In Memoriam: Bill Dunkle


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Bill Dunkle on August 23.  He was 81.

Born in Newton, Mass., Bill graduated from Duxbury High School in 1948.  He attended Wentworth Institute, studying drafting.

In 1953, Bill began his career at WHOI, working in Johnny Stimpson’s drafting group on the third floor of the Bigelow Lab. However, Bill thought he’d like to go to sea and persuaded oceanographer Val Worthington to take him on a Caryn cruise the following year to make bathythermograph and Nansen bottle stations. In 1955, Bill moved to Brackett Hersey’s geophysics group, where over 11 years he logged a lot of time at sea, aboard Atlantis, Bear, Yamacraw, Chain, Crawford, and Atlantis II, in Navy submarines, and in the air on the Institution’s PBY aircraft. His at-sea adventures included participating in the search for the for the sunken U.S. Navy submarine Thresher and three weeks on a cement barge on St. John’s River in Canada with Chuck Officer, looking for bedrock to site a dam.

Bill began his archiving career with organizing, cataloging, and filing the Hersey group’s data. Eventually, that data library expanded to include data from many sectors of the Institution, and Bill also took on responsibility for the WHOI Archives with its 12 million photos and other images, 60,000 maps and charts, vast administrative files, and other materials. Geochemist Dan McCorkle, whose McLean office is near the Archives, dubbed him “director of institutional memory,” and when Bill retired in 1994 with 41 years of service, naval historian Gary Weir said Dunkle had “preserved WHOI’s soul.” The Archives included hundreds of oceanographic instruments that were regarded by some administrators as junk but treasured by Bill, whose wisdom in this regard was proven when Weir chose some of them for the U.S. Navy Museum’s historic instruments exhibit, which were displayed for several years in WHOI’s Clark Laboratory lobby.  Bill retired from WHOI in 1994 after a 41-year career.

Bill met his wife, Shirley Raiche, of Fairhaven while square-dancing at the Woods Hole Community Hall when both worked at WHOI. They were married in September 1956. Bill was a master craftsman, building furniture, toys, puzzles, picture frames, and "fixing up" his beloved 200-year-old house. He was passionate about local history and genealogy, publishing a pamphlet on the historic houses of North Falmouth in 1976. He was a member of the North Falmouth Village Association, the North Falmouth Cemetery Association, and the Falmouth Historical Society, which honored him with its Heritage Award in 2001.

He leaves his wife, Shirley R. Dunkle; his sister, Carolyn Barnes of Pocasset; two daughters, Karen D. Hotte of Marion, Mass., and Deborah D. Clemons of Hanson, Mass.; seven grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Visiting hours will be on Wednesday, August 25, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, 74 Algonquin Avenue, Mashpee. Services will be held at 1:00 p.m., on Thursday, August 26, at the North Falmouth Congregational Church, 155 Old Main Road, North Falmouth with burial to follow at the North Falmouth Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Bill’s memory may be made to the Falmouth Historical Society, P.O. Box 174, Falmouth, MA 02541.

Vicky Cullen contributed to this obituary




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