Life is measured not in time spent, but in heartbeats lived"
It turned out to be the hottest day of the year as Big Al and myself traveled from Sheepshead Bay to Westerly Rhode Island for a service celebrating Tim Coleman's life later that evening. Bumper to bumper traffic marked various parts of our route, but we had taken this into account in the planning of the trip and we left early enough in the day so that we would arrive at the Westerly Yacht Club before the start of the 5:30 service.
It turned out that we did arrive extra early to help set up as luck would have it, Al Glanisky was there with a pickup truck packed with memorabilia, raffle items and picture albums filled with decades of fishing memories to be brought inside the Yacht Club. A few clear Plano fishing boxes of Tim's tackle were set up at the main table, and various pictures and photographs were hung on a number of easel's we had brought in.
As we continued to set up, one picture and document inside a sharp looking frame, caught our attention. Needless to say, everyone seemed to stop, look and stood silently as they read what was written inside this one picture frame.
Captain Greg Mercurio, owner and operator of the f/v YANKEE CAPTS, and one of Tim's dearest friends, arrived a few minutes after we did. He had flown in from Key West two days prior, did some housekeeping in Massachusetts, latter on in the day dropped by to see Captain Joe Huckemeyer and his wife Carol in Hyannis, and then drove down to Westerly.
It was a sullen mood as we finished setting up all the pictures, and each of us had wondered out loud about the number of people that would eventually show up for the service. Needless to say, it was many more then we ever expected.
It was now quiet as Al Glanisky had left both Greg, myself and Big Al in the room. We all sat down and started to flip through the the seven or so, 8 by 11.5 inch - stuffed photo albums that now were laying on the table. Flipping through the albums was like stepping into a time machine which took us back to the New England surf and boat fishing since the seventies.
We were all touched by what we saw on many of the pages, as Tim had not only cataloged fishing trips made on old time party boats throughout New England, but countless pictures of striped bass caught from the surf, and his latter fishing experiences in the Florida Keys. Various points along the years were marked, with particular references to a small 'penny -saver' like fishing paper called the Connecticut - Rhode Island Fishermen, that eventually gave way and grew into the regional The New England Fishermen.
If you read Tim's notation's of the various cover shots he had clipped out, you could sense the low-key and subtle pride he had as the managing editor of The New England Fishermen during a twenty five year period (1974-2001). On one page, Tim made a note that during the mid-eighties, the New England Fishermen had a period where it was over 100 pages long.
It was truly astounding to flip through each album to see the photographs and notations he had made. Some though needed no explaining and here are just a few that caught our attention (note: many of the pictures seen here were shot through the clear protective sleeves, so not to disturb these old photos).
One picture that caught all our attention as we looked through the albums, was the one below....and you can understand why when you look at it. "They don't come much larger" was the thought that crossed all our minds.
As much as Tim loved cod fishing, maybe more, he greatly enjoyed fishing from the surf for striped bass. From the late seventies through the eighties, Tim became one of the most noted and respected surf fishermen in the New England region. When it came to catching trophy sized striped bass, Tim was right up there with the most recognized surf fishermen of the era.
From one album to the next, Greg, Al and myself kept turning the pages, with Greg and later on, others commenting about these particular pictures.
As seen below, Tim standing quietly in the New England Fishermen booth at one of the various winter fishing shows that he would do over the years. One person mentioned to me when I was looking at this photo,
"Tim would rather be out tossing plugs in the cold blustery surf then in spending time in a comfortably warm booth at these shows."
Tim, Mary Motherway and the rest of The New England Fishermen magazine family.
Over the years, Tim became noted for his unending work in fishery conservation with his very influential input into the New England Fishery Management Council, along with being instrumental in helping at that time, to stop the salt water fishing license.
As noted on the back of this photo:
3/13/97 - Mass. Senator Bob Durant, assistant Majority Leader, throws S.W. License Bill into waste basket. Tim Coleman to left and Charley Soares with cap, to the right.
In another album, some more one of a kind pictures that caught our attention:
Old fare tickets pasted to the back of one album:
To some of the stories about wreck hunting that got more then a few of us interested in staring into bottom machines for countless hours on end. Here is one article that eventually became part of the most noted wreck fishing publication for New England waters:
A few with some noted, and legendary New England party boat Captains:
Finally to a few that Captain Greg knew a little something about:
Who can ever forget this one? Tim had printed out Captain Greg's comment after the 'Steaker City' story was posted on FISHING UNITED.COM.
