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News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 24, 2014
IFWA inducts three fishermen into the Fishermen’s Hall of Fame

Steve Robbins joins the Hall of Fame

Clare Grindal recognizes Steve Robbins, one of the three Fishermen’s Hall of Fame inductees for 2014 on July 20 in Stonington, Maine.

Photo by Jessica Brophy Order prints of selected PBP photos.

Three fishermen were inducted into the Fishermen’s Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 20, during the 25th annual Fishermen’s Day.

Stevie Robbins, Gerry Heanssler and Paul Sewall joined the ranks of more than 50 other fishermen who have been inducted.

According to the Island Fishermen’s Wives Association criteria, fishermen who are members of the Hall of Fame are considered to be people who have fished as their vocation, working their way up the ranks from outboard to a larger boat. These fishermen also have passed along their knowledge, helped “retrieve boats, bodies and traps,” worked for the betterment of the industry and more.

Some fishermen who are inducted into the Hall of Fame have died, some retired, and some are still fishing.

During Fishermen’s Day, members of IFWA read speeches about the inductees and recognize the inductees or their families. Below are the speeches as they were read on Sunday, July 20.

Gerry Heanssler

Read by Kelly Trundy

On September 5, 1944, Gerry Heanssler was born to Clifford and Mary Heanssler in Bristol, Connecticut. Gerry has a sister, Sandra, and a brother, Dick. As a young family, they traveled back and forth to Connecticut quite frequently to visit Nana Stanek. They enjoyed the time at the bar and grill she owned called “the Stanek Tavern.”

At the age of 5, Gerry started fishing with his father and grandfather. Before being allowed to step on the boat, his father gave him one stipulation—that he was to swim across the entire Western Cove. Putting aside the fact that he has asthma, and with determination, he swam across the cove and back three times in a row.

Almost seven years later, at the age of 12, Gerry got his first boat, a Scott Atwater outboard. According to him, the outboard rode him more than he rode it. Gerry also had a boat named the Sandra Lee that was built just for him by Arno Day at the shipyard. Before buying the fishing vessel Amy Patty in 1973, he spent time fishing with Wilbur McDonald and his grandfather.

If Gerry isn’t fishing, you can find him in the clam-flats, cutting wood, mowing the lawn or in his garden. He doesn’t travel very far.

When Gerry was younger he and a few of his good friends, Reggie Thompson, Joe Brown, Kurt Haskell, Bruce Heanssler, and Freddie Plum, were always acting mischievous and were often getting thrown out of the Opera House. He also spent a lot of time trying to outrun the constable at the time, Arnold Joyce.

In 1966, Gerry married his wife, Sherrel. They had two daughters, Amy and Patty, and a son, Brad. They have four grandchildren: Billy, Joe, Brad and Kim.

Gerry enjoys spending time with his family and loves to watch them grow and learn. One of Gerry’s favorite stories is one about him and his granddaughter, Kim. He took her hunting and they saw a big buck. He said “Grandpa better get this one,” so he shot at it and missed. “What happened, grandpa?” “It was a bad bullet.”

Gerry went on his very first flight this year, to go down and see his grandson, Billy, graduate from the Coast Guard in Virginia.

He is so proud that all his children and grandchildren are following his love for the ocean and that his granddaughter is following his love for hunting. He loves the work ethic his family has learned from him about how to put their head down and nose to the grindstone. His wife says that she is very proud of how hard a worker he is and how honest of a man he is.

Even though [he has enjoyed having] Gus Heanssler and Aldo Ciomei as mentors, he says he enjoys going by himself just as much. Fishing has brought lots of good memories and even better friendships. He enjoys his friendship with Neville Money a lot. Even though it wasn’t always fun, he can honestly say he has enjoyed fishing from Day 1.

We are proud to induct Gerry Heanssler into the 2014 Hall of Fame.

