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Joe Frohnhoefer, founder of Sea Tow, passes away

By Brianna Liestman

Capt. Joseph “Joe” Frohnhoefer, Jr., founder and CEO of Sea Tow International, died at his Southold home after a battle with cancer. He was 71.

"Capt. Joe leaves a lasting impact on the marine industry and on the international maritime industry as a whole," according to a statement made by Sea Tow. "Throughout his career Capt. Joe strived, both personally and professionally, to make the water a safer and more enjoyable place for boaters."

Frohnhoefer was a former Coast Guard captain and a licensed electrician who taught for 20 years at Mattituck High School, followed by his service as a bay constable for Southold Town police. He founded Sea Tow in 1983 to help boaters stranded on the water after the U.S. Coast Guard stopped responding to non-emergency calls, according to the business’s website.

Today, Sea Tow has nearly 100 locations across the United States with additional offices in Europe and the Caribbean.

“He was a visionary, an entrepreneur,” said Cindy McCaffery, vice president of program development at Sea Tow. “He was still working on projects till these last days.”

Frohnhoefer spent countless hours in Washington D.C., at industry events and summits and at boat shows around the U.S., working to advance the U.S. marine industry and to improve the safety and experience of boaters, as well as helping to preserve the marine environment.

“Captain Joe,” as he was known, was also a philanthropist, donating his time and resources to several local organizations, including Relay for Life, San Simeon and Eastern Long Island Hospital. He also sent 50 employees to help relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Frohnhoefer has been quoted stating that the best part of his life was striving to save the lives of others. Many who knew and loved him echoed how deeply committed he was to helping mariners in distress.

“We are sad, but we know that he changed many lives,” said McCaffery. “He was a good man and he loved this community. He made an impact on so many lives through his teaching career, his work in the fire department — he really was one of a kind.”

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, who trained with Mr. Frohnhoefer in the police department, said he was “always professional” and willing to help cops in any way he could.

“He’s always been community minded,” Flatley said. “He’s always willing to be the person to volunteer anything.”

He also served as a volunteer emergency medical technician, became a captain in the Southold Fire Department’s Packard Hose Company and was once president of the North Fork Lions Club and Mattituck Gun Club.

“He’s been in a long time,” said Southold Fire Chief Peggy Killian. “You can always count on him.”

Fronhoefer was devoted to his wife Georgia, his children Kristen and Joseph and his two grandchildren, Paige and Sam. He was deeply loved by many in the community, giving back through ways such as life jacket initiatives and the “Stuff a Boat” drive during the holiday season to benefit the needy.

Services will be handled by DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Homes, Inc. but have not yet been finalized. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the following organizations:

  • Southold Fire Department. Checks may be mailed to: Southold FD, PO Box 1469, Southold, NY 11971
  • Sea Tow Foundation. Checks may be mailed to: Sea Tow Foundation, PO Box 1325, Southold, NY 11971.

One comment

  1. Joe was an impressive guy self made and highly motivated.Best wishes,its tough to loose your Dad,so sorry ,sincerely Skip

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