A Final Goodbye to Stan Pocock

This article was contributed by Charlie McIntyre Jr.. Thank you, Charlie, for this beautiful piece. We hope our readers enjoy it and are as moved as we were at the service. Clicking the links in the article will allow you to download audio from the event. The beautiful photography in the gallery below was contributed by La Vie Photography

On Saturday, January 3rd, Seattle’s rowing community gathered along with members of the Pocock family, to commemorate the life of our beloved Stanley Richard Pocock. It was a beautiful send off for a man who served as an innovative boat builder, an inspirational coach, and a pillar in the world of rowing for over 70 years.

The memorial began at the Conibear Shellhouse on the campus of the University of Washington, where a capacity crowd heard testimonies to the life of a rowing legend. The room was full of rowers young and old, some wearing UW letterman sweaters that they earned while rowing for Stan when he coached at Washington back in the 1950’s. Three generations of the Pocock family were present to watch their husband, father, uncle, and grandfather be honored on the campus where it all began for George and Dick Pocock in 1912.

Mr. Kent Mitchell, a long-time friend of Stan’s who won a gold medal under Stan’s coaching as a coxswain for the pair of Ed Ferry and Conn Findlay at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, opened the service by listing the many medals that were won under Stan’s tutelage. He pointed out that no other coach in the history of American rowing has coached more Olympic champions. The extensive list of rowers and their accomplishments is truly staggering; the loyalty and admiration that these men have for Stan Pocock, however, surpasses the accomplishments that they attained. Kent emphasized that Stan never sought out crews to coach. Rather, they all came to Stan asking him to share his knowledge and expertise with them.

Next up to the podium was none other than Bill Tytus, torchbearer of the Pocock boat building tradition, sculling coach, and a rowing champion in his own right. Bill expressed the admiration and awe he felt as a young man, watching Stan and George build magnificent boats. He likened the experience to watching Stradivarius coax silent pieces of wood into a voice for the soul.

Bill reminded the audience that Stan was the first boat builder to integrate composite materials into wood boats back in the 1950’s, taking advantage of the artistic freedom he was allowed when George was off coaching the Olympic team. Knowing that his father would have tipped his ship if he knew Stanley had thoughts of replacing the wood eternal, Stan waited until George was absent, then began experimenting with a single core tube design for fiberglass shells. Years later, Stan saw his dream brought to life when he and his workmen successfully built the first mono-core composite rowing shell.

The next speaker was Charlie McIntyre Jr., son of the late rower and coach emeritus, Charlie McIntyre. As soon as he was big enough to be strapped into a life vest, young Charlie was rowed around Madison Park by his father in a Pocock wherry. He learned to row in a Pocock wherry off the dock at the Seattle Tennis Club, and described the magical joy of rowing a red cedar Pocock single for the first time when he was 12 years old. Charlie Jr. was coached by the Northwest’s great rowing trio of Charlie McIntyre Sr., Frank Cunningham, and Stan Pocock when he was sculling competitively. He remarked upon the wonderful insights that Stan would provide to all the young rowers who were privileged enough to pass before his keen eyes. Stan always offered encouragement, and was patient with the young rowers. Stan and Charlie McIntyre Sr. could often be seen chatting about rowing and sharing life stories, together with the group of Ancient Mariners rowers who held court in their own special corner of Voula’s cafe.

When Stan’s granddaughter, Sarah, came up to the podium and shared her memories, there was not a dry eye left in the house. Speaking from the heart, Sarah told of her deep love and admiration for a man who was many things to her: her poppa, her role model, her inspiration, her biggest fan, and most importantly, the guy who taught her how to make awesome Mickey Mouse pancakes. Sarah rowed in college, continuing the long tradition of Pococks pulling an oar. She recalled how Stan would always give her positive encouragement about her rowing. Sarah remembers Stan being a low key, easy-going guy who really had no airs about him. He liked to spend time with his family, just being together and enjoying each other’s company. Much like how many of us remember Stan.

The morning finished with a memorial row through the Montlake Cut to place Stan’s ashes at the finish line of the racecourse, as he had requested. The boats came pouring out of the UW shell house, reminiscent of the old days of the Husky armada. Gleaming wooden Pocock shells, rowed by the Port Townsend crew, Rat Island Rowing Club, graced the waters to commemorate the Pocock legacy. After a bit of organized pandemonium, all the shells met in “The Cut”.

The boats circled en masse around the finish line, as taps were played to commemorate the passing of our dear friend Stan. In one of the boats sat Stan’s granddaughter Sarah, oar in her lap, holding Stan’s ashes. She placed the ashes into the water, and watched as Stan returned to the earth. Each boat then paraded past Stan’s remains to pay their last respects. The rowers cast white flowers into the water as they passed for a final goodbye.

Goodbye, Stan. Our hearts will celebrate you each time hulls glide through that finish line!

Photos courtesy of La Vie Photography, ©2015, All rights reserved.

86 views0 comments