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Ernest Washington, Jr. (1926-2017)

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Ernest M. Washington.

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PORT CLINTON — Ernest Washington, Jr., an accomplished mariner, scuba diver, and a community volunteer who was a Navy veteran of World War II, died Oct. 30 at his Catawba home. He was 90.

The family did not have the cause of death.

Mr. Washington was the captain on the Harbor Belle, shuttling between Cedar Point and Sandusky. He also ran ferryboats for what then was City of Sandusky Ferryboats in the 1980s and in the early-1990s, during which time he also ran tugboats and was a salvage diver for what then was Marine Towing, Port Clinton.

A scuba diving instructor, he owned and operated a scuba-diving shop in Mansfield, Ohio, from the 1960s through the early-1980s, also skippering dive trips on Lake Erie for members of Mansfield Skin Divers Club. He also worked as a wires and phone lines repairman for the former Pennsylvania Railroad and the former Mansfield Telephone Company from 1955 until 1983, when he retired as a  department manager.

Mr. Washington volunteered as a diver for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Underwater Rescue and Recovery Team for 23 years, from 1983 until 2006, when he retired, receiving a letter of commendation from then-U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine.

He learned scuba diving in the early 1960s in Mansfield and was certified as a diving instructor by Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

“He was one of those guys that, no matter when you called him, he was there to help,” Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick said. “He was a very big part of the underwater recovery team.”

Mr. Washington’s underwater salvage achievements in Lake Erie included anchors exhibited at the entrance to the Sandusky Maritime Museum, at Wendy's restaurant on  East Perry Street in Port Clinton, and at the Jet Express dock in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

“He was a great diver,” Rod Althaus of Port Clinton, a friend of 25 years, said. “He was very energetic. He never sat still. He was always on the go. He always had a project on his mind. And he loved boating. And he loved scuba diving. And he loved Lake Erie.”

A member and past president of the Mansfield Skin Divers Club, Mr. Washington was named the 1969 Ohio  Diver of the Year by the club members. 

“He was the hardest working man I’ve ever met. He never sat down. He was always busy. He could do anything. He could build anything, fix anything, and find anything underwater,” Julie Evans, his granddaughter, said.

She added she will always remember the time Mr. Washington took her on her first scuba dive in 1978, when she was 12, to a Lake Erie ship wreck off Kelleys Island.

Mr. Washington was born Dec. 18, 1926, to Ernest Washington, Sr., and Thelma Williams in Mansfield, where he attended Mansfield High School. Before he could graduate, he volunteered for the Navy at the end of World War II in the hope of becoming a Navy scuba diver.

He then operated landing crafts in the Pacific until the war ended. He was honorably discharged in September of 1946.

After the war, he returned to Mansfield, went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and married Dorothy Taylor. She died in 2014.

Ms. Evans said Mr. Washington used to own an amphibious Amphicar, a mass-produced car that could also be used as a boat. He drove it “straight in the water and traveled around,” most recently to the Seventh annual International Amphicar Owners Club Convention at the Celina Lake Festival in Celina, Ohio, she said. 

Mr. Washington also played softball well into his seventies and was the neighborhood handyman, fixing his neighbors’ pool lights and other electrical and plumbing problems, according to his granddaughter.

“He left his mark everywhere,” Mr. Althaus said. “Everybody knows him.”

Surviving Mr. Washington are his daughter, Linda Hooberman, two grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, and a great-great grandson.

Visitation will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Neidecker, LeVeck & Crosser Funeral Home & Cremation Service, 1124 Fulton St., Port Clinton.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the mortuary.

Contact Mike Sigov at sigov@theblade.com419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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