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        I first met Capt. Don in the summer of 1997. I had just moved to Mobile
Alabama to work in the harbor having been assigned the Captain of his assist
boat at the then busy Mobile River Terminal (MRT). We
off -loaded Iron ore
and coke vessels into barges at a rapid rate
.  I must admit I did not like the
man in those first weeks working together.  He was  brutal. A complete
madman in “get the job done” terms; totally old school as they say; no touchy-
feely PC softness to him at all. And no patience for a new- comer kid. He gave
me orders in a constant stream during our twelve hour watches and I went
through many deckhands trying to keep pace. I remember calling my wife in
frustration one time; her advice was to kill him with kindness. Out of frustration
and desperation to be accepted by the man, I did just that, I began my
premeditated attack of kindness and persistence. I started by adopting an
ever cheerful and professional tone on the radio, thanking him for every task.
I took it even further and aggressively completed each order with an
immediate request for more. It worked. He eventually began to essentially
leave me alone, by that I mean he no longer seemed to be actively torturing
me and my crew.
     In a short time he began to trust me more and more and we became
friends, friends in that mentor-mentee way that people of different generations
do. He was a brilliant shift-boat, fleet pilot, a supreme tactician, his vessel
movements an expression of raw and elegant efficiency.  That first year was
an education for me, an apprenticeship of Masterful boat and barge handling
and a study in professionalism.  
     Capt. Don eventually retired and I took his position on the lead vessel. He
worked occasionally and I saw him from time to time over these last years.
When I found out he had died earlier today I realized it had been a year since
I had last seen him. I remember he didn’t look well then….in fact the entire
time I have known Capt. Don his life had been marked by constant physical
pain. Thoroughly undeterred, he continued motorcycling and enjoying life,
probably up until he took his last breath.  I know some of his earlier life but I
must be forgiven for not having memorized the details: the dates, places, and
     He was born in Alaska. His father was a ship Captain. He joined the Navy
and was one of the first Seals, or “Frogman” as he called it. He was an expert
downhill snow skier. He was an accomplished motorcyclist, having raced and
ridden for many years.  His penmanship was impeccable. He was a man of
intelligence, honor & integrity of the type lost at least a generation ago. His
workmanship was quality in every way. He was a professional, a mariner of the
highest standards. He was a Father. He was a teacher. He was my friend and
he will be missed.

-Robert Rishel
 March 2, 2010
Captain Don Stober