Captain Richard Eugene Orgel, 96, passed away peacefully September 6, 2021 at Aspen Grove surrounded by his daughters. He was born June 26, 1925 to parents George “Chick” Oergel and Helen Bayman Davis Coger. He was married to the love of his life, Geraldine “Goona” Orgel for 54 years until her passing in 2020.
Richard’s love of the Great Lakes began at the age of 16 with his first job on the coal steamer Put In Bay that carried 3000 passengers and families to Put In Bay Island and Cedar Point from the Madison Avenue Dock in Toledo, OH. He sailed as a shipmate on tankers and cargo ships for years, including the Edmund Fitzgerald as third mate. He was captain of a seagoing tug coming up to the Great Lakes from the east coast. One of the few to have a Master’s License for “All Waters”, he was always admired and respected for his extraordinary sailing experience and knowledge.
As a USCG Merchant Marine, Richard served in WWII traveling through dangerous waters to provide supplies to our troops from 1944 to the end of hostilities. His active duty was aboard the vessels Thomas Macdonough, Uruguay, and the John Rutledge. After the war, in 1946 he got his dream job in New York Harbor on tugs and tankers. He was fortunate to have a career he loved so much on seagoing vessels, barges for oil and gas, and oil rigs. 54 years with his love he enjoyed traveling the United States and Europe.
Richard was passionate to tell the truth about the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Unlike big businesses, unions, and the safety regulations of today – he spent decades researching, discussing with experts and obtaining data documents to support hull failure due to poor maintenance. He testified in court during the investigation yet they faulted the experienced 29 Seamen including family friend Captain McSorley. In 2008, at age 82, he published a book vindicating the crew in the wreck of the Fitzgerald.
When Richard was in Shoreland, he was captain of the Washington Township Shoreland Fire Department, and a proud member of their championship softball team in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He was involved in community and politics, admired F.D.R. and Martin Luther King, and campaigned for Barack Obama in his 80’s.
Richard was preceded in death by his wife, parents, sister Helen Coger Kleplek, son Richard E. Orgel, and great-grandson Ryan E. Orgel. He is survived by his loving daughters Connie Orgel and Laurie (Richard) Bage, grandsons Justin Bage, Rodney Orgel and Matthew Orgel; great-grandchildren, Savannah, Dominic, and Abigail; and longtime friends, Captain Kai Hansen and Larry Barber.
The family would like to thank the dedicated staff and caregivers at Aspen Grove and Careline Hospice. Services will be private with inurnment in Toledo Memorial Park. Arrangements by Sujkowski Funeral Home Northpointe, 419-476-9176. Condolences may be shared at www.sujkowski.com.
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