Captain Carl F. Keener, bay pilot

He was a Navy veteran of World War II

  • Carl Keener
Carl Keener (Baltimore Sun )
August 05, 2012|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Capt. Carl F. Keener, a retired Chesapeake Bay pilot and World War II Navy veteran, died July 25 from complications of a lung infection at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium.

The longtime Timonium resident was 87.

Carl Franklin Kenner was born in Baltimore and raised on East 35th Street. After dropping out of junior high school, he went to sea aboard a collier that was bound for South America.

Captain Keener's maritime adventure was short-lived, but not before his ship broke down and was taken to Panama for repairs and he transited the Panama Canal.

After returning to New York, where he was paid off, he returned to Baltimore. When he was 16, he joined the merchant marine and after World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Navy.

Captain Keener was sent to the Pacific, where he was stationed at Fremantle, Australia, and served as a seaman aboard submarines USS Bluefish and USS Bonefish.

He narrowly escaped death because of being on sick leave in a naval hospital in Australia, when the Bonefish departed for its eighth and last ill-fated patrol. In June 1945 while on patrol off the western coast of Honshu, the submarine sank the Konzan Maru, a Japanese merchant ship, when five Japanese escorts retaliated and sank the Bonefish in the Sea of Japan with a loss of all hands.

Captain Keener also served aboard the USS Isabel, a submarine escort and training ship that was also based in Fremantle.

After being discharged from the Navy in 1946, he joined the Association of Maryland Pilots as an apprentice pilot. He became a bay pilot in 1954.

"For the next 41 years, he was required to be available any time day or night — taking a launch out to a ship at 3 a.m. in an ice storm, then climbing up a rope ladder in the dark," said a granddaughter, Bailey O'Malia of Abingdon.

"Piloting a ship up the Chesapeake Bay for 16 hours with a captain that didn't speak English was not an uncommon scenario," said Ms. O'Malia.

Captain Keener retired in 1990.

He was a member of the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II, and was a volunteer and docent aboard the USS Torsk docked in the Inner Harbor.

Captain Keener liked spending time at his beach house in Lewes, Del., where he enjoyed sailing his Sunfish.

Services are private.

Surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Ellen Delores Haddock; three daughters, Penelope Ann Gerlach of Reisterstown, Robin Lynn Keener of Bel Air and Lorie Ellen O'Malia of Abingdon; and five other grandchildren.

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