To this final chart that Tim, as he was well known to do, had meticulously etched out and where Captain Greg told me this,
I never had as much enjoyment in hunting for wrecks, and finding not a one....all because Tim was there with me"
As we approached 5 pm, the large room started filling up. More and more people walked in, and Pete Shea walked around and made us fill out, paste on tags with our names on it. From what I saw though, it seemed most everyone knew each other for years. My good friends Captain Chris 'Microwelder' of the f/v Codzilla from Pt. Judith and his very significant other, Debbie, arrived and joined us at our table. Here Chris and Debbie are with Captain Frank Blount of the Francis Fleet:
Tim's longtime friend and co-author on Fishable Wrecks and Rockpiles, Charley Soares, was the 'Master of Ceremonies', and did a wonderful and masterful 'MC' job during the evening. A priest started off the service with a prayer and a story, and then it was time for a noted number of friends to come to the floor and try to talk about Tim.
At times, a number of us became 'teary-eyed', while speakers, some with their voice crackling, told warm and touching remembrance speeches. It was hard for many when they had first heard of the news of Tim passing away on the beach, but as time went on, and the 'inside and personal' stories were told, the mood within the room considerably lightened.
It was a speech made by Tim's brother Roger, which was tough for both himself and most of the room to get through without a dry eye as he read from a piece of paper in which he had brought along.
Here is just a section he read and from the last paragraph in SURF RAT - Roger Coleman.
Over the years Tim sent me photos. Here's a shark. Here's a tuna. Here's a tarpon. Nothing more than a little note with each photograph. But I know that inside each of those photos was the picture of a carp. That's where it began. What they show me is the same kid, head cocked, tired from the fight, smiling, with a fish that he caught for the world to see. And that's how it ends. Tim was out fishing. God speed.
There is another story which Roger writes about on his blog which those who know would say, "that is Tim." It is a short story written later on as he is cleaning out Tim's home...interestingly he calls this updated blog story thewreckhunter - Thursday, June 7, 2012, the name Tim would use in his correspondence.
Back to R. I. for another truck load of stuff from my brother's apartment. A work bench that I can use. Odds and ends of kitchen things - there weren't many - how many pots does a person need to heat up a can of soup? That doesn't even seem like a question to me as much as a blank and satisfying statement.
A small television used for Sunday football games with take out pizza and a couple beers. And paper back books. A quick estimate in the stupid heat of a humid afternoon hauling them down a flight of stairs was around 800. Mostly political thrillers and the star wars books.
A last call was made for anyone else to speak, and one final speaker made his way to the front of the room to talk about Tim. He was a surf fishermen who had know Tim for years. As he noted in this story,
Tim had called me up one day, and asked me about wrecks. Wrecks? I said to Tim that I am just a surfcaster, and I cannot reach with my tackle out to wrecks, nor do I know much about fishing wrecks. Tim then said "you work for the Naval War College? Could you get some information about wrecks from them?"
The room broke out in laughs as this fellow told Tim,
"I can't do that!"
It was now time to hold the raffle that would help fund the Tim Coleman Memorial Scholarship which is being started at Tim's alma mater at URI. Pete Shea and a few others walked around the room with the five dollar a piece raffle tickets, which would later be pulled out for the roughly a dozen items that were at the front table.
I had purchased ten raffle tickets, but unbeknown to me, eight had fallen out of my pocket while I was inline getting a few slices of pizza. Pete Shea made an announcement of eight lost raffle tickets. I checked my pockets and then had to make my way to the front where Pete gave me eight new tickets, and I should add, a little 'razzing' with those tickets. Who would know that at that very moment, it would make such a noticeable difference when the tickets were latter pulled.
It turned out that our table of Captain Greg, Captain Chris, Debbie and myself won six raffle prizes, with myself winning three, including one of Tim's brother Roger, donated artwork from his ROGER COLEMAN GALLERY, which now hangs on my living room wall.
Debbie and Chris happened to win two of the items being raffled off, with Debbie winning one of Tim's favorite surf outfits.
