On Nov. 30, 2008 the Maryland Coastal Bays lost a true friend and advocate with the death of Henry Koellein, Jr.
Henry was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 2, 1926. Beginning in 1943, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps, Henry dedicated his life to fighting for people’s rights and all that he believed in, including the environment, the Chesapeake Bay, and our own Atlantic Coastal Bays.
About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Henry for the first time in Ocean City, at what was then Mulligan’s restaurant. It was the first meeting of what would become the Atlantic Coast Chapter of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association.
As with everything Henry ever did, he ran the meeting with passion and enthusiasm. After an interesting discussion of what the association was all about and the need to establish a local chapter for the Ocean City area, Henry asked for volunteers for chapter officers.
As with most organizations, there wasn’t a stampede of volunteers. So Henry, being Henry, volunteered to be President for the first year. Having already been a member of the MSSA for about 15 years, in a chapter on the western shore, I had been pushing for a local chapter for some time. So, with no other volunteers, I said I would be Vice President for the first year.
Thirteen years later, Henry was still President, and I was still Vice President. The volunteer stampede still had not started!
Henry was a man with many favorite sayings. One of his favorites was, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Well, Henry was our squeaky wheel, just as he was the squeaky wheel for every organization or club that he was associated with. As the original founder and continued voice of the Atlantic Coast Chapter, Henry was well known in and around the halls of the Maryland General Assembly, as he lobbied hard for the interests of the recreational fisherman until the day he left us.
Two years ago, Henry needed to give more time to his family due to some very tragic circumstances. He stepped down as President, and asked me to take his place. I knew I could never fill his shoes, but agreed to because I knew it was important to him. Even with this, the next two years Henry continued as Senior Vice President, our representative on the State Board of Directors, and our lobbyist in Annapolis.
Henry had a little problem hearing in last few years, but we never had a problem hearing Henry! The more passionate Henry became when speaking, the louder he got, a microphone he did not need. He loved flounder fishing to the extent I once heard him say, "I never met a flounder I didn’t like.” I don’t know if there are flounder in heaven, but if not, I can assure you that Henry has already started a committee to find out why not.
Henry will be missed by his family, his friends, the MSSA, and by the Coastal Bays. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have been able to have called Henry my friend.
Atlantic Coast Chapter of the Maryland Saltwater Sportsfishermen’s Association.