. His vessel the F/V Hayley Ann was named for his daughter and his wife. Joe spent many years fishing off of Cape Porpoise and Portland, ME for many years until his final trip.
Joe loved the Ocean and spending time with his family and his beloved grandson, Killian, to whom he had hoped to one day pass along his knowledge and love of sea. Joe traveled with his wife, daughter and her family annually for many years to his second home in Aruba.
Joe was elected in 2019 as the chairman of the board of directors for the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. He served as vice chair for the previous 7 years and helped build the organization from a volunteer group of fishermen to one of the most respected commercial fishing advocacy organizations in the country.
He is predeceased by his mother Susan Hanson Spiller.
Joe is survived by his wife of 34 years Sharon Ann Rivard Nickerson of Arundel who he adored; his beloved daughter Hayley Renee Brown and her husband Isaac James and his grandson Killian Jack Brown all of West Kennebunk; his father Arnold A. Nickerson III of Sanford; his brother Andy Nickerson of Portland, ME; two sisters: Bonnie Weeman and her husband Mark of Kennebunk and Patty Walters and her husband Bill of Greensboro, NC; several nieces and nephews and many cousins, including his nephew Joel T. Rivard of Arundel who Joe taught from a young age everything he knew about lobstering and fishing. From the day Joe sat Joel in his captain’s chair, Joel caught the fishing bug and Joe’s love and passion for the industry will live on through him.
On Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, Christopher Pinkham of Boothbay, loving and devoted father and husband, passed away at the age of 44. Chris died suddenly and tragically when the fishing vessel he was working on capsized.
Chris was born on Feb. 10, 1975 in Boothbay Harbor to Murray Pinkham and Ellen Williams. Chris grew up in the Boothbay region and attended local schools. He came by the love of the water naturally, coming from a long line of fishermen. He worked aboard his father’s boat the Sea Smoke from the time he was young. Chris has fished on a variety of vessels over the years. He worked at BIW for a brief time but his love for the ocean called him back.
Chris spent the last year fishing on his own boat, the F/V Ginger, hoping to pass down the family tradition to his children.
For Chris, the love of the ocean came second only to the love he had for his family. He enjoyed sharing his love of hiking, camping and fishing with his wife and children. No matter what he did he put his whole heart into it.
Chris was predeceased by his father Murray Pinkham and his son Bradford Boyce Pinkham.
He is survived by his beloved wife Jessica; his two daughters, Dorothy “Dory” and Cedelia Pete; his mother, Ellen Williams of Boothbay Harbor; siblings, Cindy Pearce and her husband Brady, Debbie Todte and her husband Rob, Brian Pinkham and Susan Hodgdon, all of Boothbay, Lynn Pinkham and her husband Darryl Hanson of Richmond; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
David Downes, age 51, died in a tragic fishing accident January 15, 2020 in Portland.
He was born May 22, 1968 in Narraganset, RI the son of Ernest and Dorothy Downes. He was a commercial fisherman most of his life, working out of Point Judith (RI), New Bedford (MA), Gloucester (MA) and Portland (ME).
The Reverend Dr. Clay Berry of the Wakefield (RI) Baptist Church said of David, “His only relief seemed to come when he and shipmates set off from the dock, cast his gaze toward the far horizon and lowered his nets into deeper waters…the sea air and the hard, physical labor was restorative. He lived for the sea. The challenge of the next catch was the first call that summoned him early in his life, even as it would prove to be one of the last calls he answered.”
He was predeceased by a brother, Douglas Downes.
He is survived by his wife Mary Jo Grover of Brunswick, their loving pets Popeye and Ms. Kitty; a nephew, Winfield “Buddy” Murray; a half-sister, Betty Lou Quigley; a half-brother Malcom Morais; a daughter Brooke Kennedy.
James M. Knott, Sr. passed away on August 16, 2018. Mr. Knott started the Riverdale Mills Corporation in 1979 by renovating a derelict Northbridge mill building, with an idea that would completely reinvent commercial lobster traps. Now, at 84 years old, Mr. Knott has watched his company grow to 100 employees, and his traps are now the industry standard.
He received an economics degree at Harvard University, and has received medals for his time in the United States Army Armored Division. He has appeared on both 60 Minutes and 20/20 for his dealings with the government.
You opened Riverdale Mills back in 1979, how did the company start and how has it grown since then?
