Eight Bells: William Muessel

Published on May 4th, 2016

2016-05-04_14-53-44William Winter Muessel, 97, of Newport (RI) died on Friday, April 15, 2016 at Newport Hospital.

Born on December 14, 1918 in Duluth, Minnesota, he grew up as a fresh water wharf rat on Park Point. He graduated from Central High School then joined the Lighthouse Service on April 1, 1939 and was stationed on the coal fired, steam powered, lighthouse tender “Amaranth”, supplying the lighthouses of Lake Superior.

When the US Coast Guard merged with Lighthouse Service in 1940 he enlisted in the Coast Guard and served for 34 years. He was stationed as Light Keeper on Outer Island in the Apostle Islands and on Rock of Ages in the middle of Lake Superior where he served for five years as the Officer in Charge. In 1956 he was transferred to Kodiak, Alaska, where he made Warrant Officer while on the buoy tender “Bittersweet”. Next was Saulte Ste. Marie, Michigan where he was on the buoy tender “Mesquite” and then Commanding Officer of the tug “Naugatuck” and lastly to Newport, Rhode Island.

While in Newport he commanded both Group Newport and Station Castle Hill. At Castle Hill he was heavily involved with organizing the Coast Guard patrols for the Americas Cup races in 1963, 1967, 1970 and 1972. He retired in 1973 after serving for 34 years and was the last active duty member of the Lighthouse Service.

After retirement Bill started a second career with the City of Newport and worked for 36 years as Harbor Coordinator and Assistant Harbor Master. He was instrumental in the establishment of the modern Newport Harbor while overseeing 900 moorings in 4 areas, 3 anchorages and the navigation channels. He was involved in the harbor operations until he was 91 years of age.

Bill lived a full and adventurous life on and off the water from his time in the Coast Guard to his days as Assistant Harbormaster. He loved hockey, cigars and entertaining friends and visitors with Lois at their house on Powel Avenue. Bill and Lois traveled the world via “Space A” on military planes for many years after his Coast Guard career. He was an avid hockey player and coach who played semi-pro for the Duluth Hornets and was the president of the Sault Amateur Hockey Association.

He was a past member of the New York Yacht Club, the Newport Yacht Club, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club and the Goat Island Yacht Club. In 1968 he was the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association “Man of the Year”. Bill also received numerous awards and commendations for his involvement with many of Newport’s yachting events. He served on the Rhode Island State Yachting Committee and on the Rhode Island State Pilots Commission. He was a trustee of the First Presbyterian Church in Newport.

His wife, Lois J. Muessel and his daughter, Linda M. Melrose, predecease him.

He is survived by his sons, Robert W Muessel, and his wife, Martha, of Breckenridge Colorado; Michael G Muessel, and his wife, Beverly, of Newport; two grandsons, William J. Muessel and Michael C. Muessel, his wife, Lindsey: two great-grand daughters, Sydney Grace and Claire Sophia: and his son-in-law, Angus J. Melrose of Lymington, England.

A celebration of his life will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Newport on Friday, May 6 at 11:00 am. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be sent to The First Presbyterian Church, Everett Street, Newport, RI 02840.

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