John L. Stuart, Lobsterman

Aug. 26, 1950-April 9, 2013

   John Lorie Stuart, known as Jeb to his many friends, was a man of the sea. He grew up in Montauk where he became a gregarious part of the local tribe of surfers. He was a lobsterman, a merchant seaman, and a decorated Coast Guard petty officer. During the past week, friends spoke of his contagious optimism and his bright and generous spirit. Mr. Stuart died on April 9 of liver and kidney failure. He was 61.
    A week before he died, Mr. Stuart wrote his own obituary.
    “In my life I have had many accomplishments. Personally, I believe my greatest accomplishment is that I will pass soberly,” wrote Mr. Stuart, who had struggled with alcoholism for many years. “I have suffered a brief illness from alcohol abuse which I overcame and feel it to be one of my richest rewards.”
    He was born in New York City on Aug. 26, 1950, the son of John and Margaret Stuart. He graduated from Wheatley High School in Old Wesbury but spent the rest of his early life in Montauk. He graduated from New York Maritime College with the class of ’73.
    In 1978, he joined the Coast Guard. He wrote in his obituary that he was “selected for lieutenant, two full stripes. I was very pleased with the work I did while in the Coast Guard, which included receiving the Commandant’s individual Commendation Medal.” He served for six years, including two years in the reserves.
    In 1982 he went to work with the Portland Pipe Line Corporation, based in Portland, Me., as an operations supervisor. He rose through the ranks to become the company’s oil movements manager. Mr. Stuart also ran his own business, John Stuart and Company of Portland. The company conducted safety inspections on tankers that called on Portland Harbor.
    But above all, Mr. Stuart was a lobsterman who fished at various times from Long Island to Cape Elizabeth, Me., over a 35-year career. He named his boat Babe, his mother’s nickname. For years it was docked at Fisherman’s Wharf in Portland. At one point, he fished as many as 800 pots. A photo of him handling one of his lobster traps became part of an advertising campaign for Maine tourism in the 1980s. For the past seven years, Mr. Stuart was involved with Catch a Piece of Maine, a marketing venture created by two young lobstermen in Portland.
    Mr. Stuart’s two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by two daughters, Gretchen Stuart of Roswell, Ga., and Jennifer Stuart Piacentini of Milton, Ga.
    “He called us his stern men,” Ms. Piacentini was quoted as saying last week. “He raised us on the water. He played on the water, lived on the water, and worked on the water.”
    Mr. Stuart also leaves his sister, Alison Kip Stuart Kennedy of Stuart, Fla. His brother, Bart Stuart, died before him. A memorial service is being planned for early summer at a date to be announced.