Benjamin A. Havens, 69, a Springs bayman with fisherman forebears back to the 19th century, died at Northport Veterans Hospital on Saturday after a short illness. He was diagnosed with a progressive form of cancer less than two weeks ago.
Born on March 29, 1945, to the former Anna Hollander and William E. Havens of the East Hampton branch of the family, he grew up in Amagansett. While still at the Amagansett School he went ocean haul-seining with Captain Ted Lester’s crew and gill-netting for sturgeon with Capt. Frank Lester. As a student at East Hampton High School, he fished with Capt. Milt Miller, power-seining and gill-netting in Gardiner’s Bay. After graduating high school in 1964, he went full time with Ted Lester.
In 1966 Mr. Havens joined the Army. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat in Vietnam. Upon returning home, he married the former Mary Emma Munkenbeck, in 1969, and soon started his own ocean haul-seine crew.
The Havens crew eventually included his father, his uncle Lindy Havens, and his brother Billy Havens. His family wrote that “he built his own ocean dories, bay sharpies, ocean haul seines, gill and trap nets, lobster and conch pots, and scallop dredges.” The crew fished together through the 1980s until New York State banned haul-seining for striped bass, the “money fish.”
Mr. Havens went to work after that for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as captain of the David H. Wallace, surveying Peconic Bay in a long-term study of young-of-the-year finfish. His family said he mentored many young fishery biologists and technicians in the course of that job, which lasted 20 years. In 2007, working alongside his son, Michael Havens, he returned to his life on the water, clamming, oystering, scalloping, and gill and trap-netting. Right to the end, he kept on teaching. His daughter, Jeannie Stillwachs, said yesterday that he loved nothing more than taking his grandson fishing and clamming.
He was a member of the American Legion, and a charter member of the East Hampton Baymen’s Association and the East Hampton Dory Rescue Squad.
Mr. Havens is survived by his wife, who lives in Springs, and two children, Michael Havens of Springs and Ms. Stillwachs of East Hampton. He also leaves two brothers, Billy and Nick Havens, both of East Hampton, and three sisters, Connie Collona and Lillian Havens of East Hampton and Marion Havens of Hicksville. Three grandchildren survive as well.
There will be a graveside service at Oak Grove Cemetery in Amagansett at 1 p.m. on Saturday.