“It started as me alone. I grew up as a lobster fisherman, I started when I was 12 and I still fish today. In 1957, I invented the wire lobster trap. It’s made out of welded wire mesh which is galvanized to protect it from the coating getting scraped off, and it’s plastic-coated to prevent the Atlantic Ocean from attacking the steel. I put the first one in the water in 1957, and it worked. A lot of people laughed. They said you’re never going to catch a lobster in a wire trap, because they had been using wood for hundreds of years. Of course, today all traps in New England are wire. They still make a lot of wooden traps, but those are just for coffee tables.”
Andy grew up in the Mad River Valley, Vermont, as the eldest of 6 siblings. One of his many childhood stories was that dinner was on the table at a set time, and if you weren’t there, too bad, no-one else was saving anything for you.
From that landlocked state, Andy came to Maine with the USCG, he was stationed in SWHarbor with the AIDS to Navigation team. He worked on lighthouses and buoys up and down the Maine Coast, and later as a Coast Guard civilian, maintained the Penobscot Communication Tower. After the Coast Guard, he studied at UMO under Bob Bayer for a degree in Aquaculture Science.
He dove for scallops, urchins, and lost moorings, at the Salmon Farm on Swans Island, on boat salvages and cable repairs to outer Islands. He dove to remove rope from the Swans Island Ferry, and on those mysterious “rattles” that quiet voiced lobsterman called about after dark and needed investigated before sun up the next morning.
When he was diving he was always looking around for lobster, noting the quantity of juveniles and watching the progress of the shedders. Always enthusiastic about the future stocks of lobster. He fished for Lobster reasonably successfully, and for Halibut reasonably unsuccessfully. He was a member of the Scallop Advisory Committee, and had for many years prior to the committee being formed, wanted to see scallops given more time to grow and spawn before being harvested.
He was active on the SWH Harbor Committee. He was the SWH Clam Warden ( never acknowledging if the old saying “it takes a poacher to know a poacher” was true or not).
He loved to watch the Alewives go up the Union River and to take his kids out to dig for Razor Clams and go Smelt Fishing after dark.
Andy never believed that if you weren’t at the table at a set time, that no-one should save anything for you. He carried this through his whole life especially his fishing career. He shared his lobsterboat with anyone who needed to use it, the location of his “honeyholes” with more than a few select friends, his hard earned scallops were often given away. His knowledge, curiosity and enthusiasm for Fishing and Aquaculture he shared with anyone who wanted to talk or listen, and his opinion…..well you could be sure he’d share that in a way you couldn’t miss. As I share his traps and bouys, lantern nets and spat bags out amongst the fishing community please let them be a reminder to share your knowledge even to those who are late to the table. Make friends with your adversaries (dragger scallops still taste pretty good at the end of the day) and especially share your opinion.
Even an unpopular opinion about Maine Fisheries is worthy of sharing with as many people as possible, and it might even earn you an award. All joking aside, Andy was honored have the DMR Award of Excellence named after him. And I’m sure he would have had a joke or an opinion about everyone who will receive this award in the future.
Faye Wells (86) passed away peacefully at her home in Phippsburg, Maine on Friday, February 2, 2018 after a courageous battle against lung cancer. Faye was born on December 23, 1931 in Brookline, Massachusetts, the daughter of Sara Chilloa Ridley Collins and Wyatt “Dutch” Albertson.
Faye Wells started out early as a fisherman in Phippsburg, Maine. She worked from a very young age with her Dad and neighbors both lobstering and longlining. At 14 she joined Jerry Bartlett, a local fisherman, and spent her summers tuna fishing and tub trawling. This started her life- long love being on the ocean and catching fish. She joined the Army at the age of 17, and was trained as a cryptographer, stationed in Japan during the Korean War where she met and married Bert Wells from Montana who was in the Air Force. They were stationed all over the United States, and in Morocco, Africa. When Bert received orders to Vietnam in 1967, he and Faye returned to Maine and bought a permanent home in Sebasco to raise their 6 children, (and a few informally adopted siblings along the way). They were married for 48 years, and through it all, they both followed their love of enjoying nature, teaching their children about the importance of wildlife conservation, as well as how to hunt and fish with gusto.
