Yachting industry veteran Billy Hawkins died in Ft. Lauderdale on Sept 2 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
A “big-boat” captain from Newport in the late 1970s, Capt. Hawkins ran the 68-foot Trumpy M/Y Koala, “a big boat back then,” his friend and broker David Nichols said. He also ran the Burger M/Y Ariguani for a time.
Capt. Hawkins and his wife at the time ran the resort at White Bay Sand Castle on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands for a few years before returning to the United States in the early 1990s.
“He was a true friend,” Nichols said. “You know how it is when you don’t see each other for a while and when you meet up again, it’s like no time has passed at all. I was lucky to have him as a friend for more than 30 years.”
For the past 10-15 years, Capt. Hawkins worked in the marine electronics field, most recently as sales manager at Johnson Electronics in Ft. Lauderdale.
Before he died, his friends organized a benefit with the help of the Marine Industry Cares Foundation in which nearly 200 people attended, raising money for his family.
Capt. Hawkins was there. Though weak from cancer treatments, he smiled and talked to many of his guests. He left the event and was admitted to hospice. The nurse on duty that night told Nichols that event was all he could talk about, how touched he was that so many people were there, and how much it meant to him.
“What a way to go,” Nichols said. “If you could plan your own funeral and come to talk to everyone… He called it his last hurrah.”
He died about a week later. At his request, there was no memorial service, and his ashes were scattered in the Gulf Stream on Sept. 21.