ST. MICHAELS — The Talbot Watermen’s Association and Gov. Larry Hogan honored four local watermen and remembered 15 during an opening ceremony for the eighth Watermen’s Appreciation Day on Sunday, Aug. 13, at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
The four local watermen who were honored with Governor’s Citations and citations from the Maryland General Assembly were Clifford “Big Daddy” Wilson, Capt. Stanley Larrimore, Capt. Woody Faulkner and Joe Spurry Sr.
Talbot Watermen’s Association President Jeff Harrison said Faulkner began crabbing when he was 16 years old. While he did have to find work on land as a carpenter sometimes, due to “hard times” on the water, Harrison said Faulkner always came back to the water.
“We want to honor him ... for the spirit he had as a waterman,” Harrison said.
Harrison said Larrimore also has been a lifelong waterman, and who started out trot-lining and oystering the Bay. For 11 years, he was the captain of the skipjack Lady Katie.
Wilson, Harrison said, is “the true patriarch of a waterman family.”
“Both of his sons are watermen. One of his daughters married a waterman. All the male children, his grandchildren, are watermen. All of the great-grandchildren are watermen,” Harrison said.
Harrison said he grew up next door to Wilson and knows firsthand how hard Wilson has worked throughout his life.
“This man is 92 years old, and he just quit, laid down his dip net, like four years ago. At 88, he was still crabbing,” Harrison said. “I’m 59, and there ain’t no way, in 29 more years, I’m gonna be doing this job. There’s no way.”
Joe Spurry Sr.’s granddaughter, Eliza, read a statement before her grandfather was honored. She said her grandfather began working the water in the early 1960s — oystering, crabbing and becoming one of the first soft-shell clammers.
“There was never just one job for Mr. Spurry,” Eliza Spurry said. “He always wanted to do more.”
After working the water for many years, Eliza Spurry said her grandfather began selling his own crabs and oysters, and eventually began buying other boats’ products, which led to the creation of Bay Hundred Seafood.
She said Bay Hundred Seafood has become one of the largest wholesale distribution companies in the area. Spurry Sr. purchased a processing plant in McDaniel in 1984, where he continues to sell Miles River brand crabmeat, locally and nationally.
In 1991, Spurry Sr. and his family opened Chesapeake Landing Restaurant, employing hundreds, Eliza Spurry said. Recently, she said, Spurry Sr. opened a crab carryout business in Baltimore, creating more jobs.
“He has become a very respected businessman in this community and I am proud to call him my grandfather,” Eliza Spurry said.
“A key part of our mission at CBMM is the preservation of both the history and people of the Chesapeake Bay,” CBMM President Kristen Greenaway said. “Chesapeake watermen have long been a quintessential element of life on the Bay, and we’re very happy and proud to help celebrate that.”
In addition to the honorees, local watermen who passed away this past year were remembered during the opening ceremony.
“This year, for some reason, was very hard on our watermen community,” Harrison said. “We lost 14 watermen — either that were full-time watermen or part-time watermen — this year. We have special guests here today — some of the family and the loved ones — and we want them to know that we suffer along with them with their loss, because these were our friends. These were people that we seen every day.”
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum President Kristen Greenaway said the museum recently lost a friend to the museum and husband to one of their staff members, Capt. Curtis Johns of Crisfield, making the total number remembered during the ceremony, 15.
After reading the names of the 15 watermen, the Point Lookout Bell Tower on CBMM’s campus rang 15 times.
Those who were remembered were Capt. Johnny Bridges, Capt. Eddie Higgins, Capt. Tommy Hambleton, Capt. Lewis Jones, Capt. Pete Forrest, Capt. Jack Cummings, Capt. Gary Fairbank, Capt. Greg Wilson, Capt. Ben Marshall, Capt. Norman Murphy, Capt. Howard Mende, Capt. Harvey Reed, Capt. Morgan Wallace and Capt. Charlie Schnaitman.
Harrison also gifted Hogan with an apron from the Talbot Watermen’s Association, signed by its members.
“Now you have the boots and you have the apron, and we just want to let you know, in five or six years, when you’re done running this state, that if you ever want to come over here and find something to do, any watermen on this Eastern Shore would be glad to take you with him,” Harrison said.
Hogan said he was honored by the gift.
“We love the watermen, particularly here on the Shore — the Talbot Watermen’s Association. Thank you for putting on this event. We appreciate what you do every day. We want you to know that we’ve got your back down in Annapolis and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to help you,” Hogan said. “When they kick me out of that house in Annapolis, whenever they throw me on the streets, I might come down here and see if I can get a job with one of you guys.”