Gloria and Buddy Melges at the 2007 Northwest Regatta at Menominee, MI. Buddy won the Class A Skeeter title that regatta. Photo: Chris John
Buddy Melges 1930 – 2023 He Was One Of Us
The ice sailing community grieves with the Melges family and with our friends from the Skeeter Iceboat Club on their loss.
Iceboating is a sport that is often difficult to comprehend for the uninitiated. It’s hard for people to understand the effort, perseverance, and rewards that come with the exhilaration of sailing on a frozen lake with your closest friends and then spending the evening rehashing every tack and jibe.
Buddy was one of us. He spoke our language and probably invented many of our sayings. Our sport has gained much positive attention thanks to Buddy’s remarkable accomplishments, including those in the Olympics and America’s Cup.
My brother. Ron Rosten and I grew up around the ice sailing legends like Buddy, Mattison, and Ripp. Buddy was just another ice sailor out on the ice, albeit a damned good one. (I hate to admit this, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized that Buddy was an Olympic sailor and why they called him “The Wizard of Zenda.” – DW)
In May 2022, he spoke at Bill Mattison’s funeral, where he fondly remembered his friend’s genius and their successful America’s Cup campaigns. It was probably the last time many of us saw him.
Buddy was a second-generation iceboater who won so many iceboating titles in almost every class that I’ll need time to tally it all up.
What a life.
Statement from Melges Performance Sailboats Facebook Page
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the peaceful passing of Buddy Melges. Today, we honor the remarkable life and enduring legacy of a man whose contributions have left an indelible mark on our hearts and the world of sailing.
As we mourn the loss of a visionary and celebrate a life well-lived, we invite you to share your cherished memories with us as we collectively pay tribute to Buddy’s life. Your heartfelt stories and messages of remembrance are a testament to the profound impact he had on our community.
Marv Luck sailing his Johnson B Stern Steerer at the 2010 Northwest Ice Yacht Association regatta. Photo: Gretchen Dorian
The South Side Ice Yacht Club in Oshkosh, WI, lowered their flag to half mast today in honor of Marv Luck, who passed away this morning, October 20, 2022.
Marv was the epitome of a Lake Winnebago stern-steerer sailor who loved this sport more than just about anyone. Marv collected Lake Winnebago ice sailing videos, newspaper articles, and photos which he always shared with me. My files are filled with Lake Winnebago history, thanks to Marv.
Rest in peace, Marv.
UPDATE: October 21, 2022:
Services will be held on Sat 10/29 at Fiss & Bills-Poklasny Funeral Home 865 S Westhaven Dr Oshkosh. Official obituary will be posted later.
Visitation will be held from 9:30-11:00am, Service at 11:00 and burial at Riverside to follow. We are also going to hold a light luncheon at the South Side Ice Yacht club following the burial
The ice sailing community mourns another one of our sailors. Terry Erwin of Wayzata, MN, passed on August 15, 2022, after a long illness. Terry sailed in the DN and Nite classes and knew how to make an iceboat go fast. His presence has been greatly missed these past few years. He was always willing to share his knowledge. An example is an article from the 2012 Nite Newsletter, posted below as a way to honor and remember the remarkable sailor he was.
Via Jeff’s brother, Dave Lallier: “…[here’s] Jeff when he was pulling sheet and I was at the tiller of our C Class Stern-Steerer, COUNTRY WOMAN. He sailed Renegades as well as the Johnson A Class Stern-Steerer that we have, and of course, the Flying DUTCHMEN that he restored back to sailing condition.”
The iceboating community extends our deepest sympathies to the family of Jeff Lallier who passed on August 8, 2022. Jeff was a lifelong Lake Winnebago Stern-Steerer sailor and had raced a Renegade in recent years. Link to obituary and funeral events.
“He would have hated this.” Billy Mattison reminded the packed room at Gunderson’s Funeral Home about the humble nature of his father, Bill. The memories of Bill shared by those who had preceded Billy were unique and moving. It was a privilege to witness a group of highly accomplished individuals speak in awe of their friend. Here are a few highlights from the people invited by emcee Don Sanford to share their best stories.
Bill organized the building of a new hull for the world’s largest iceboat, Rick Hennig’s DEUCE. Rick recounted that experience with great affection and humor. When Bill saw the semi-truck full of Sitka Spruce roll into the shop parking lot, he turned to Rick and said, “That’s the stuff dreams are made of.”
Bill’s neighbor said that when Bill came over to watch him tinker in his garage, it was “like God himself coming to watch a mere mortal.”
“Yeah, I know a little about that.” America’s Cup veteran, Larry Malik, recalled Bill’s typically understated reply when asked if he could fix a photo processing machine during an AC Australian campaign. Larry shared the famous story of the day Bill took the film of the AC boat to the one-hour photo store, where he learned that the store’s processing machine was on the fritz. Bill fixed the machine and came back with the pictures.
Lon Schoor, Bill’s long-time Mendota Yacht Club A Scow partner, marveled at no matter how complicated the project; Bill was so organized in his thoughts that he didn’t have to write anything down and always made the deadline. He left us laughing with a story about how Bill schemed how they would sell the idea of buying an A Scow to their wives, Donna and Mauretta. Bill told Mauretta that Lon had purchased the boat, while Lon was to tell Donna that it was Bill’s boat.
Dr. Kyle Metzloff, a sailor, ice sailor, and UW Professor of Industrial Metal studies, spoke about Bill’s genius and ability to pick up new and complicated ideas. Having never dealt with computers, he learned to operate a mini CNC mill for creating scale model Mattison Circus parts. At an older age, Bill figured out computers.
Peter Harken shared his amazement at Bill and Paul Krueger’s work ethic. They never wasted a minute, not even in the bathroom where Peter assumed “they had a drill press installed.” Peter acknowledged those who traveled from afar, including New Jersey Skeeter sailor Dan Clapp and America’s Cup alumni from San Diego.
Sailing legend Buddy Melges came to the podium, fixing his steely blue eyes on Mauretta and the family for a full minute, not saying a word, holding the audience in his hand while he made us wait. Buddy spoke about their America’s Cup days and how remarkable it was for a guy who came from the Scow world; Bill could make a 12-meter sail faster. “He did not sail on it, but he made it faster when he worked on it.” (Later, I heard stories in the bar about how at least one of Bill’s modifications caused a stir with some AC engineers, but they calmed down when the boat speed increased.)
“He would have hated this.” Billy Mattison reminded the packed room about the humble nature of his father, Bill. The last to speak at Bill’s Celebration of Life, Billy had to follow some esteemed acts, giants of the sailing world, who had shared stories from the podium of the man’s genius. Billy’s poignant closing remarks emphasized the private family side of Bill and his devotion to his wife of 65 years, Mauretta, their children, Lynn and Billy, and their grandchildren.
“I think it is time for a dipper.”
On our way to Gundersons, Don Anderson and I delivered cakes to the Breakwater for the post-memorial reception sponsored by the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club and Mendota Yacht Club. The manager surprised us with the news that Mauretta had called with instructions that she would be picking up the bar tab. On Monday, unsure of the damage, the two yacht clubs offered to pitch in with the bill. Mauretta said no, adamant that Bill would have insisted on it. Thanks, Bill.
Debra Rosten Whitehorse