Eight Bells

The tradition of Eight Bells pays respect to deceased mariners and signifies that a sailor’s “watch” is over.

  • Ethel Julia Brennan

    wife of Capt. William F. Brennan, former MMA Commandant, died on July 29, 2020. She was born in Philadelphia and studied nursing at the Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing. She received her RN Certificate and became an Ensign in the US Navy Nurse Corps. She worked at several naval hospitals and advanced in rank. She was a volunteer in her community and in health centers around the country and beyond — Philadelphia, Monterey, Boston, Bermuda Blue Hill, and Castine — communities who benefited from her desire to serve, help those in need, and lead by example.

  • Harold F. Burr ‘43-2

    passed away on December 4, 2020. Born in Old Town, Maine, and raised in Bangor, he was a graduate of MMA and served aboard a Merchant Marine munitions supply ship as part of the WWII North Atlantic Convoy. As a 20-year-old 2nd mate, Burr was charting his ship’s navigation to Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion. Afterwards he stayed at sea, attaining licenses in various grades from 3rd mate up, including a Masters Unlimited license in August 1947. He was a veteran of the North Atlantic Merchant Marine Convoy Service. In 1948, he began his career as a financial planner in New York City. He retired in 1994, after a long career in financial services. Burr loved the sea, and for forty years summered on Frenchboro Island, Maine, in a cottage he restored. He formed many friendships with people he met on the island and through work. Burr was known for his positive outlook, his good humor, kindness, and generosity. He was a devoted fan of UCONN and MMA Women’s Basketball, the New York Giants, and the Yankees.

  • Lorimer J. Trafton ‘43-2

    passed away peacefully on December 14, 2020 in Readfield, Maine. Upon graduation from Gardiner High School in June 1942, he attended MMA, graduated as Midshipman on October 30, 1943, and was immediately assigned to the frigate SS Exiria to help in the war effort in both the Atlantic and Pacific war zones. He was promoted to Chief Officer aboard the Stanley R. Fisher out of Charleston, South Carolina. In May 1946, he was honorably discharged and offered an instructor’s position at Maine Maritime, but he decided to return home to West Gardiner. Trafton worked most of his career for several local and national meatpacking companies. He retired in 1988, and took on a new career, turning distressed houses into homes. A very special part of his life was the annual family vacation to Pemaquid. In his leisure time, Trafton was an avid Red Sox and New England Patriots fan. He played semi-pro football for the local Legion Cadets and was a member of the Gardiner Bowling League. Golfing with friends, hunting with his sons and “Uncle Vic,” skiing, camping with family and friends, and boating were high on his list of favorite things to do.

  • Calvin R. Pelley ’49

    passed away on February 16, 2021. Pelley was a 1949 graduate of MMA, and served in the Merchant Marine and the US Navy during the Korean War. Pelley also attended Purdue University, where he majored in Mechanical Engineering Technology. He was commissioned by the National Board of Boiler & Pressure Vessel Inspectors and worked for Factory Mutual Engineering and then Peabody Coal. He retired from Amax Coal Company in 1992 after 20 years. He also worked for Bobby Jones Golf Course in Sarasota, Florida. Pelley was a member of the National Association of Power Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Pelley founded the Power Engineering Certification Program in Indiana, and served as its Executive Administrator for 17 years and as Chairman of the Board of Directors until the time of his death. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, Spartan Lodge No. 70, F & A, M.

  • Donald L. Higgins ‘50

    died on January 28, 2021 at his home. He was born in Ellsworth, Maine, attended Ellsworth schools, and graduated from MMA in 1950. He served in the American Merchant Marine on freight vessels, tankers, and research vessels. Higgins served as LTJG in the US Navy during the Korean War. He served as contract captain for the Maine State Ferry Service, and held the license of Master Mariner unlimited. Higgins was a line surveyor for Bangor Hydro and was co-owner of TopSpot DriveIn. He served on the Ellsworth Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Higgins was a Cub Scout leader and a Little League coach. He liked mackerel fishing on Union River Bay, walking in the woods with Twinkies in his backpack, and duck hunting from a blind with his son and their dog that retrieved toilers. He is remembered by family and neighbors for climbing a ladder resting against a round tree and being able to walk away each time no matter how hard the ground.