With the last raffle pulled, everyone in the room began to mingle for the last few minutes. Since the photo albums just happened to be set up at our table, a number of people in the room came over to not only flip through the albums, but to talk about Tim. (thanks to Debbie for these images)
Captain Jerry Hill and his wife Carol, the decades long owners of the YANKEE FLEET (sold in 2008), were at the table flipping through the albums, with Captain Greg.
Various pictures started another story about the cod fishing with Tim or the boat, the YANKEE CAPTS. At this point, my buddy Al who carries around a picture taken with his dad in Sheepshead Bay back in the early 1970's when the YANKEE CAPTS was the BROOKLYN III, pulled it out of his wallet and passed it around. Carol Hill looked at the photo and asked Al if his dad was Walter Zerkel. Al politely said no, and Mrs. Hill then told the story on how they came to buy the boat:
I was driving with Jerry over a bridge in Madeira Beach Florida, near where we stayed during the winter months, and saw this boat with a strange looking stern tied to the dock. Little did we know at that time, but roughly six months latter, we ended up buying this very boat from Walter Zerkel!
Both Chris and myself quietly stood by and listened to the stories, especially when Captain Jerry Hill the pioneer of offshore party boat fishing in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank would talk. Tim's archive of pictures brought back many memories, and for those moments, the mood was very upbeat (notice behind us, is Captain Frank Blount and his wife talking with Captain Greg).
Tim's remembrance service was wrapping up and many who came from all over New England were leaving. Captain Greg finally had a ear to ear grin on his face and told me he was so glad he came. Tim's untimely passing brought everyone together to remember a 'gentle' man whose life and fishing stories touched and effected so many.
As was mentioned, since it was asked, it did turn out that earlier in the day, Tim's ashes were spread by his brother and close friends off a location where he loved to surf fish.....and who knows if the location will be called Tim's Point as was mentioned..... but again, anyone knowing Tim, he would say to 'not' have a fishing location named after him. That was the humbleness of Tim.
Driving back home with Big Al in the car we were both prepared for stop and go traffic on our trip, but surprising it was not to bad ride, all three plus hours worth. At the start as we made the turn out of the very scenic town of Westerly, Al said to me:
Steve, I never realized he was such a respected surf caster and Florida fishermen. I knew him from his wreck fishing stories in The New England Fishermen, but from what pictures I saw, and stories I heard, I cannot think of any fishermen that had accomplished so much in fishing during our lifetime. Who would you to compare him to?
I nodded my head to his question, and without much thought then came up with a typical quick, conversational answer at that moment:
Al, the only thing I can think of is that he was the Babe Ruth of fishermen over the last forty years who would tell a story like a best friend would and was as genuine a person as Mother Theresa.
Anyone who knew Tim would immediately say, 'he neither wanted the accolades, nor the attention and fuss that came from catching a fish, or the finding of a new fishing wreck 'chock-full' with codfish. Armed with a camera, he would take a few shots, ask a few questions, and Tim would then go about telling the fishing story.
Before this service started, Greg said to me that if Tim knew we were having a event for him like this, he would say to anyone within earshot, 'what is all this 'hoopla' about, and would not have any of it..... and would then tell you to go out someplace where you could get a slice of pizza and a beer in town.' Strangely enough, this sentiment was repeated out loud more then a few times during the service!
I do remember as the ceremony was ending, Mary Motherway came over to me and we talked for a few moments. I told her that I still can't believe this happened. With a reassuring hand place on my back, "None of us can believe this" was her reply. The 'why' we will always wonder.
The 'goodness' that was Tim, was something that touched everyone who knew him. His various books, short stories, and articles for fishermen. were written for the common man, with never the emphasis of needing expensive 'bling' fishing tackle, or having to hook up and gain the confidence of someone who would tell you the treasured secrets to successfully catch fish. Tim transcended both the surf and the sea as he explained how to become a better fishermen to not only every, but anyone who would read his stories or ask...... and I should add, that he did it in a way that made the person reading the story, feel so comfortable that they could do it like he had written.
Tim Coleman was an extraordinary fishermen, but more so, he was the epitome of someone special and so dear to all of us, who made such a positive difference in our lives.
Memorial Gifts for the TIM COLEMAN MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP can be made to:
UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND (URI) FOUNDATION
79 COLLEGE RODAD
KINGSTON, RHODE ISLAND