Charles G. Parry, sailor and retired insurance executive, dies at 74

'Mr. Chuck' passed his love of sailing and penchant for safety on the water to his students

December 07, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Charles G. Parry, a retired insurance executive and lifelong sailor who passed along his enthusiasm and knowledge of sailing to his youthful students, died Friday of bladder cancer at his Chestertown home.

He was 74.

Mr. Parry, the son of a Philadelphia lumber company executive and a homemaker, was born and raised in Camden, N.J. He was a lifelong Quaker and a direct descendant of James Logan, who was William Penn's secretary.

He was raised in Moorestown, N.J., where he graduated in 1953 from Moorestown High School.

His interest in sailing began in his childhood during summers spent at Bohemia Hill, his parent's farm that was on the Bohemia River near Chesapeake City, and at Seaside Park Yacht Club in Seaside Park, N.J., and the Island Heights Yacht Club in Island Heights, N.J.

He earned a degree in Latin American affairs and economics in 1957 from Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., where he was a member and competitor for the university's sailing team.

After college, Mr. Parry served in the Navy as a damage control officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid and attained the rank of lieutenant junior grade.

Following his naval service, Mr. Parry went to work in 1964 for the Reliance Insurance Co. in Philadelphia, and was assigned to company offices in New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York City.

In 1975, he became a chartered property and casualty underwriter and was the company's senior compliance officer at the time of his retirement in 2000.

"He didn't define himself as an insurance man but rather as a sailor," said his wife of 46 years, the former Linda Platt, a former newspaper reporter.

The former Medford, N.J., resident who moved to Chestertown full time in 2001, was also an experienced boat builder.

"He crafted boats ranging in size from Penguins, Optimists and dinghies to a 26-foot one-design heel boat, Gardyloo which is still raced in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay out of Annapolis under new ownership," said Mrs. Parry.

Mr. Parry was a member of the Rock Hall Yacht Club. During his four year tenure from 2002 to 2006 as commodore, he established the Rock Hall Yacht Club Sailing School for children from 5 to 14, who endearingly referred to their instructor as "Mr. Chuck."

"He always wanted a place for children to learn how to sail. He was a very humble and modest man who didn't want any accolades. He just wanted to give kids confidence on the water," Mrs. Parry said. "His legacy will be those more than 670 kids he taught to sail."

In an e-mail to Mrs. Parry, John Maciegla, a well-known East Coast sailor, wrote about Mr. Parry teaching his 5-year-old son, Noah, how to handle a boat.

"One of the greatest things in my life so far was sitting on the point of the rock this past summer watching Chuck and his instructors teach Noah to sail," Mr. Maciegla wrote. "I will remember those images for the rest of my life."

Mr. Parry also counted many adults among his sailing students.

"We did not have a junior sailing program at Rock Hall Yacht Club, and he created our junior sailing program and was the driving force behind it," Mr. Maciegla said. "He worked hard at making it a first-class program from limited resources."

Mr. Parry would spend the winter months rebuilding boats and preparing for the coming season.

"He made sure everything was ready in time for a new crop of kids and instructors," Mr. Maciegla said.

"One of his proudest achievements was bringing the USA Junior Olympic Chesapeake Bay Open Sailing Festival to the Rock Hall Yacht Club," his wife said.

Despite his failing health, Mr. Parry continued directing and teaching at the school until the end of August.

Mr. Parry went sailing for the last time the Saturday before Thanksgiving aboard the Katyuska, owned by Mr. Maciegla's brother Michael.

"He was confined to a wheelchair and they lifted him over the lifelines onto the boat," said Mrs. Parry, whose crew of nine — including Mr. Parry's eldest grandson, Steven J. Mathis, who also taught at the school — had been former students.

"They were out for four hours and went down the Chester River to Eastern Neck," Mrs. Parry said.

A memorial service for Mr. Parry will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 7579 Sandy Bottom Road in Chestertown.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Parry is survived by a son, Albert Edward Parry of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; two daughters, Vanessa Parry Ross of Sterling, Va., and Kathryn Parry Mathis of Medford, N.J.; two sisters, Kathryn Parry Martin of Colonial Beach, Va., and Logan Parry Hottle of Edgewater; and six other grandchildren.

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