  • Frederick A. Ganter ‘51

    passed away on January 3, 2021 in Hampstead, North Carolina. He grew up in Union, New Jersey. After his graduation from MMA in 1951, he served in the Merchant Marine and the US Navy, and following his discharge began what would be a long career in marine engineering and sales. In 1971, he was hired as manager of the New York office of Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock (Norshipco) and eventually became their Vice President of Sales. In his over 20 years with Norshipco, Ganter developed a broad customer network with merchant ship lines and shipyards throughout the world. His success was built on honesty and integrity, but it was his engaging personality and love of people that turned so many business relationships into lasting friendships. He maintained ties with MMA and held memberships in the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and the Society of Marine Port Engineers. In retirement he remained active in the marine industry, working closely with Lloyd Werft Shipyard in Germany. He had a lifelong passion for golf, and he was a long-time member of Canoe Brook Country Club. While he always enjoyed a little competition, it was the social aspect of golf that made it such an important part of his life, resulting in many friendships, and endless stories.

  • Charles L. Fales, Jr. ‘54

    passed on November 9, 2020. He attended Lawrence High School, where he excelled in varsity sports and was the New England Foul Shooting Champion in his Senior year (1950). At MMA, he played on the “Middies” baseball team and traveled to the southeastern United States and Cuba to play semi-professional baseball. After graduation, he was commissioned as an Officer in the United States Navy. After serving in the Navy, he began his career with Babcock and Wilcox. In the 1970s, he returned to Maine and began his career at Keyes Fibre Company, where he worked until his “first retirement” in 1995. An industrious and diligent worker, Fales returned to work after retirement, supporting the maintenance departments at Colby College and Maine General Medical Center, as a Boiler Operator. He officially retired for the second time in 2012, at the age of 80. Fales supported his community in a variety of ways, serving on the MSAD 49 school board, as a coach for PAL youth baseball, and as a member of the American Legion. In his later years, Fales enjoyed “ramming the roads” with his sweetheart, and taking trips to Hollywood Slots and Foxwoods.

  • James M. Blenkhorn, Jr. ‘55

    passed on November 6, 2020 in Kissimmee, Florida. After graduating with a BS in Engineering, Blenkhorn would spend four years in the US Merchant Marine as a Licensed Marine Engineer, and in 1960 entered the US Navy as an Ensign, serving as a Junior Bridge Officer. Blenkhorn served in active duty for nine years and continued in the US Naval Reserve for another 11 years; he left the Navy Reserve achieving the rank of Captain. Blenkhorn retired from active-duty Navy in 1968 to join the engineering staff at Bath Iron Works (BIW); this relationship came from his prior work at BIW as one of the naval officers who conducted sea trials of destroyers and missile cruisers prior to their commissioning. Blenkhorn would be at BIW until 1978, and then his career in shipbuilding would go on to include senior program management positions at Sun Ship, Equitable Shipyards, and Colonna’s Shipyard, among others. He returned to BIW in 1982 as Senior Vice President for Business Development, where he oversaw all operations of ship construction and conducted negotiations for ship building contracts with the US Navy.

  • Emery G. Purslow ‘56

    died after a lengthy illness, at his home in Hancock, Maine on June 24, 2020, surrounded by family and friends. He was born in Nimes, France, and came to live in Hancock in 1940. Emery graduated MMA in 1956. Following graduation, he worked as a chief engineer for Cove Shipping. Emery was an avid hiker and loved boating, fishing and hunting.

  • Walter L. Varney ’56

    died peacefully on February 27, 2021. Born in Richmond, Maine, Varney graduated from MMA in 1956. He served in the US Navy, stationed in Hawaii. Upon discharge, he worked at Electric Boat and Northeast Utilities, and later really enjoyed transporting school children. He loved going out for lunch with friends, golfing, and reading history, especially about the Civil War, and always enjoyed discussing it. He was an active member of his church who was always ready to help anyone to need. Varney enjoyed his gardening, and mowing his and his neighbor’s yards and fields and making “it look like a golf course.”

  • Capt. Paul H. Jacobs ’58

    died on December 8, 2020. Born in Malden, Massachusetts, he graduated from Milbridge (Maine) High School, and then entered MMA to become a marine engineer. After graduation, he was as an ensign in the Naval Reserve aboard the USS Onslow (AVP-48), and the destroyer USS Harry E. Hubbard (DD-748), becoming the ship’s engineer officer, a highly unusual honor for a junior officer. Aspiring to command his own ship, he applied for a regular commission and was accepted into the US Navy. His first sea command was the USS Meadowlark (MSC-196). He earned a BS degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. After graduation, he served as captain of the USS Esteem, executive officer of the USS Floyd B. Parks, and commanding officer of the USS Kirk (DE-1087), which he would use to lead a humanitarian mission in Vietnam (see Shipmate October 2017 article for more details). During his Navy career, he earned the Bronze Star Medal, four Meritorious Service Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal, and many Vietnam service medals.

