William Hendrickson Rattenbury, whose career as a Chesapeake Bay pilot spanned more than four decades, died of multiple organ failure June 28 at Bel Air Health and Rehabilitation in Bel Air. The former longtime Glen Arm resident was 79.
Mr. Rattenbury was born in Montclair, N.J., and later moved to Baltimore, where he graduated from Forest Park High School in 1948.
He attended the University of Maryland for a year before enrolling at the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., from which he graduated in the early 1950s.
Mr. Rattenbury had served in the Army as a specialist from 1956 to 1959, and then in the Coast Guard until being discharged in 1962.
Mr. Rattenbury had been a member of the Association of Maryland Pilots for 44 years until retiring in 1994.
"I worked with Bill for a number of years," said Capt. Brian H. Hope, a Chesapeake Bay pilot and noted marine artist. "He was a very quiet guy, a steady worker and an excellent ship handler."
A modest man when it came to discussing his career, which was without incident, Mr. Rattenbury once served as the pilot on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth II as it went down the bay.
"He told them it was no big deal," said his daughter, Susan M. Rattenbury of Pacifica, Calif.
She added, "My father never used the term captain."
In addition to his professional work guiding ships through bay waters, Mr. Rattenbury had a second career as an accomplished homebuilder.
In 1970, Mr. Rattenbury built his two-story center hall brick-and-frame Colonial home in Glen Arm that was based on a mail-order plan. Because of his erratic professional schedule, Mr. Rattenbury was able to be his own contractor while employing several subcontractors for other needed work.
"It meant a substantial saving, of course," he told the old Sunday Sun Magazine in a 1970 interview, "but it was a lot of work and a lot of headaches, particularly in getting specialized workers when you wanted them."
Mr. Rattenbury also constructed a studio in the garage for his wife, the former Janet "Jan" Haycox, a potter whom he married in 1959. The studio accommodated two kilns, electric and gas-fired, and a potter's wheel.
Mrs. Rattenbury, whose work was known for its distinctive glazes, was a resident artist at Baltimore Clayworks in Mount Washington for 11 years until her death in 1995.
Mr. Rattenbury was a member of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to conservation of the oceans of the world and marine life.
He was an avid golfer and a member of the Towson Golf and Country Club.
Services are private.
Also surviving is a son, James H. Rattenbury of Havre de Grace.