Captain Woodrow W. Wilson, 98, died peacefully May 4, 2011, at The Homestead in Cushing.

Born in Thomaston on Sept. 30, 1912, he was the son of George E. and Minnie Clark Wilson. He lived in Thomaston until the age of 6, when he moved to his grandfather’s South Thomaston farm. Educated in local schools, he was a 1930 graduate of Thomaston High School.

That summer he worked at the former Hewett Bottling Works in Thomaston. On Sept. 6, 1930, Woody followed the beckoning of his father’s cousin, Ross L. Wilson, captain of the S.S. Kentuckian, and joined that ship’s crew as an ordinary seaman. At that time he earned his keeps and $15 a month.

He later transferred to the S.S. Californian, one of only two diesel-powered motor ships at that time. He studied navigation under the tutelage of that ship’s navigation officer, and at that officer’s direction, sat for his 3rd mates license.

During that time he continued shipping the East/West Coast route, aboard the S.S. Californian. After spending three months in Philadelphia during a National Seaman’s Strike, in 1937 he signed on with the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, and sailed from Philadelphia aboard the S.S. Coloradan. He continued serving aboard that ship and by 1942, had become the chief mate, second in command.

While in the port of Philadelphia, on May 23, 1942, he married Martha E. Whitehill, his childhood friend and high school sweetheart. After a one-day honeymoon, he returned to sea aboard the Coloradan, and his bride returned to Thomaston by train.

He ultimately earned his masters license while on the Coloradan, which had been taken over by the government during World War II. He sailed on that ship to various ports around the world, returning to the U.S. with raw supplies for the war effort.

While sharing his story of the Coloradan with Larz F. Neilson for a January/March 2011, Coastal Journal article, Captain Wilson recounted much of the following information. On Oct. 9, 1942, the Coloradan was returning from Iran loaded with gold and magnesium, when at 11:54 a.m. it was torpedoed by a German submarine. The engines were shut down immediately and the ship flooded instantly. As the radio was destroyed in the explosion, no distress calls were sent. The ship sank in four minutes, taking six men in the aft quarters with her. Survivors abandoned the ship on four life rafts and two lifeboats. The men were ultimately divided among the two lifeboats with Mr. Wilson in charge of one. His boat was spotted off Capetown, South Africa, Oct. 19. The other lifeboat had been rescued Oct. 14.

After recuperating several days in a Capetown hospital, upon his release from the hospital, Wilson was repatriated to the U.S. aboard another American-Hawaiian Steamship ship, the S.S. Hawaiian.

Captain Wilson returned to his hometown of Thomaston, where about six months later he received a draft card in the mail. Rather than being drafted, he returned to the merchant marine. Again as a captain, he transported troops from the U.S. to Italy. As the war progressed, he transported troops between Naples and North Africa and also transported German prisoners from Italy to the United States. When the war was over, as captain of a Liberty Ship, he had the honor of bringing troops home.

He later transported sugar and other supplies back to Germany.

Returning to Thomaston, he worked for Gulf and Chevron, running a small tanker out of Rockland, delivering oil around the Maine Coast.

More recently, until his retirement, he worked with Maine State Ferry Service as a captain of ferryboats serving coastal Maine islands.

In retirement, he enjoyed gardening and spending time with his wife, family and friends. Part of the Wilsons’ social life included daily trips to the grocery store and eating out, where they visited and talked with everyone. The Wilsons were regular customers at the former Dave’s Restaurant in Thomaston.

Captain Wilson was a longtime member of the Thomaston Baptist Church, Williams-Brazier Post No. 37, Orient Lodge of Masons and Thomaston Historical Society, all in Thomaston. He was a life member of the Thomaston Historical Society, a member of the Boston Marine Society and the oldest living member of the New York Marine Society.

For several years Captain Wilson resided at The Homestead in Cushing, where he considered all the staff as his own family.

He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Martha, in 2007; his sister, Harriet Newbert; and a nephew, Clifton Hunt.

He is survived by nieces and nephews including Joan L. Powell of Rockland, Patricia Sullivan of Camden, Barbara Blum of Thomaston, Charlena Burns of Vermont, Sylvia Crane and her husband, John, of Port Clyde, Norman Whitehill Jr. and his wife, Sandra, of Waldoboro and Rebecca Gadbois and her husband, Norman, of Biddeford; two cousins, Kennedy Wilson and his wife, Mary Ellen, of South Thomaston and Donald Reilly and his wife, Barbara, of New Harbor; as well as many great-nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will be held Monday, May 16 at 2 p.m. at Thomaston Baptist Church. The Rev. Wayne Sawyer will officiate. Interment with military honors will follow in Village Cemetery on Erin Street in Thomaston. In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to the Thomaston Baptist Church, 112 Main St., Thomaston, ME 04861.

Arrangements are with Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock St. in Rockland. To share a memory or story with Captain Wilson’s family, visit his guest book at