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Walter H. G. Paul

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Walter H. G. Paul on December 8 in Falmouth, Mass. He was 82.

Walter was born on September 27, 1935 in Vegesack, Germany, the eldest of four siblings.

Walter received his master’s degree in mechanical engineering/economics in 1961 from University of Darmstadt in Germany.  In 1967, he received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Hannover in Germany.

Between the period of 1961-1974 Walter worked at fiber rope factories in Germany and the US as a plant, test, and field application engineer, and in research facilities specializing in the testing of fiber ropes and fishing net twines. Most notable among these was his work at Gleistein, a rope manufacturer and family business originally founded in 1824.

From 1974 to 1993 he was employed as a senior departmental staff engineer by Martin Marietta, Aero & Naval Systems Division, Ocean System Operation, the former Chesapeake Instrument Corporation and Gould, Inc. in Glen Burnie, MD. There he had design responsibility for all rope and hose strength members and tow cables used in towed array and towed antenna systems built at the company for the US Navy.

Walter began his career at WHOI in 1993 as a senior engineer in the AOP&E Department. He retired in 2004 but remained on casual status until 2015.

Walter worked on mooring technology at WHOI with a group that included Dan Frye, John Kemp, Mark Grosenbaugh, and Don Peters. Walter brought hose technology to mooring applications in projects such as the Surface Suspended Acoustic Receiver (SSAR), automated right whale detection moorings and most of the Ocean Observatories Initiative Coastal Moorings in the Pioneer and Endurance arrays. He was an expert on steel and synthetic tension members and played a significant part in WHOI engineering for several decades.

Walter was chair of the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Buoy Technology and ran the Buoy Workshop for many years. He held this position from 1993 until 2014, where he helped organize his last workshop in San Diego, CA.  A very respected and admired engineer, Walter was a stickler for details; everything he did was beyond reproach. A true gentleman, he was kind to all. 

“Walter was about the sweetest man I’ve had the pleasure of knowing,” said WHOI colleague Dan Frye. Another WHOI colleague, Don Peters, echoes that sentiment.

“Walter was such a fun guy to be with,” said Kevin Hardy from Scripps (retired), “Always carrying a great smile, a happy voice with a touch of an accent. He was so knowledgeable, willing to share experience, and a real pleasure to talk shop with.”

“Dr. Walter Paul was an MTS hero in so many ways,” said Ray Toll, Director of Coastal Resilience Research. “A legacy member whose memory will live on through these buoy workshops. I will forever remember him as one of the kindest, humblest heroes in the Marine Technology Community. In talking with him, you would never know you were talking to such a famous legend. He will be forever missed.”

Walter was a member of the Marine Technology Society (MTS), heading its Buoy Technology Committee; The Cordage Institute, member of its Technical Committee; The Fiber Society;  Organizer of Buoy Technology Workshops, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and MTS.  The workshops are held every two years since 1996.

Walter loved the water, and avidly sailed on and around the North Sea in his youth in Germany—a hobby he maintained here in the US. He also loved classical music, particularly the composer Bach, and eagerly attended many concerts throughout his life. In addition, he was a voracious reader, particularly enjoying biographies and history. Walter was also passionate about travel—although his favorite place was always home.

Walter leaves his wife Ruth as well as his daughters Natasha, along with her husband, Chris, and Tanya and her husband Eric.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Walter Paul Buoy Workshop Fund at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Funds donated will be used to help defray travel costs for MIT/WHOI Joint Program students wishing to attend the Buoy Workshop, which Walter was instrumental in creating and deeply passionate about. Checks should be made payable to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, care of: Walter Paul Buoy Workshop Fund, 266 Woods Hole Road, MS 40, Woods Hole, Mass., 02543.

Cards can be sent to Ruth and family at their home address, 170 Siders Pond Road, Falmouth, Mass., 02540.



Walter H. G. Paul