The Door County Maritime Museum is pleased to announce the recipients of the annual Door County Mariner Awards and Coast Guard Person of the Year Award. William C. “Bill” Parsons is recognized with the Mariner Award, while John D. Thenell receives a Posthumous Mariner Award. Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Brent Fike of the Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay won the Coast Guard Person of the Year Award.
The Coast Guard Person of the Year Award recognizes a local Coast Guard member who exemplifies the Guard’s core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty. The award is sponsored by the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Committee, the Greater Green Bay Chapter of the U.S. Navy League, Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club and the Door County Maritime Museum. The winner is selected from nominees submitted by the USCGC Mobile Bay (WTGB 103), USCG Marine Safety Detachment Sturgeon Bay and USCG Station Sturgeon Bay.
Presented jointly by the Door County Maritime Museum and the Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club, the Mariner Award recognizes individuals who have had a significant, positive, lasting impact on the Door County maritime community. The Mariner Award is given to one living recipient and also posthumously to historical Door County maritime figures.
Typically, these awards are presented at the annual Mariner Award Dinner during Sturgeon Bay Maritime Week. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 dinner event was cancelled; the awards will be presented individually to the winners.
Mariner Award: William C. “Bill” Parsons
As a young CPA, fresh out of a tour with the U.S. Navy, William C. “Bill” Parsons was assigned the Palmer Johnson account in Sturgeon Bay. When Pat Haggerty purchased Palmer Johnson Yachts in 1961, he added his son-in-law Martin “Mike” Kelsey II to his management team. Kelsey and Parsons became fast friends and ultimately partners, purchasing Palmer Johnson from Haggerty in 1968. As co-owner and president, Bill oversaw the company’s growth and continued successes as one of the world’s premier luxury yacht builders. Among many noteworthy accomplishments was the 1998 construction of the mega-yacht La Baronessa, at the time the world’s largest aluminum motor yacht. In 1977, Parsons created Palmer Johnson Distributors to serve as a distribution company for Twin Disc products to customers in Wisconsin and Illinois. Palmer Johnson Yachts was sold in 2000, but Palmer Johnson Distributors (renamed Palmer Johnson Power Systems in 2004) remained owned by Parsons. It’s current 65,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and service center in Sun Prairie, WI includes a full machine shop, a parts warehouse, testing area and paint booth. Palmer Johnson supplied the Twin Disc transmission for the newest Washington Island Ferry (Madonna) that was built by Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay.
Posthumous Mariner Award: John D. Thenell
John began his working life in the thriving Door County cherry business at Martin Orchards. He transitioned careers into a sales position with Marine TraveLift, where he successfully promoted and sold TraveLifts throughout the Midwest and East Coast. John’s success continued as an owner and operator of Baudhuin Yacht Harbor in Sturgeon Bay and the Fish Creek Alibi Dock. He retired in the mid-1980s. John served the Sturgeon Bay community on the Sturgeon Bay Harbor Commission for three decades, part of that time as Chair. He contributed his many talents and time to charitable maritime-related efforts around Door County, including the Door County Maritime Museum and the operation of the Quo Vadis to and from Chambers Island.
Coast Guard Person of the Year: Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Brent Fike
CWO Fike has demonstrated exceptional leadership, incredible ingenuity in solving problems, unmatched energy and charisma leading the Engineering Department aboard CGC Mobile Bay both during and following a yearlong dry-dock and complete ship mid-life extension in Baltimore, MD. While Mobile Bay transited the 2,000 nautical miles from Baltimore back to Sturgeon Bay, the propulsion generator on the #2 Main Diesel Engine experienced a catastrophic electrical fire. Mobile Bay quickly re-routed and moored in Boston for repairs. Following a week of overhaul and attempts to repair the generator, technicians determined that the cutter would require another extensive dry-dock in Baltimore costing an estimated $1.1 Million and at least 60 days. This would have eliminated any possibility of Mobile Bay operating as a Great Lakes Aids to Navigation and Ice breaking asset for the 2019-2020 season. Undeterred, CWO Fike set his engineers to diagnose the problem and rebuild the generator. Within days, Mobile Bay was back underway to the Great Lakes. Through his work and research on the propulsion generator, not only did he bring Mobile Bay back into operation on the Great Lakes, he affected change in the entire fleet of Coast Guard 140 ‘ icebreaking tugs by disseminating the lessons learned and the proper specs for the generators. These changes allowed the other cutters to make the proper adjustments and repairs to prevent other generator flashover fires. CWO Fike embodies what being a true Coast Guardsman is: relentless work ethic, fortitude in the face of trial, ingenuity with limited resources, and a leader who trains and mentors the next generation of Coast Guardsmen.