  • Waldo P. Harmon

    died at his Castine home on November 29, 2020. Harmon graduated from Castine High School in 1959 and joined the US Navy. He trained as a ship’s electrician and served at the Navy submarine base in New Groton before joining the crew of the attack aircraft carrier USS. Wasp, CVS-18. He was intensely patriotic and proud to be a veteran. His Navy training and experience set the stage for what later became his career. He left active duty in the fall of 1963, although he remained in the Navy Reserve. In 1964 he became the ship’s electrician on the State of Maine. In 1967 he graduated from radio electronics school then sailed on merchant ships until 1973. He worked as an electrician in Portsmouth, New Hampshire doing commercial construction before moving back to Castine in 1976. He served as MMA’s ship’s electrician for the next three and a half decades. In all, Harmon gave nearly 46 years of service to MMA. He very much enjoyed travelling the world in the Navy and on MMA training cruises; and worked hard to make sure his students received thorough on-the-job training. He was beloved by many generations of MMA alumni who appreciated him for the genius he was. Harmon had many passions; he loved to dance, he loved to party, he loved New York City, New Orleans (especially Mardi Gras), and P’town; he loved everything about Christmas; he loved colorful clothing, decorations and lights, and most of all every kind of music, especially rock n’ roll (the older and louder, the better).

  • Capt. Gordon Douglas Ferguson ‘62

    assed away January 10, 2021. Ferguson was born in Buffalo, New York, and his childhood was spent loving Christmas, becoming the Boston Red Sox’s number one fan, and spending summers on Great Diamond Island, his favorite place in the world. He was very proud to have graduated from MMA, where he was photo editor for the school paper. Ferguson was a member of the US Naval Reserves and a Merchant Mariner. His lifetime love of sailing led him to spend 43 years in his shipping career, culminating with him becoming a ship’s captain. His work allowed him to travel around the world before he settled down with his wife and son in Portland to guide large ships in and out of Portland Harbor as a pilot. They moved to Tampa, Florida, in 1980 where he was a Tampa Bay pilot for 25 years before his retirement in 2005. He loved baseball, the state of Maine, his island friends, his daughter-in-law Toscha’s chocolate chip cookies, lunches at Malio’s, photography, his career as a ship captain, and getting a really good deal.

  • Katherine Greenleaf

    passed away on December 3, 2020. Greenleaf served on the MMA Board of Trustees.

  • Richard A. Condon ‘64

    died on January 30, 2021. Condon amused us all with his unique habit of copying and saving everything. He loved taking pictures and captured many special moments on video. Condon had many hobbies including reading, being an amateur radio operator, baseball, watching movies, listening to music, and building model railroad sets. Next to the love he had for his family and friends, he had two other loves, the first being his 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite Bugeye. This was his first car, and he was proud to be the sole owner. Second, would be his love for his camp at George’s Pond. He went to camp often until it became too difficult for him to make the trip.

  • John B. Lynch, Jr. ‘64

    passed away in June 2018.

  • Frederick B. Jensen ‘65

    passed away in Portland on January 24, 2021. Jensen grew up in Portland, Maine, and graduated from Deering High School in 1960, where he met his wife, Darleen Donovan. The two were married while Jensen was a student at MMA. He graduated from MMA in 1965 with a degree in Marine Engineering. He served in the Navy Reserves. He worked for American Trade and Production Company on different ships, mostly on the American Trader and the Marilyn Trader. After a few years at sea, he decided he wanted to be closer to home. He worked for Moran on the tugboats in New York. He became a chief engineer on the Moran’s tugboats in Portland Harbor after many months of persistence and determination, but felt it was well worth the effort to be as close to home as Portland Harbor. Later, Jensen and his wife built Ledgeview Estates in Cumberland Foreside, a successful retirement and assisted living facility, which had a major impact on the surrounding area. Jensen always had a love for antique classics and unusual automobiles. Many happy years were spent working on his famous corvette and taking it out for rides in the White Mountains on sunny days, often with the top down.

