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Dear friends and readers:
My apologies for having been silent over the past two days. As many of you have heard by now, we have suffered a devastating loss.
Captain John W. Doswell, our captain, our North Star, our guiding light passed away on Friday 2 January, 2015 and the WHC family and the whole waterfront community has been reeling from the news.
I have barely parsed the news of his passing and am now faced with this daunting task of writing a eulogy befitting of my friend. So many things to say about Capt. John…where to start?
Captain John W. Doswell
John Doswell was a bona fide superhero. He created beauty from decay, he restored life to stagnant waters, he built people into a community, where before there was none.
You could always find John working. The man never stopped doing. There were piles of documents neatly stacked in the “dungeon” – the basement office from where Capt. John would steer the constant stream of waterfront projects, events, educational programs, working harbor tours and more. With that wry smile of his, he worked tirelessly on, even when he discovered he was ill.
John was so passionate about the ‘6th boro’ he dedicated the last decade of his career to our waterfront. He founded Friends of Hudson River Park, and Pier 84 is what it is today because of him. He was an integral member of many illustrious waterfront organizations and committees – North River Historic Ship Society, Community Board 4, Save Our Ships New York and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, to name a few.
He was one of the original group of friends who bought the Fireboat John J. Harvey, and helped to restore her to working glory. He was onboard the fireboat, pumping water onto Ground Zero on 9/11 and he was onboard (with a flask of hot chocolate under his arm) safeguarding her during Hurricane Sandy.
But for me, he was the ‘guy who made things happen’. As executive director of the Working Harbor Committee, John would orchestrate the most amazing extravaganzas. 22 years of Tug Boat Races, international ship visits (including a 16th century replica of a Spanish Galleon), OpSail 2012, where part of the challenge was to find berthing for dozens of vessels from around the world.
Only one man could make it all happen. Doswell.
John would narrate every single harbor tour, enthralling boat-loads of passengers with details about the workings of our magnificent harbor, peppered with stories of lighthouse keepers and fireworks disasters. The thought of never hearing his ‘fireworks story’ again as we approach Erie Basin, makes me immeasurably sad.
If you wanted to know pretty much anything about New York Harbor, you could ask John. I will always regret not asking John more stuff. I thought I had more time.
But beneath all the hustle and bustle stood this really great man. Smart, funny and sincere, John was a kind, loving and supportive husband, father and friend.
His love and passion for the waterfront paled in comparison to his love for his daughter Jhoneen and his life-partner wife Jean. In perfect sync, they were always together, whether working to save a historic ship from scrap or traveling together to exotic seas. Their love and respect for each other so evident and beautiful.
John, always gracious, welcomed everyone with open arms and an open heart. He never spoke an unkind word about anyone, or lost his temper, that I know of. His positivity permeated everything he did.
Every obstacle was a challenge we could overcome, every set back merely a springboard to success, in every dark cloud he would see only the silver lining.
We have lost a great teacher. We have lost a great leader. We have lost a great man…
Fair Winds Captain John.