Samuel F. Manning ’54 died on July 9, 2019, in Camden, Maine.
(The following was published in the Penobscot Bay Pilot on July 16, 2019:)
Marine illustrator, builder, craftsman, teacher, harmonica player, sailor, and oarsman, Samuel Manning, Camden Maine, cast off and died gracefully at his home at 12:08 a.m. July 9, 2019. The town clock rang at the moment of his passing, welcoming him in his transition to his next great adventure.
Sam is survived by his wife, Susan Manning, and daughters, Erika Manning and Hilary Manning, as well as by a wonderful and caring community of friends.
Sam grew up during the Great Depression and spent his youth on Sunny Meadow Farm in Robertsville, Connecticut, established in 1937 by his mother as a work study farm for wealthy young boys and girls. Sam began his love of carpentry at Sunny Meadow Farm and he was taught true craftsmanship and construction skills through several mentors—skills he employed throughout his life. A pond at Sunny Meadow Farm and summers at Fairfield Beach, CT, captivated him and cultivated his love of the water. His life on the farm during the depression taught Sam to use what was available and he remained resourceful throughout his life.
In 1943, gas rationing due to World War II and a series of family events made remaining on the farm difficult for Sam’s family. Sam’s mother and stepfather drove Sam and his sister Penny across country via the infamous Route 66 to Newport Beach, CA, where Sam became a Sea Scout. Sam’s love of the water grew to a lifestyle—beginning when and he and his Sea Scout friends built their own diving suit with air fed helmet and used derelict dinghy’s to play in the surf.
As Sam grew older he worked summers sailing in Newport Harbor as a deck hand on the 75-foot wooden yacht “Sirocco,” previously owned by Errol Flynn.
After high school, Sam moved back to the east coast where he enlisted in the Navy for a year and was assigned aboard DDG Sarsfield, a destroyer operated in Key West.
As a quartermaster striker, Sam taught himself navigation by spending leave time up in the bridge studying and becoming proficient in the art of navigation.
Following his first enlistment, Sam worked a year at Nevens Yacht Yard on City Island, New York, and at Derecktor’s Yard in Mamaroneck, New York. Sam returned to school where he spent a year at Bowdoin College studying to be an engineer. Due to the Korean war, Sam was called back to the Navy for two additional years with a fleet cruise up to Thule North Greenland in an LST.
When Sam returned to Bowdoin after his second stint in the Navy, he caught up with his friend Bob Peary (son of Admiral Robert Peary who is best known for reaching the geographic North Pole with his expedition in 1909). Bob had found a 23-foot dory frozen in the sand at Reid State Park Beach and didn’t have to convince Sam to chop her out of the ice and sand. Sam rebuilt her and in the summer of 1955 Sam and a Navy buddy, Don Loomis, rowed and sailed to Cape Breton Island, Canada, with a goal of reaching Newfoundland. However, they were thwarted by several storms including the remnants of Hurricane Carol, as well as the impending start of the fall term at Bowdoin, and Sam and Don were forced to turn back.
After college Sam was a trainee at American Export Line, a Steamship company in New York. Sam then worked as a Salesman for Alexander Hamilton where he soon became the top New England Salesman in the organization. Though a great salesman, carpentry was his calling and Sam transitioned to work as a carpenter for Hobbs, Inc., Custom Luxury Home Builders, where he was quickly promoted to foreman.
A self-taught illustrator, Sam’s official career began in a small cabin back in Cape Breton Island, Canada, where he and his first wife, Helga, spent a year in which Sam honed his illustration skills and contacted the well-known publication Maine Coast Fisherman in Camden, Maine (which became National Fisherman) and was commissioned to submit articles and drawings to the magazine.
Sam’s work with Maine Coast Fisherman brought him to Camden where he was then commissioned to produce six drawings of a schooner called Silver Heels, which was under construction. After presenting his work, the Naval Architect, Murray Peterson, pronounced them “the best damn drawings he had ever seen.”
Sam moved back to Connecticut with Helga where his daughters were born, but returned to Camden in 1969, settling in Maine permanently.
In 1972 Sam and Helga divorced and in 1975 Sam met Susan, who became his second wife. Sam and Susan became a harbor fixture, where they rowed and sailed the fourth of Sam’s dory’s almost every day, rain or shine for over forty years in Camden Harbor and elsewhere.
During the latter half of Sam’s life, he continued his work as an illustrator and authored, co-authored and illustrated several books, and was a frequent contributor to Wooden Boat Magazine and other publications. Additionally, Sam was a gifted commercial artist.
Sam and Susan rebuilt a 1930s barn with craftsmanship, skill and care.
In 1998 Sam and Susan were featured in a video documentary, aired on PBS, called Islands In Time part of an Anyplace Wild series. They were filmed as they rowed and sailed over twenty miles of open ocean to the remote Matinicus group of islands.
Sam Manning has left behind an incredible legacy – his simple way of living, his attention to detail, his quality craftsmanship—whether in boat building, house building or furnishings— is meant to stand the test of time. Many of Sam’s illustrations have and will continue to be preserved at the Penobscot Marine Museum where future generations can experience the art of craftsmanship carefully preserved in illustration. Perhaps his most powerful legacy is one he was not aware of. Sam was self-taught in most aspects of his life, and he was eager to teach people what he learned. His students, who he would call his friends, have embraced his lessons and his legacy will live on through others and kept teaching us up to the end how to live and how to die with grace.