  • John J. Desilets ‘66

    passed suddenly at his home in Ormond Beach on November 9, 2020. He grew up in Keene, New Hampshire, attending St. Joseph Regional School, and was a 1962 graduate of Keene High School. Desilets graduated from MMA in 1966. Following graduation, he sailed in the Merchant Marines for almost three years, enjoying many wonderful times and memories created during this time. He began his work career in 1970 as a nuclear engineer at the Vermont Nuclear Power Station, now Entergy, retiring in 1996. Wanting to continue to help others, he volunteered for ten years with Meals on Wheels before moving to Ormond Beach, Florida.

  • Richard F. Sullivan ‘66

    passed away on December 25, 2020 at home. Born in Portland, Maine, he was a graduate of Cheverus High School. After MMA, Sullivan served in the Navy and the Merchant Marines until 1970, shipping with American Export Isbrandtsen Lines, Inc. He also held positions with Bath Iron Works, Texas A & M Maritime Academy, and Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company. He retired in 2003 as an Industrial Marine and Power Engineer for General Electric. He was a Boy Scout Troop leader, a volunteer firefighter and driver for the Oaks Fire Company, and a member of the American Society of Naval Engineers, Inc. He was a member of the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society, where he helped with restoration of vintage railroad cars and locomotives. Sullivan volunteered on the USS Missouri restoration in Pearl Harbor. He enjoyed working on model trains and was an avid traveler, enjoying cruises and visiting destinations such as England, Ireland, and Hawaii. His love of computers showed in his design of the website for the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Police Association and in being their webmaster for a number of years.

  • James Hartford Johnson ‘67

    passed away on September 3, 2020. He was born in Panama City, Panama. He graduated from Balboa High School, Panama Canal Zone in 1962. After graduation from MMA, he received a direct commission in the United States Coast Guard. Upon being discharged in 1974, he started his career with Western Oceanic as their safety and compliance manager. He retired in 2013 from the Wood/Pac Group. Johnson was a loving and devoted family man who led by example and took pleasure in those he loved. He had a genuine compassion for all people. He was an avid golfer who enjoyed playing and spending time with his dearest friends until the very end. As the son of the assistant port captain of Panama Canal Zone, he followed in his father’s footsteps with a love of the ocean and being on the sea.

  • James E. Hayden, Sr. ‘68

    died on December 27, 2020. Hayden graduated from Mexico High School in 1964 and from MMA in 1968 with a degree in Marine Engineering. He was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Reserve and held that commission until 1982, promoting regularly to LT-CDR reserve 1105 Line Officer. Hayden held a Coast Guard license in the Merchant Marine for Chief Engineer, Steam, Motor and Gas Turbine, unlimited horsepower. He served as a Merchant Marine for over 50 years, working worldwide with the Atlantic Richfield Company, ARCO Marine, and with numerous American Maritime Officer-, AMO Union-contracted companies, and the occasional tramp or oceanographic research trip. He retired after having the tremendous pleasure of teaching future Chief Engineers at the STAR Center in Dania Beach, Florida. Hayden traveled to all the continents and well over 100 countries in his lifetime. He was very fond of his tribe of rescued cats, for, as he often claimed, “They never killed anything that didn’t have it coming.”

  • Steven W. Edgecomb, Sr. ‘69

    passed away on December 5, 2020. Edgecomb graduated from Hermon High School with the class of 1965. He went on to MMA and graduated class of 1969. Following graduation, he worked as a merchant marine for four years. After shipping, he went to work for General Electric for seven years, before going to work for the pulp and paper industry. He eventually went to work for SKF Bearing for 30 years until his retirement.

  • Robert J. Hill ‘69

    died peacefully on January 1, 2021. Hill graduated from Mechanic Falls High School in 1965 where he earned varsity letters in basketball and cross country. He graduated sixth in his class at MMA in 1969. After graduation, he started his career working for Mobil Oil Company. He transitioned to Energy Transportation Company where he worked until the late 1990s, becoming chief engineer on the LNG Leo. After retiring from the shipping industry, Hill worked for General Electric as a controls engineer on large nuclear power plants. Hill enjoyed using his RV for travel, golfing, photography, and visiting his palm trees in Florida during the winter. In the early ‘70s, he earned his pilot’s license. He was happy doing anything that had to do with aircraft. Hill loved to putter around in his workshop designing and building things when he had down time, including custom wooden toy trucks, a homemade CNC router, high-definition antennae, and his own single engine airplane.

  • Timothy G. Edwards ‘70

    passed away on January 28, 2021. Edwards was a resident of Center Conway, New Hampshire.