Steve Robbins

Read by Clare Grindal

Born on Christmas Eve, Steve was a welcomed present to Steve and Shirley Robbins. Raised in Stonington, he was a star basketball player, known as “Bones.” In the spring, his mind turned to fishing and his favorite paint, Newport Green. After graduation, he attended Maine Maritime Academy. The sea called too much and he headed off on a research vessel to the Antarctic.

He has made a career, both inshore and way offshore, lobstering. He has a penchant for naming his boats after family members such as the Shirley and Freeman and the Stacie V. His offshore stories have been recorded for posterity by his brother Brian in articles in the Maine Commercial Fisherman and Bearings, a book of collected stories. There may be other tales, but Steve and various members of his crew will have to tell those.

Today he fishes and plays his guitar and other instruments. There is usually a get together once a week. I’m sure some of you have had the pleasure.

Having known him all my life, I am proud to induct Stephen H. Robbins Jr. into the Fishermen’s Hall of Fame where he joins Pa an Uncle James.

Paul Sewall

Read by Andrea Kunkel

Paul R. Sewall was born April 18, 1952 to Reginald and Teresa Beatrice Sewall. He grew up in Greenhead in Stonington. He went fishing with his dad and there began his lifelong love of the ocean and lobstering. His first boat his parents gave him for his high school graduation. It was his father’s old boat along with some traps. He named it the Wendy E. It was a wooden boat built by his grandfather Levi Sewall. His second boat was the Knotty Lady. He earned his captain’s license and then captained the Finest Kind, a lobster boat that took paying customers.

He served as first mate on the sailing schooners Rachel and Ebenezer out of Key West, Florida, for a season, then on the Harvey Gamage. It was on the Harvey Gamage where he met Corinne, the boat’s chef. They married in 1988. After the birth of their daughter, Lexi, they moved to Deer Isle. Paul returned to his roots and passion, lobstering, in his own boat the Franny Ellen, a 38-foot wooden Jonesport boat. He hoped to have Corinne fish with him to keep the money in the family. She helped with the shore projects but wasn’t interested in the sternman job. One day when he found himself without a sternman he recruited Lexi and Corinne to bait pockets. Lexi thought it sounded like fun, but the fun only lasted for about two pockets. Corinne wore yellow Playtex gloves so she didn’t get her hands dirty. She baited all that day but was never asked again.

His buddy, Roger Haskell, said Paul was an accident waiting to happen. If something could happen, it would to Paul. One time when Roger launched his skiff in March, Paul really wanted to take it out for a ride by himself. Roger was hesitant but let him. He could hear Paul heading behind Greenhead. When he couldn’t hear the motor anymore he headed out rowing. He found the skiff flipped over and Paul in the water. When he asked Paul what happened, Paul said there were some ladies on the shore he was checking out and showing off for.

Roger also recalled them horsing around while fishing with Paul’s dad. Paul was cleaning the rope and throwing gobs of slime at Roger. Roger ducked at the right time and it hit Reggie, who was NOT impressed at all!

He fished until he was unable to, due to his illness.

Paul passed away May 14, 2005 at the age of 53 after a courageous battle with a brain tumor.

In the summer of 2006 the Zone C lobster Hatchery was dedicated to Paul with the words, “He loved being able to fish from this island so much and our hopes are that the community effort with the hatchery will be a part of ensuring that privilege continues for many generations.”

The Island Fishermen’s Wives are pleased to induct Paul Sewall into the Hall of Fame. Lexi and Corrine are accepting on his behalf.

Paul Sewall joins the Hall of Fame

Paul Sewall was the third inductee, honored posthumously

Photo courtesy of Corinne Sewall
Steve Robbins joins the Hall of Fame

Clare Grindal recognizes Steve Robbins, one of the three Fishermen’s Hall of Fame inductees for 2014 on July 20 in Stonington, Maine.

Photo by Jessica Brophy
Gerry Heanssler joins the Hall of Fame

Island Fishermen’s Wives Association member Kelly Trundy honors Gerry Heanssler, one of the three Fishermen’s Hall of Fame inductees for 2014 on July 20 in Stonington, Maine.

Photo by Jessica Brophy