Imagine if there was no gas station near your home, no mechanic to fix your car, or, when at home, no place to park your car? Island dwellers need gas, a reliable business to service our boats and motors, and a safe place to keep our boat(s) no matter the season!
Yes local marinas are definitely important island partners.
“That partnership goes both ways” exclaimed Penny Kernehan who has been meeting and serving islanders at Northern Marine near Clayton for 25 years. Penny is Rick Gregware’s sister, and with with long-time employees Al Laclaire and Frank Slate, they look forward to spring when they can welcome their customers.
Northern Marine, at Spicer’s Bay, is 3.5 miles east of Clayton, NY, has been an important part of Clayton’s business community for 31 years.
Rick and Penny grew up in Theresa, NY, and Rick’s uncle, Pete LaClair , “showed him how to sweep the floor and keep tools in good shape.” He began working at H. Chalks & Sons in Fisher’s Landing and after graduation from Jefferson Community College (SUNY). "It was at Chalks, under the direction of Harry and Duane, that I learned a great deal about marine engines and boats." Rick says. He spent the next nine years working with the River community.
In 1974 Rick and his partner, Tom Aiken, bought the Spicer’s Bay property from Gerald Marshall. Formerly a cow pasture, it had a couple of buildings for winter storage of boats. The new business, Northern Marine, concentrated on engine repairs. “The first year we installed new docks to accommodate about 15 boats. Today we have 75 slips and we store over 400 boats in the winter,” says Rick.
Over the years business expanded. It was a family affair from the beginning, “ My mother did The books for many years and my father was always there to give me a hand with all the construction projects over the years. Janet, my wife, also did the books for a while, and she was busy with the kids at that time too. My sister Penny joined soon after.”
Tom Aiken moved on to form Northern Marine Welding and Rick remained on the River. In 1994 Northern Marine became the distributor of the popular pleasure boats, Limestones by Medeiros Boats. It also serves as a brokerage house for used boats in the region.
Winston Churchill said, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give”. For the many who know Rick, and his team at Northern Marine, you will agree that it is not only the marina business that has made this business special, it is the community spirit by which they live.
Rick was working at Chaulks, when the region suffered its worst man-made disaster, The NEPCO 140 Oil Spill put about 300,000 gallons of oil into the St. Lawrence River. Rick played a role in keeping oil spill equipment running during the cleanup operations. Soon after, he joined Save the River.
In 1981 he was asked to serve on the Board of Trustees and he continues to this day. Jennifer Caddick, STR’s executive director is quick to acknowledge that “Northern Marine is certainly an 'institution' on the River and Rick is so incredibly generous with his time and contributions.” (For those of us who take the opportunity to return to Clayton mid-winter, will know the hours Rick has spent in organizing and supporting the STR Winter Weekend.)
“Rick’s quiet-and-thoughtful guidance has been so important to Save The River growth. Rick's passion for, and love of the River and our River communities, runs deep and I feel so privileged to work with him as a member of our Board”
Bud Ames, STR Emeritus Board Member and Past President, also praised Rick, "Rick has always been the strength behind the shoal-marking program, not only maintaining several himself, but also continuing to be the keeper of the "spares" and most importantly, sharing his knowledge of the River in placement and the maintenance of the markers on their shoals."
The community support does not end there. Rick and his wife, Janet, spend their summers on Grindstone Island and are involved in all the island activities. They assist in the summer programs at the Grindstone Island School house and also give countless hours to the Thousand Islands Land Trust by giving tours on their ATVs of Grindstone Island’s preserves.
Fred Morey, who also serves on STR board remembers, “Rick saved the day for me. The kids had left the boat empty of gas and as usual I was anxious to get to Grindstone and didn't even look at the gas gauge. It was blowing hard and I ran out of gas in the channel. Fortunately, I found Rick's phone number and he was kind enough to bring out 5 gallons and never a word about my stupidity! Yes, he's a River treasure.”
Dorothy Topping on Grenell Island remembers one day in late October when she left her dock and headed into a westerly wind. That was a low-water year and the shoreline was treacherous. When the engine quit she thought nothing about climbing over to try to pull the boat off the rocks. “But I realized I was not able to do much and I needed real help and fast”, she said, “I called Rick at Northern Marine and in a very short time they sent two people out to help. I was so fortunate as there were no other neighbors around at that time of year. One day, I fell day on the dock and Penny immediately drove me to the emergency for medical help”.
|” Yes, I did have hair at one time and being in this business has removed most of it!
|| In the beginning….
||Restoration work includes frberglass work.
As summer 2011 begins and islanders come back to the River it is nice to know that the staff of all the marinas are launching our boats and getting ready to continue that great partnership we have established between boaters and those of us who need – Gas, mechanics and docking space! Thanks!
By Susan W. Smith, email@example.com
[Special thanks to William (Bill) Munro for assisting with the photography for this article]