Obituary: William Revkin, 93

by | May 3, 2021

Devoted Family Man and Passionate Mariner

William “Bill” Revkin, a devoted family man, an artist in wood and watercolor, a master mariner, died on April 15 at age 93. His quiet kindness, humor and skill as a raconteur guarantee his memory will live on. He was born just ahead of the Great Depression in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the youngest of the four children of Sarah (née Meirowitz) and Barney Revkin. He spent the early part of his life in Rhode Island. As a teenager, he became enthralled by the water after attending the YMCA Camp Fuller in South Kingston, where he learned to sail and became a lifeguard. (He was a life-long swimmer right into his 90s.)

He graduated from Hope High School in Providence, delaying college to join the U.S. Merchant Marine as World War II drew toward an end. He worked in the engine rooms of Liberty ships from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean.  

After returning from sea, Bill attended Brown University, where he met the love of his life, Amelia Carol Stern, in Spanish class, serendipitously, as the students were seated in alphabetical order. For their first date, they sailed a Snipe on a beautiful day down Narragansett Bay, only to be caught in a raging sunset squall. They tied onto a buoy in the darkness and were ultimately rescued by the Coast Guard. They were married after Bill graduated from Brown. He became a partner in the family business, Bond Furniture, which was started by his father.

Bill and Amelia were lifelong sailors, cruising and racing throughout Narragansett Bay and Vineyard Sound and infusing a love of sailing in their three children by letting them, from as early as age 4, explore safe harbors alone in a “Sabot” sailing dinghy Bill built of plywood. He and Amelia were active members of the East Greenwich Yacht Club, where Bill’s involvement and volunteer work on race committees earned him a lifetime membership. Winter could not impede his passion for racing. Bill was also a frostbiter with the Seadog fleet of Wickford Yacht Club, a rugged group enduring cascades of ice sliding off sails and reviving energy with bloody marys mixed in a plastic gasoline can. He occasionally helped deliver sailboats further afield and one of his jobs in “retirement” was helping stranded boaters as a licensed Sea Tow boat operator. 

In their later years, he and Amelia set sail again, this time on cruises in waters from Cape Horn to Europe’s rivers and coasts. They lived in Stuart, Florida, for a number of years, where they volunteered at the St. Lucie Sailing Center before returning to Connecticut to avoid hurricanes and be closer to their children. A talented artist, woodworker and craftsman, Bill built delicate scale models of tall ships and the family’s sequence of sloops. He also took up sewing in order to repair sails and make sail covers over the years. And his Rhode Island style clam chowder was legendary.

In his 90s, Bill began to write a memoir, which he told his family had some “racy” moments. Someday, they may be published. In the meantime, read his 2018 essay, “When a Submarine Sunk our Sailboat” here: j.mp/asubmarinemisadventure.

Bill was predeceased by Amelia Revkin in April of 2019. He is survived by their children, Jim, Andrew, and Diana Revkin; four grandchildren, Mara, Joshua, Daniel, and Jack Revkin; and one great grandchild, Henry Revkin.

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