Whit Newton, Co-Founder of American Marine, Passes Away

Pictured left to right: Joseph Kong, Whit Newton and Tony Fleming

Puget Sound Grand Banks Owners Association is sad to share the news that Whit Newton, co-founder of American Marine, has passed away. The following was shared with us from Shing Kong:

“Whit Newton, together with his father Robert and brother John, founded American Marine in the late 1950s and introduced one of the most successful brand of boats, the Grand Banks, to the world. While this fact by itself is impressive, it really does not do justice in describing the impact Whit had on the boating industry and more importantly, the positive impact Whit made in the lives of many people.

As the co-founder of Armerican Marine, Whit also employed and mentored many people who later made a significant impact on the boating industry. In the attached picture where Whit was sitting in the middle, Joseph Kong on the left later started Kong & Halvorsen that built the Island Gypsy. Tony Fleming on the right was later the founder of Fleming Yachts. Therefore, not only every Grand Banks owner should thank Whit for the Grand Banks, every Island Gypsy and Fleming owner should also appreciate how their boats can trace their heritage back to Whit.

At the beginning of American Marine, John and Whit, together with their young families, shared a large 100-year old farmhouse in the village near the Hong Kong boat yard. John and his family lived in the back. Whit and his family lived in the front. The entire extended family lived under one roof, just how the Chinese lived back then. No wonder the Chinese workers loved them.

Whit genuinely cared about his workers. Here is a story not many people know. When American Marine went bankrupt and had to close down the Junk Bay boatyard and layoff all the workers in 1975, Whit, who was on the verge of being forced out of the company he co-founded and loved, used his personal money to help pay for the severance for all the workers. As a public owned corporation Whit had no obligation to those workers. But as a gentleman, he felt that those workers had been loyal to the company, it was the right thing to do. How many CEOs would do anything like this? No wonder there are still people in Hong Kong, who once worked for American Marine more than 40 years ago, still remember and talk about Whit fondly and kindly.

In recent years, Whit and his wife Marcia owned a 1974 Grand Banks 42 and loved to cruise the San Francisco Bay with his family and friends. I guess you can take the Netwons out of Grand Banks the company but you cannot take Grand Banks out of the Newtons. As Whit captained the boat he created with sea wind touching his face, only God know the joy Whit must feel when he shared the sea with his grand kids who were not born when he first left for the far east to start his epic adventure. For Whit, his wonderful life came to an peaceful end last month. For those whose lives have been touched by this wonderful man, his creation lives on, his legacy endures, and the memory of him will remain with us forever.”

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