Our fleet has lost its Dad

15 07 2013

Our fleet has lost its Dad.    -Sue Alexander

I think Sue summed it up perfectly in her brief statement upon hearing of the loss of our friend Joe Dissette.  To understand this 00000005statement you would have to know Joe or about Joe.

Joseph C. Dissette, 91, of Midland, MI died Tuesday July 9, 2013.

Joe was the Patriarch of the Bay City Yacht Clubs Lightning Fleet (Fleet 216) and in many ways of the Club itself.  Joe joined BCYC in 1953, as one of the founders on this new sailing club on Saginaw Bay.  At that time Joe  had the only Lightning at the Club which had  a fleet of 110s which Joe was encouraged to buy.  Instead he went out and found a couple more Lightnings and started Fleet 216.  One of my favorite quotes of Joes “I would like to be remembered for resisting the temptation, back in 1953, to sell the only Lightning at BCYC, buy a 110 and join their active racing fleet”.  I would imagine the more than 150 crew Joe trained would agree.

Joe’s love affair with the Lightning began in 1938 after he saw an article in Yachting about Olin Stephens and a new one design class he called “Lightning”.  Joe mentioned to his Dad that he would own one someday.  Joe bought his first Lightning in 1945 and owned 38 more Lightnings with his final being Carousel 35.

Joe’s leadership was evident in many aspects of Lightning sailing.  He always had his hands on the pulse of the local fleet but also was active in the District and National levels.  He set up a business, Dissette Sail Yacht Sales, as a way of bringing more people into the class by buying new and used Lightnings and brokering them to prospective sailors.  Many of the boats currently in Fleet 216 were originally one of Joe’s personal boats, or one bought from Joe’s business.  Joe and his wife Ann, were the gracious hosts to Fleet 216’s annual spring meeting which was held in their basement which is an incredible shrine to Lightning sailing.

Joe was also the teacher.  He was always calm and composed and had the patience of a saint.  He taught many the art and joy of sailing.  Many of his students would go on to own their own Lightning and many went on to become champions.  We honored Joe many years ago as a tribute to all he had done for our Lightning Fleet by renaming our series the Joe Dissette Championship Series.

Joe has been my friend for 22 years.  I am one of his new friends, many have known him much longer.  I will miss his wisdom and kindness and the phone calls out of the blue just to say hi or inquire on the family and to make sure I keep him on the Fleets email list so he can read about our antics.  Many stories have been shared this week about how Joe touched our lives and one memory that is brought up by many is Joe’s bugle which he would play leaving the dock followed by his crews emphatic “Charge” as the battle cry.

Joe will be missed but never forgot.  I think he is now sailing Carousel 36 with a huge grin on his face.





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