Eight Bells: Chester E. Halpern

Published on September 10th, 2019

Chet Halpern

Chet Halpern, 93, passed on quietly in his own bed ashore on September 6, 2019.

Chet Halpern was an extraordinarily ordinary sailor but held a deep love of the sport with its mix of physical and mental, emotional and scientific, and with all of the casual and intense beauty and adventures that come with our sport.

Chet’s interest in the sea was fostered at a young age growing up in Weehawken, New Jersey in childhood home perched on the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River bustle of ship, tugs, and barge traffic passing below his windows. Chet volunteered for the Navy, and served as an electronics mate on a destroyer escort during the final days of WW II.

After Chet’s time in the Navy, he returned to New Jersey where he was a partner in West New York Lumber and Supply. His interest in the sea grew to the point that as a young married man he had planned to build his own boat.

As the story goes, Chet ordered plans to build that boat, and when the drawings arrived, he had laid out a frame on a piece of scrap wood, and cut it out to see how hard it would be to actually build the hull.

As he was finishing the frame the phone rang with a call from his wife telling him that she was expecting his first child. As he hung up the phone, he tossed the newly made frame in a wood pile next to the potbelly stove used to warm the outdoor workers in winter.

In 1962, 12 years later he and his wife took a summer vacation at the beach. Out of boredom and curiosity they took a couple hour sailing lesson and rented first a Sunfish and later a Daysailer. They were hooked.

Months later Chet bought his first of five boats, and while influenced and largely self-taught by the popular sailing books of the day, Chet and family dove head-long into coastal cruising and racing.

In the 1960s, Chet was a member of Knickerbocker Yacht Club and a sponsor of a Sea Scout Troup until he moved to the east coast of Florida in 1969 and later relocated Sarasota in 1973, where he was the owner of a home building company. Chet was an avid sailor, and was active with and a former commodore of the Sun Coast Yacht Club.

Chet is survived by his loving wife of 41 years, Betty Jean Halpern, sons Jeffrey and Richard Halpern, stepchildren Cindy Curtis-Ashburn, Sandy Hall, and Scott Curtis, grandchildren Whitney Sich, Chris Hall, Griffin and Sage Curtis, and great grandson Asher Sich.

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