Mr. Hoey )
When Capt. William Hoey III told people about his plan to open a ferryboat service along the Detroit River, most thought the idea was absurd. But his love for the city of Detroit and his nautical leanings motivated his venture.
“He traveled to Chicago, Cleveland and Baltimore and saw boat tours,” said Steve Carrothers, his son-in-law. “He said, ‘I can do it in Detroit,’ and 23 years later his vision is still going strong.”
Mr. Hoey, owner and operator of Diamond Jack’s River Tours and Gaelic Tugboat Co., died Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, after a nine-year battle with multiple myeloma. He was 75.
Born and raised in Ferndale, Mr. Hoey’s interest in boats was fostered while spending summers at his uncle’s cottage in northern Canada. After joining the Great Lakes Maritime Institute at a young age, he served as an editor of their publication Telescope.
“Bill was quite an institution on the Detroit River,” said friend Paul Jagenow. “He was in love with the water since he was a little kid.”
In 1956, Mr. Hoey graduated from Ferndale High School, after which he briefly served in the Navy.
Upon returning to Detroit, Mr. Hoey began working part time in the tugboat industry. It wasn’t long before he bought his first tug, the Tipperary, and founded his own enterprise, Gaelic Tugboat Co., in 1964.
By the late 1970s, he acquired two towing companies, earned his master’s license and saw his fleet grow to 15 tugs. As the company expanded, Mr. Hoey worked full time and had earned the esteem of Michigan’s boaters.
“He was one of the most knowledgeable guys about shipping in the Great Lakes,” Jagenow said. “He was an encyclopedia of nautical information.”
Mr. Hoey was initiated into the Detroit Lodge No. 7, the International Ship Masters’ Association, on March 3, 1964. He was voted lodge president in 1978 and grand lodge president in 1983, and remained a member for 49 years.
In 1991, Mr. Hoey launched a new venture, Diamond Jack’s River Tours, after buying a 65-foot former Arnold Line Mackinac Island ferry, which he named Diamond Jack.
Critics told him the Detroit riverfront was too industrial for tours at the time, but as it developed, the company, which operates three ferries, thrived, said Carrothers, who manages the company with his wife, Patty Hoey-Carrothers, who now owns it.
“Bill loved the water,” Carrothers said. “That was his lifeline. Everything revolved around the water. Fortunately for him, his passion was his livelihood.”
In addition to his daughter and son-in-law, he is survived by his wife, Katy; his daughter, Susan Pomerleau; a grandson, Nicklaus Carrothers; and a sister, Catherine Roberts. Mr. Hoey was predeceased by his son, William A. Hoey IV.
A memorial service was Saturday.