Eight Bells: Tom Weschler
Published on April 10th, 2016
America lost a passionate supporter of sea education and distinguished Navy veteran when Vice Adm. Thomas R. Weschler, born in Erie, Pa. and a long-time resident of Newport, R.I. passed away April 3, 2016. At the age of 98, he was still the “force of nature” he had been while serving his country through WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and then “retiring” to Newport to teach at the Naval War College.
With his inspiring sense of purpose and strong moral compass, he helped establish the American Sail Training Association (now Tall Ships America) in 1973; was the key figure in organizing the massive Tall Ships Festival that took place in Newport in 1976 during the nation’s Bicentennial (as well as subsequent Tall Ships Festivals in Newport); and at the ripe young age of 90 was central to the construction of the 200-foot Class A Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry, Rhode Island’s official sailing education vessel.
Though his illustrious Navy career, for which he was awarded two Distinguished Service Medals, was a source of great pride and (unsolicited) notoriety for the always-humble Weschler, sailing and sailing education were the Admiral’s true calling. In 2013, the year SSV Oliver Hazard Perry was dedicated, he told the press, “I believe there is a purity about the ocean and that anybody who goes to sea has a sense of fulfillment about what he or she is doing and what life has to offer, far beyond someone who never experienced it.”
– Barby MacGowan