Joseph Leo Coburn Jr., 84, U.S. Coast Guard veteran whose greatest love was sailing Chesapeake Bay with family is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Joseph Leo Coburn Jr.
Joseph Leo Coburn Jr.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Joseph Leo Coburn Jr.,84, passed away peacefully Sunday, March 20, 2016, at Woodhaven Hall, Williamsburg Landing, Williamsburg, with his wife, Alice, and family by his side.

Joe was born in Chicago, Ill., on April 25, 1931, the oldest of five children, to Joseph L. Coburn Sr. and Margaret Coburn, now deceased. He grew up in Roxana, Ill., and graduated in 1948 from Roxana High School. Joe entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., in July 1951. He graduated May 25, 1955, commissioned as an ensign with a B.S. degree in engineering.

He and Alice McKelden McNeil were married at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Chapel on June 25 of that year and departed for his first assignment on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter out of Oahu, Hawaii. After 22 years service, Joe retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in August of 1977 at the Coast Guard Shipyard in Curtis Bay, Md., where he had been assigned as industrial (general) manager.

After his U.S. Coast Guard service, Joe became an adviser to the Imperial Iranian Navy in Tehran, Iran, as a consultant in the designing and building of a shipyard to support the Shah’s naval base in Bandar Abbas on the Straits of Hormuz. That adventure was cut short by the Iranian revolution. He and Alice were evacuated from Tehran by a volunteer Pan American crew in February 1979. He then joined Arctec Inc., a marine engineering firm in Columbia Md., as a vice president. While with Arctec, he was promoted to president of Arctec Alaska in Anchorage, Alaska. He remained with the firm until 1986.

Joe ended his professional career after 15 years as marine (ship) operations manager for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass., in 2002; he was responsible for the renovation of two research vessels for both Woods Hole and Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He worked in the construction of two other research vessels for both organizations, including the new Woods Hole mother ship, Atlantis, for the deep water submersible and, Alvin, the piloted submarine responsible for the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic.

Joe’s post-graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) included a Masters of Science Degree and Second Professional Degree, both with honors in 1961. He was a member of the Research Vessel Operators’ Committee, and was on three separate committees with University-National Oceanography Laboratory System (UNOLS).

He was a member of Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honorary), the Society of Sigma Xi (Research Honorary), the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers in three capacities including the Special Cargo Panel, of which he was chairman. He was a fellow of the Explorers’ Club. Joe was especially proud of his efforts that resulted in the establishment of the Cadet Honors program at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, which has been funded and supported by his fellow classmates in the Class of 1955. That program has resulted in the most academically-talented students receiving prestigious fellowships for post graduate studies throughout the world.

Joe loved all sports, especially football and tennis, but his greatest love was sailing the Chesapeake Bay with his family. Left to mourn his passing, in addition to his wife, Alice, with whom he was married for 61 years, he leaves his sons, retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kenneth Donald, and his wife, Dale, and Bruce Richard, and his wife, Mary; his daughter, Cecilia Alice Teal; four grandchildren, Hallie, Katherine, Jessica and Andrew; brothers, Patrick, John Michael and Timothy (Theresa), and their son, Matthew, (Mary); sister, Margaret Ann Cope; and godson, Michael John Coburn.

A memorial celebration will be held at a later time.

Capt. Coburn’s family knows how grateful he would be if friends and family were to express their love and respect for him through a gift in support of the Cadet Honors Program directed to the USCG Academy Alumni Association, 47 Mohegan Ave. New London, CT 06320-8111.

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