Pictured above are Ted and Beattie.
On June 6, 1944, the Western Allies of World War II launched the largest amphibious invasion in history, landing on the beaches of Normandy. Beattie was a young man at the time, living in his homeland of Ireland. I remember a photo of Beattie hanging in his home in Fort Walton Beach, FL. Beattie is at the helm of a sailboat and behind him is the Normandy Invasion Fleet.
Eventually Beattie would bring his sailing expertise to Catalina Yachts, building and selling the Catalina 22. The success of the Catalina 22 in a very large part belongs to his efforts. Beattie was always available to lend a helping hand when it came to sailing. No one was turned away when they asked Beattie for help, especially where the Catalina 22 was concerned.
We met Beattie Purcell at the National Regatta, Lake Hartwell, in 1997. We didn’t see much of his boat. He was always way ahead of us. Over the years we became great friends.
In 2001 the National Regatta was held at Fort Walton Yacht Club. Beattie was the Vice Commodore and Dora and I had come to help with race committee. Beattie always had a keen sense of humor. Beattie and I were at a copy store making copies for the regatta. We were talking about photography, as Beattie knew this was an interest of mine. He told me a story of when he was a younger man how he had a photography store. From time-to-time someone would bring a photo in for restoration. One day a lady brought a photo of her husband who had recently passed away. In the photo the woman’s husband was wearing a hat. The lady explained it was the only good photo she had of him and she wanted Beattie to remove the hat so she could see his beautiful wavy hair. Beattie thought he could do this and asked the lady what color hair did her husband have. “Well”, she replied, “you’ll know that when you remove his hat!”
I had the opportunity to work with Beattie again in 2009. The National Regatta was scheduled to be held in San Francisco. A few months prior to the regatta we were told that we would not be able to hold the regatta as planned. With only a few months to organize a new venue I made a call to Beattie. Without hesitation, Beattie stepped up, taking on the role of Vice Commodore, and along with members of Fleet 77 and Fort Walton Yacht Club they delivered a successful National Regatta with 27 Gold Fleet boats and 9 Silver Fleet boats taking the start line. Beattie on his boat, Tango, competed in that regatta as well as organized and help run it. Beattie’s son, Brent, also competed on his boat, Fandango. The love of sailing is something that Beattie managed to pass down to his sons.
Beattie led Fleet 77 and Fort Walton Yacht Club two other occasions as they hosted the 2013 and 2016 National Regattas. His love for the people that sail the C22, his love for the sport, and his love for Fort Walton Yacht Club lasted a lifetime. It was an honor for me, on May 26, 2016, to be part of a group representing the Catalina 22 National Sailing Association as we recognized Beattie with a lifetime achievement award.
Beattie passed away on January 28, 2017. Dora and I were working with another regatta that sailed from Key West, FL to Havana, Cuba. We were just finishing up dinner at the casa we were staying at when news reached us of Beattie’s passing. Conversation around the table turned to sharing stories about Beattie with friends Hal and Sally Smith. Hal and Sally were longtime friends of Beattie and well known in the Catalina 22 world, having owned a C22 and competed in the association. Others around the table were drawn into the conversation. It was a much sadder evening when we finally turned in for the night.
Beattie’s memorial was held on February 18, 2017 in Fort Walton Beach. It was not billed as a memorial, it was billed as a celebration of life. Beattie was 91 years, a husband, a father, a friend, and a sailor. He was focused outward, not inward. The celebration of life was in three parts; a church service, followed by a reception at Fort Walton Yacht Club, and a flotilla of boats spreading hundreds of roses on Choctawhatchee Bay. Friends and Family of Beattie came to share stories and remember the man that was an integral member of their family and their friend. Dora and I joined in the celebration, along with Beattie’s family, Fleet 77, and Fort Walton Yacht Club.
As I tossed a rose in the water I remembered a man who, though late in life, still sailed with the same spirit as a younger man I once saw a photo of. A younger man sailing in the English Channel undaunted by the Normandy Invasion Fleet behind him.