Faye’s true passion was the wooden lobster boat “Sara C” built by Bruce Cunningham, owned by her father, and then Faye. She greatly enjoyed tunafishing and lobstering from her wooden boat, “Sara C” until the fall of 2017. She never passed up a chance to be on the water, whether on a lobster boat or dragger, and she always loved a day at sea.
Whether sitting in a bear stand, trekking through the Maine woods hunting deer or leading her extended family on an Antelope/ Elk hunt in Montana, Faye truly enjoyed the great outdoors. She had received two moose permits and been a subpermittee on several others. At the age of 83, Faye shot her moose at 290 yards, free standing, with one shot.
She was a tax professional for the past 49 years, but she would tell you in a heartbeat, she was always a fisherman first and foremost.
Pat White’s abilities to work with people advanced him into many aspects of fisheries management. The director of MLA, Pat became known as a man of his word. What made him so effective was the integrity and authenticity with which he approached people. He spoke his mind, honest and clear, gaining him both respect and credibility. He become a speaker on the Pew Oceans Commission, a delegate in the ASMFC, President of GOMLF, and was awarded the Capt. David D. Hart Award.
Pat never allowed notoriety to overshadow his powerful love of family. He taught his children to be strong and independent, and that with a bit of sweat and elbow grease, “there is nothing you can’t do.”
BAILEY ISLAND – Brian T. Sullivan, 73, of Bailey Island, formerly of Waterford, Conn., passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family on Dec. 27, 2017. Brian was born in Hartford, Conn. on Dec. 26, 1944, the son of John and Teresa Sullivan. After graduating high school in 1962, Brian attended Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. In 1969, Brian started a career in the marine insurance industry that lasted almost 40 years.
If asked, Brian would claim his real job was as a fisherman, though. Brian’s life as a fisherman began when he was 12 years old and continued through retirement. Lobstering, clamming, gill netting, fish trapping, and purse seining; anything that got him out on the water! He also loved underwater adventures and enjoyed exploring numerous tropical destinations with his family.
After years of weekend getaways to Maine, Brian and Syl returned permanently in 2009 for retirement. Brian, of course, carried on his passion for fishing after relocating to Bailey Island. People were drawn to his boisterous and kind personality. He lived life his way, and his generous nature was infectious.
Brian was a frequent attendee of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum with friends, Steve Leeman and George Coffin.
Dickie started shellfish harvesting as a youngster and continued digging through his life. He had a great love for the industry. He saw the many challenges the industry faces with pollution, red tide and the regulations on the clamming industry. He became very involved in trying to keep this way of life open for clam diggers.
He served as the chairman of the Phippsburg Shellfish committee for 20 years. During this time and beyond, he conducted water tests on the Kennebec. Dick served on the Maine Shellfish Advisory council, and he also spoke at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on several occasions.
Dick spent many hours working with DMR, the Boothbay lab and speaking at the Legislature working to keep the regulations on the industry fair to the harvesters and to ensure safe shellfish for consumers.
He loved the Kennebec River which is where he lost his life. In April 2010 his boat was found circling. He had gone to dislodge a log under a dock and on his way back, he was lost in the river. Always there to help a friend, family member or a stranger – that is what Dick was doing when he lost his life.
He is greatly missed by his wife and family and by many friends, native and from away. He indeed led the life he wanted on the river he loved so much.
TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN PHIL RUHLE
BY HON. PATRICK J. KENNEDY OF RHODE ISLAND
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Friday, August 1, 2008
Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my sympathies to a wonderful Rhode Island family who has lost a devoted loved one: Captain Phil Ruhle of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Captain Ruhle was a life-long professional fisherman and the captain of the Sea Breeze that capsized off the coast of New Jersey last Wednesday night.
He was the center of 5 generations of fishermen, including his grandfather, his father, his brother, his son, and grandson. In recent years, Captain Ruhle took an active role in work to improve industry conditions for fishermen. He was even awarded NOAA’s Environmental Hero Award in 2003 for his ‘‘tireless efforts to preserve and protect our Nation’s environment.’’ Captain Ruhle was instrumental in developing the innovative ‘‘Eliminator’’ net, which will benefit fishermen and our environment for generations. Captain Ruhle was valued as an intelligent and passionate advocate and adviser for fishermen across the country. His presence, especially his familiar voice, will be missed by his fellow fishermen, by Federal fishing regulators and by all who cared about the future of the fishing industry.
