Leon Elwin Minzy, obituary

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 12:45pm

IRELAND — Leon E. Minzy (called Red or Minzy by family and friends) died at home on Sherkin Island, Ireland on Jan. 16, 2019.  

He was born in Lubec, ME, September 30, 1935, and grew up in Tenants Harbor, ME, one of three sons.

He joined the US Coast Guard in 1956, retiring after 22 years. He was stationed at several lifeguard stations in Maine, served as captain of the Portland Lightship and the cutter, Yankton, and spent a year in Vietnam.  

Minzy lived several years in Boothbay where he met and married Caren Carswell of East Boothbay in 1971. They divorced 13 years later but remained lifelong friends.

While in the Coast Guard, Minzy was awarded the highest honor of the Coast Guard, the Gold Lifesaving Medal. When Minzy was stationed at the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse, a violent storm blew up on February 19, 1960. A fishing vessel had run aground and sunk off Ram Island Ledge.

At daybreak someone saw a mast sticking out of the water and called the Coast Guard. Minzy and two other men went to the rescue and when they got close to the wreckage they saw the four men had managed to swim to the rocky ledge.

Minzy contacted the Salem, MA Coast Guard Air Station to request a helicopter, but Salem said the weather conditions were too severe to fly.

Minzy and the crew of the lifeboat went back to the station where they got a “peapod” (a 15 foot double-ended row boat) and towed it back to the ledge. Minzy then got into the peapod and rowed it to Ram Island, beaching it first to bale and then loading two men and rowing back to the Lifeboat. Then he went back again in terrible conditions and rescued the other two men.

For this feat of courage he was awarded the Gold Life Saving Medal.

After retiring from the Coast Guard, Minzy worked several years for Eliot Winslow, a master mariner, who owned a fleet of tugs. When Minzy stopped working for Eliot, Eliot said Minzy was the best man on a boat he’d known — quite a compliment coming from Eliot.

Minzy then learned to fly and bought a small plane that he used to spot fish for Butch Brewer.  He also used the plane as an air service between Maine and Boston.

Minzy became involved in crewing yachts between Maine and the West Indies where the good weather appealed after the freezing Maine winters. About two years later while in the West Indies, he met Maggie O’Reilly of Sherkin Island, Ireland. They married and he bought a live-aboard yacht that they sailed between Maine and the West Indies for several years, working along the way.

They moved to Sherkin Island twenty-five years ago and built a house there. Minzy loved living on the island and often remarked, cup of coffee in hand and gazing out the window, how fortunate he felt to have landed on Sherkin in his beloved house, and felt as though he’d found heaven there.

Minzy is survived by wife Maggie O’Reilly of Sherkin Island, a brother Richard of Warren, ME, (another brother Merrill (Sonny) is deceased), close cousin Dr. Frank Doran and wife Ginny of Bokeelia, FL, several nieces and nephews, and many, many friends who will miss his good nature and sharp wit.