Morton Gibbons-Neff Jr., 94

Farmer, avid sailor

December 23, 2007

Morton Gibbons-Neff Jr., a world-class sailor who oversaw a successful cattle-feeding operation and grain farm on the Eastern Shore, died Dec. 17 of complications from old age at Chester River Hospital Center. The Chestertown resident was 94.

Born in Philadelphia, he attended Montgomery School and grew up sailing sneak boxes and E-Scows along New Jersey's Barnegat Bay. He attended the University of Pennsylvania before entering the Navy at the beginning of World War II, commanding submarine chasers along the East Coast and the Hawaiian islands.

He and his wife bought a farm in Devon, Pa., where he raised purebred Angus cattle. In the late 1950s, the family relocated Clovelly Farm to Chestertown, where for decades he oversaw a cattle business and grain farm along the Chester River. He was also an avid waterfowl hunter.

Known as "Sunny," Mr. Gibbons-Neff's passion was sailing. He competed in numerous Bermuda races -- biennial races from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda, a distance of 635 miles -- and three trans-Atlantic races, winning in his class aboard his 40-foot Owens cutter, Prim, in the 1972 race to Spain.

He was a member of many sailing clubs, including the Cruising Club of America, Storm Trysail Club, Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club, and the Corinthian Yacht Club of Philadelphia. He also served on the Fales Committee of the U.S. Naval Academy, which advises the academy about its sailing program.

He supported other groups, including the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, as his father was president of the Philadelphia Poor Richard Club when it pushed for the creation of the Franklin Memorial. He was also involved with the American Angus Association, the conservation group Ducks Unlimited, the Mystic Seaport Museum and the Sea Education Association. He was also a former president of the board of directors for Kent and Queen Anne's Hospital, now Chester River Hospital Center.

According to state records, he made an unsuccessful run for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Queen Anne's County in 1962 as a Republican.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 2 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 101 N. Cross St., in Chestertown.

Survivors include three sons, Morton Gibbons-Neff III of Chestertown, Peter Gibbons-Neff of Rosemont, Pa., and Henry Gibbons-Neff of Easton; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, the former Florence Mitchell Chance; and a son, Mitchell Chance Gibbons-Neff.

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