In Memoriam: Joseph Leo Coburn, Jr.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree
Captain Joseph Leo Coburn, Jr. (U.S. Coast Guard retired) on Sunday, March 20, at Woodhaven Hall, Williamsburg Landing, Williamsburg, Virginia, with his wife, Alice, and family by his side.

Joe was born in Chicago, IL, on April 25, 1931, the oldest of five children, to Joseph L. Coburn Sr. and Margaret Coburn. He grew up in Roxana, Illinois, and graduated in 1948 from Roxana High School. Joe entered the U. S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, in July, 1951, and graduated May 25, 1955, and was commissioned as an ensign with a B.S. Engineering degree.
He and Alice McKelden McNeil were married at the academy chapel on June 25, 1955, and they departed for his first assignment on a USCG cutter out of Oahu, Hawaii. After 22 years of service, Joe retired from the Coast Guard in August of 1977 at the Coast Guard Shipyard in Curtis Bay, Maryland, where he had been assigned as an Industrial (General) Manager.

After his Coast Guard service, Joe became an advisor 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, as a vice president, Arctec, Inc., a marine engineering firm in Columbia, Maryland. While with Arctec, he was promoted to president of Arctec Alaska in Anchorage, Alaska. He remained with the firm until 1986.

Joe began his career at WHOI in 1987 as Ship Operations Manager.  He retired in 2002 after 15 years of service. While at WHOI, he was responsible for the renovation of two research vessels for both WHOI and Scripps and in the construction of two other research vessels for both organizations, including the new R/V Atlantis.

Joe's post graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) included a M.Sc. and Second Professional Degree both with honors in 1961. He was a member of the Research Vessel Operators' Committee, University-National Oceanography Laboratory System (UNOLS) on three separate committees. 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, and 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 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 for sailing the Chesapeake Bay with his family.

Left to mourn his passing, besides his wife, Alice, with whom he was married for 61 years, he leaves his son, Kenneth Donald (Commandeer, U.S. Navy Ret.) and his wife Dale; son Bruce Richard and his wife Mary; daughter, Cecilia Alice Teal; grandchildren Hallie, Katherine, Jessica, and Andrew; brothers Patrick, John Michael, Timothy (Theresa) and their son, Matthew (Mary); sister, Margaret Ann Cope; and his God son, Michael John Coburn.

A memorial celebration will be held at a later time.

Captain 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, Connecticut, 06320-8111.

(Some of the information for this obituary is from Nelson Funeral Home, Williamsburg, VA.)



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