  • Mr. Thomas E. O’Boyle ‘78

    passed away on January 31, 2021, in the comfort of his Eaton, New Hampshire, home. After graduating from Cheverus High School and MMA, O’Boyle set sail, traveling the world for his job and eventually meeting the love of his life, fellow chief engineer Marilyn Bowen aboard the USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams. When they weren’t out to sea, they were nearly inseparable and split their time between New England and Florida, working on several homes together throughout the years. O’Boyle left shipping in 2008, and, after a brief “retirement” spent traveling across Canada and the United States by RV, he went to work ashore for Maersk Lines. The RV life must have stuck with him, though, because after leaving the shipping industry in 2014 they purchased The Beach Camping Area in Conway, New Hampshire, — a pivot that surprised many but suited him perfectly and provided endless opportunities for projects. O’Boyle was a talented mechanic who built and renovated his own homes, and could fix just about anything.

  • James A. Deering ‘92

    passed away on January 24, 2020. Deering graduated from Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia, and then attended MMA. Out of college, he worked as a Merchant Marine. From there, he worked at Gulfstream and later returned to his love of tugboats where he retired after twelve years from Moran Savannah as Port Engineer. As a devoted son, husband, father, and uncle, Deering had a very special place in his heart for his family. He enjoyed the freedom of riding his Harley, playing golf, pretending to fish, boating, muscle cars and the company of his two beloved German Shepherds.

  • Gene D. Perry ’96

    passed away unexpectedly at his home on February 8, 2019. Perry graduated from Mexico (Maine) High School in 1960. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maine at Farmington and went on to teach at Mexico High School for several years. In 1978, Perry began his 32-year career at Bath Iron Works. Upon graduation from the welding apprentice program, he worked in the training department as an apprentice instructor. He later completed the design apprentice program, working as a designer until his retirement. Perry was a proud father and grandfather who enjoyed biking, skiing, camping, hunting, and hiking with his family. He and his dog Brownie made many trips together up Mt. Washington. One of his proudest achievements was completing the Trek Across Maine 6 years in a row while in his 70’s while raising funds for the American Lung Association. He was also a passionate New England sports fan.

  • Dmitry N. Setrakov ‘17

    passed away on January 11, 2021 in Portland, Maine. Born in Izhevsk, Russia, Setrakov immigrated to the US in March 2000. Throughout his young life in Maine, Setrakov excelled in his studies while expressing interest in art, airplanes, ships, and nature. Like a true mariner, he fell in love with the sea early on and started his career as a deckhand on large motor yachts. He also spent time working on a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea. MMA provided the opportunity he desired to take his passion and turn it into a promising profession. While at MMA, he was regularly spotted cruising around in his beloved G-Wagon. Setrakov had an amazing sense of adventure and curiosity, which led to him traveling the globe. He was completely selfless with his friends and would do anything for those he loved.

  • Philip Harman

    died on February 27, 2020. He graduated from Castine High School in 1955. He began working on the MMA training ship in 1960 as a maintenance crewman with his brothers Richard and Waldo. In 1962 he transferred to Waterfront Operations. He had excellent mechanical and carpentry skills and knew how to work with marine paints, varnishes, and Fiberglass, and was eventually appointed Director of Waterfront Operations. He believed that MMA students could learn a lot about ship handling and seamanship with extensive hands-on experience on smaller boats. He developed the school sailing team, growing it to a fleet of twenty 420s and 16 Lasers, along with Shields and Colgates. Shortly after his retirement, MMA’s sailing team won the first national championship in school history. In 2004, he received the ISCA’s “Lifetime Service Award,” and was inducted into the ICSA Hall of Fame in 2005. His name was added to the permanent Hall of Fame display at the US Naval Academy. In his honor, MMA named one of its intercollegiate sailing events the Philip Harman Cup. He made sure MMA’s waterfront was part of the greater maritime community, making him widely known and respected throughout the maritime community. He was friendly and outgoing, but spoke frankly and directly (unless telling some off-color sea story). His direct and honest approach endeared him to generations of MMA alumni and to his waterfront crew. He retired in 2002, having reached the rank of Commander (he liked to call himself “Commander of the Bagaduce Navy”). He said that spending his life teaching “the kids” at MMA kept him young. He appreciated the many times that alumni looked him up to share fond memories of the waterfront.

Submissions for Eight Bells

If you learn of the passing of an MMA classmate, associate, friend or family member, please contact the Office of Alumni Relations so that we may include the information in our Eight Bells listings. Send obituaries or their digital links to alumni@mma.edu.

A complete listing of Eight Bells can be found at https://mainemaritime.edu/alumni/category/eight-bells/.