Eight Bells: Hale Walcoff
Published on October 6th, 2023
Hale Walcoff passed away on September 30, 2023. He was 67 years old. A lifetime on the water made him appreciate nuance and the power of things unseen, and he loved his family, his friends, his dog, his work, and God (not necessarily in that order).
As managing director of Challenge Outdoor, Hale applied the sum of knowledge acquired throughout his career in the marine and outdoor industries (including stints at North Sails, Goetz Custom Boats, New England Ropes, GMT Composites, and Dimension-Polyant) to developing high-tech, environmentally friendly fabrics for outdoor enthusiasts (strong, lightweight, recycled materials for backpacks, bike bags, tents, etc.).
He loved solving problems for customers and truly valued every relationship—whether for a global industry leader or a mom-and-pop shop serving a specialized niche.
Hale is an internationally recognized sailor, whose accomplishments include multiple World and National Championships, a Collegiate National Championship and induction into the Tufts University Athletic Hall of Fame, and a Pan Am Games Gold Medal.
However, his greatest achievement on the water was the quiet joy he found in feeling the wind, anticipating the shifts, noticing the current and tides, and trimming a beautifully shaped sail on a perfectly tuned boat. He appreciated the journey as much as the destination.
When he moved “back” to Vermont in 2020, he knew he had come home—sailing on Lake Champlain, hiking and skiing in the Green Mountains, riding his bike on quiet country roads. He was the ultimate grill-meister, a dancer in the kitchen, a storyteller, hand-holder, Yahtzee champion, and hot fudge aficionado. And he always knew when the weather was going to change.
Kindness ran through his veins; honesty was the marrow in his bones. If you were to ask him what in his life made him most proud, he would have a long list to choose from, but would answer, without hesitation, that it was his daughter Wendy. Every day of the week. His gratitude for simple pleasures—whether a golden sunset over the lake or a perfectly grilled hamburger—made him wealthy beyond measure. His faith lifted him up and carried him over troubled waters.
Hale will be profoundly missed by his wife of 31 years, Nellie Walcoff; daughter Wendy Walcoff; sister and brother-in-law, Stefi and Steve Flanders; faithful companion, Olive; and friends too numerous to count, who count themselves lucky for having him in their world.
Donations in Hale’s name can be made to the sailing program at Camp Newfound/Owatonna in Harrison, ME or Addison County Home Health and Hospice in Middlebury, VT.