I share in the sorrow at the loss of Captain Ruhle with his wife Donna, his mother Gloria, his children Phil, Jr., Roger and Alicia, all his grandchildren and his many friends and colleagues. While this is a sad time for all of us, we take solace in knowing that Captain Ruhle lived his life to the fullest and left behind him a world which, because of his life, was kinder, more passionate and more generous.
Long time friend and MLA board member, John “Ted” E Bear Jr, passed away early in the morning on May 29, 2009 at his home after battling cancer. Ted received the MLA’s “Golden V-notch Award” in March during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. MLA is grateful to have had the chance to honor Ted’s contributions and achievements to the lobster industry.
Ted is a lifelong fisherman and lobsterman who spent his early days working on draggers and swordfishing boats, fishing as far afield as the Flemish Cap. He began lobstering thirty years ago as a sternman while he fished his own traps out of a 15 foot skiff. He built up to nearly 700 traps working out of his skiff before he bought a real lobster boat.
Ted came onto the lobster management scene during the development of the zone councils, and he was instrumental in shepherding this new idea and getting the zones off the ground. He served on the first Zone F council and represented his harbor for several terms.
It was during this time when the MLA took notice of his passion and dedication to the industry. He has been on the Board of MLA since 1998. He has served the MLA tirelessly and has rarely missed a meeting. Ted was a true gentleman, and a true advocate for our industry, our resource and our way of life. He was known for his kindness and generosity.
Ted was born in Brunswick on April 17, 1943, a son of John Edwin and Ruth Eleanor Leeman Bear Sr. He attended schools in Tampa, Fla., and was a graduate of Florida State University. He loved and was devoted to his late wife, Faith (Pingree) Bear, who died in September 2007. They enjoyed gardening together. He also enjoyed playing poker.
Surviving are his son, Johnathan W. Bear and his wife, Rachel, of Orr’s Island; a daughter, Stacy Morin and her husband, John, of Auburn; a stepson, Dirk Caire of Freeport; a brother, Tim Bear of Union; and five grandchildren, Alec Caire of Portland, Ben and Jack Morin of Auburn, and Kayla Merrill and Kristopher Merrill, both of Durham.
A celebration of his life was held on June 7th, 2009 at the head of Mackerel Cove in Orr’s Island.
Born on August 13, 1907 at the Boston Lying-In Hospital, Dutch was one of our “Greatest Generation.” In 1930, Dutch met and married Sara Collins, granddaughter of Frank Ridley who owned and ran Ridley’s Store and Wharf in Sebasco Estates, Phippsburg, Maine. They had three children over the next 8 years. During World War II, he was head of the flight test engineering department at Ford’s Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. One memorable afternoon, one of pilots needed an engineer on board for a test flight, and Dutch was available – that was when he flew with young Charles Lindbergh!
When the incredible demands of that war effort were over, he brought his family back to Sebasco, bought his first lobster boat named the “Loa Lee” from Everett Wallace and went lobstering – a long postponed dream come true. He fished the Loa Lee for the next 25 years. After looking for a replacement boat for a couple of years, Dutch contacted Royal Lowell with some ideas. Mr. Lowell and Dutch went over the Loa Lee and discussed the good and not-so-good about her hull. Royal laid up the plans for Dutch’s new boat, and Dutch had her built by Bruce Cunningham of Padebco Boat in Round Pond. The new boat was christened “Sara C” and launched in 1975. Some said that it was a shame that he had to wait until he was 68 to have his new boat…Dutch said that it took him that long to know what the boat should be! When Royal wrote his book “Building a Maine Lobster Boat,” he used the Sara C drawings extensively.
Dutch had many friends on the water, and truly loved lobstering. Over time, his five Wells grandsons all worked with him as stern men, and three of them are still fishing. Henry Gilliam went stern man with him in later years, until Dutch was 85 and his family finally got him off the water. He enjoyed the lobster boat races, and attended several of them. The Sara C did well in the wood boat category of that day. On a Sunday in June at the Boothbay Harbor races, he joined Glen Holland’s father, Corliss (who was in his late 70’s) on the Red Baron for the races. The Baron entered 5 races and the two old timers took every one of them!
Dutch passed away on the following Thursday, June 18, 1997, while working on the dock with his grandson.
A life well lived. A man well loved.