Shephard, William B. – on Sep. 20, 2021, age 91, of Oyster Bay, NY, formerly of Plainview, NY. Beloved husband of the late Joan. Loving father of William L. Shephard. Cherished grandfather of Charlotte Dreisbach. Dear brother of Edith Schubel. Also survived by many loving relatives and friends. A Memorial Service will be held at a later date. www.oysterbayfuneralhome.com
By Dagmar Fors Karppi
William Basil Shephard died on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, age 91, of Oyster Bay, NY, formerly of Plainview, NY. An electrical engineer by vocation, his avocation was sailing. George Lindsay, Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corporation president commented, “Bill Shephard was a shipwright on the restoration of the oyster sloop, and the first person I met when I volunteered to work on the Ida May, and he was the best model of how to get the job done. His skills were myriad, but no job was too big or toosmall, too trivial or too dirty for Bill. With a wry little smile and few words, he diligently went after whatever needed doing.”
Bill Shephard was distinctive in that while volunteering as a shipwright on the oyster sloop Christeen, and later on the building of a replica of the oyster harvester Ida May, he wore the
gold watch he was given when retiring after 30 years from Grumman. Why mention it? Because it was a pivotal part of his life story that he loved to share. As a returning Korean War Navy veteran, he started at Nassau Community College, but got married instead and went to work for Grumman. It was a magical story, as he told it. There he learned first-hand, what he was going to study at college, and went on to become a senior electrician engineer.
While in high school in the 1940s he had made his own television set. He was picked to work on their Star Wars program during the Reagan presidency. It was something new, being created from scratch and he said, "Every night, I would go to the library and do research to learn the next step." In the middle of the work, his retirement came up and he was asked to continue on as a consultant. Eventually, the federal government decided not to fund
it, as the next step involved microwave communications which was going to be too expensive at the time. Speaking of electrical waves:
Bill was injured in the Navy when a newbie aimed a radar gun at him by accident, resulting in medical trauma, later in life. Boating has always been a part of Bill’s life. In the 1970s, Bill and his 14-year-old son William volunteered at the South Street Seaport, weekends, working on their flagship, 325-foot Wavertree. William was a Port Captain. He got his first captain’s
license at age 9 at a US Power Squadron’s course to captain the family’s power boat. Later, the two built a Friendship sloop, that you could identify by its gaff rigged sails, summers in Oyster Bay harbor.
When the Wavertree was under renovation at a Staten Island boatyard, Bill, volunteered on weekends, again. When the ship returned to SSS, Bill was invited to join in the return trip, Sept. 24, 2016. He had made a name for himself with the Wavertree, by inventing two time-savings devices for boating maintenance, that are still used in boatyards worldwide. One is a machine to serve/twist the steel guide wires for sails, that previously took many hours to fashion by hand. He also crafted a gadget for oiling the steel ropes/lines on the ship. Made of copper tubing that slides down the lines, oiling them on its way. Before his invention,
sailors, slid down the wires, in a Bosun’s chair doing the job. A few years ago, he made a replacement piece for Wavertree and one or the Christeen, too.
Designing came in handy when volunteering with the Christeen Oyster Sloop Preservation Corporation that restored the vessel, now on the National Register of Historic Places and currently operated by the WaterFront Center of Oyster Bay for marine education and recreation. For several years he worked on the staff of the WFC. Jennifer Sappell said, “Bill may have been the best gentleman I ever met. At The Waterfront Center, it was wonderful to witness the intersection of fun, expertise, humility,
Bill joined other Christeen volunteers, as members of her crew. Betty Tiska who crewed with him added, “Bill was amazing! He was a sailor, engineer, shipwright, sky diver, devoted husband, father, grandfather —— and a lover of heights. Several years ago, Bill climbed to the top of the lightship Nantucket to string Christmas lights. Both the climb and the lights made Bill (to his dismay) a legend.”
Fellow volunteer Jim Brannigan added, “He had no fear of heights and on more than one occasion climbed up on some rickety ladder to accomplish some task. Bill was fine, but everyone watching was very nervous.” Shipwright Josh Herman said, “When we had a problem to solve, I’d show it to Bill and the next day he’d have a solution. Magic.”
When the Ida May Project was taken on by the COSPC in 2010, he was there, and built the shed for steaming wood and honed his carpentry skills with shipwrights Dave Short and later Josh Herman. Jack Hoyt, COSPC secretary said, “Apart from all his other contributions, I especially remember how Bill always gravitated toward youngsters, including my grandchildren, who came to see the boat. He would spend lots of time explaining everything about the building process and showing them around.” (He mentored this writer about boat building.)
Bill, was proud of his granddaughter Charlotte and loved to talk about her successes, in school and sports, especially one Monday when he bragged, “She did a hat trick in ice hockey.” (That’s making three goals in one game.) The Shephard family history goes back to the 17 th century in Maryland. Bill was proud to say he had about 300 members of his
family living today. Bill served on the board of the COSPC /Ida May Project for many years, and continued working there until just recently.Beloved husband of the late Joan, he is survived by his
beloved son William L. Shephard and cherished granddaughter Charlotte Dreisbach. The brother of Edith Schubel, he is also survived by many loving relatives and friends. Donations can be made in his name to the COSPC-Ida May Project at PO Box 386, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.