J. Merrill Shinnick, retired bay pilot

January 04, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

J. Merrill Shinnick, a retired Chesapeake Bay pilot who once jumped off a pilot ship to try to save the life of a ship's captain who had fallen overboard, died Dec. 31 of pneumonia at the Maryland Masonic Home in Hunt Valley. He was 82.

LTC In 1930, as an apprentice pilot, he dove into bay waters from a pilot boat near Cape Henry, Va., in an unsuccessful attempt to save the life of Capt. George Z. Wherett, master of the Cortona, a British steamer, who had fallen over the side. Both ships were under way at the time. Although Mr. Shinnick was unable to save the captain, he managed to retrieve the body.

"Mayor William Broening of Baltimore sent my father a letter congratulating him on his heroism and courage," recalled a son, Stewart B. Shinnick of Towson. "He was nominated for a Carnegie Award but was turned down."

The elder Mr. Shinnick was reared on North Broadway near Eastern High School and later moved with his family to Forest Park.

He attended city schools and Polytechnic Institute before leaving to start an apprenticeship in 1928 with the Association of Maryland Pilots. He was the third generation of his family to become a pilot.

During World War II, he was a pilot when the association was under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard for the duration of hostilities. According to his son, he counted among his more exciting moments piloting the 38,000-ton, Essex-class aircraft carrier Randolph up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore.

Fearful of flying, he was once prevented by bad weather from getting back onto the pilot boat and had to sail with the freighter to South America and fly back to the United States.

"He said he'd never go up in an airplane again," said his wife, the former Carrie Bacon of Baltimore, whom he married in 1935.

He retired in 1960 and took up bridge, eventually becoming one of the best duplicate bridge players in Maryland. He was a master and life member of the American Contract Bridge League.

He was a member of Concordia Lodge No. 13 for 46 years and was also active in the Boumi Temple and the Scottish Rite. He was also a life member of the Tall Cedars of Lebanon Har-Ce Forest No. 142 and Ascension Lutheran Church.

Services are set for 10:30 a.m. today at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road, Towson.

He is survived by three other sons, J. Merrick Shinnick III, John H. Shinnick and Robert C. Shinnick, all of Baltimore; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Memorial donations may be made to the Maryland Masonic Home, 300 International Circle, Hunt Valley, Md. 21030.

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