Executive's drowning brings grief, investigation

Shenk's Pa. employees stunned

dock death `appears accidental'

January 27, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Friends and colleagues were coping yesterday with the sudden death of Robert C. Shenk, who was found in the water near City Dock in Annapolis Tuesday, while officials continued to investigate the incident.

Shenk, 55, of the 300 block of N. 27th St. in Camp Hill, Pa., was discovered floating near his powerboat. His body was taken to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy.

"The cause of death is still under investigation," said Susan O'Brien, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Natural Resources, the agency handling the death. "It appears to be an accidental drowning."

Yesterday, the 24 employees at Shenk's business, Shenk Athletic in Mechanicsburg, Pa., were in shock after learning about Shenk's death late Tuesday. Mark Torquato, a sales manager for the company, which has embroidery and silk screening contracts with a variety of organizations, including Hershey Park, said many of the employees had gone home.

"We weren't getting much done," Torquato said. "We were just kind of looking at each other."

Shenk served as president of the company, a family-owned business since 1918, Torquato said. He was in Annapolis this weekend looking at property for a store.

The company has four stores in New Jersey and two in Key West, Fla., Torquato said.

His wife, Judith, and children -- Bobby, a seventh-grader, and Kristen, a high school senior -- were visiting him this past weekend. Shenk planned to sail to Florida with some friends on their boat yesterday, Torquato said.

Shenk often stayed on his boat, a 38-foot cabin cruiser, when he traveled, Torquato said. He stored the boat, named Summer Salt, in Stone Harbor, N.J., in the summer and Annapolis in the winter. He had owned the boat for 15 years, he said.

"The boat was his biggest outlet for life," Torquato said. "They called him `Captain Bob.' "

Torquato said Shenk was probably preparing Summer Salt for Tuesday's winter storm when he fell into the water.

Shenk graduated from Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill and attended Pennsylvania State University, Torquato said. After graduating, he worked in New York City for International Paper for about 15 years before returning home and taking over the business with his brothers, Phil and Mike, when their father died.

Shenk, Torquato said, was known as a well-liked, "hands-on" boss who held weekly sales meetings and would help fix equipment.

"He liked to work with the guys," Torquato said.

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