Happy Birthday Thad Koza and RIP

Thad Koza by Peter Mello

If you are a regular visitor to the Sea-Fever blog, you’ll note that I haven’t posted in some time. The initial reason was that we were at 999 posts and I wanted to do something special to commemorate 1000; a waypoint that most blogs never log.

Then, last month I learned that my friend, colleague, tall ship photographer and master storyteller Thad Koza passed away after a quick attack and short battle with cancer. There was then no question in my mind that I should dedicate the 1,000th Sea-Fever post, and all that went before, to him. Today would have been his 70th birthday.

When I arrived at the American Sail Training Association in 2001, there was the official “crew” and then there was Thad. He would come into the office nearly every day and the staff (aka Lori) would help him out with this or that and he would make small talk and we all would learn more about a tall ship or a crew member or a port. It seemed a little odd at first but in short order I recognized that this relationship was special and that Thad was, in fact, a very important, contributing member of our team.  He would celebrate birthdays with us and attend our staff Holiday parties. He’d even participate in the office Secret Santa and one year I gave him the url ThadKoza.com; I then spent about 5 years trying to get him to use it.

I took the above photograph in 2006 at the parade of sail for the Cleveland Harborfest/TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE. Over the years, I had the honor and privilege of working closely with Thad prior to and during Tall Ships events. Sometimes it would be with the media and other times it would be at presentations to smaller groups at yacht clubs or museums. He’d talk tall ships and I’d talk sail training and the history of ASTA. I always enjoyed these times together and learned something new at every one.

One of the top highlights of my professional career was writing the foreword to Thad’s very popular book, Tall Ships: The Fleet for the 21st Century. If you don’t own a copy of this classic, you should!

Thad was a big bear of a man and like all big bears, he could have a gruff, growl. But that was part of his charm. He was really more like a friendly Berenstain than a big, bad grizzly.

After I left ASTA, Thad and I would talk a couple of times a year by phone. We kept trying to arrange a meeting where would could begin work on a new website to promote his extraordinary archive of tall ships photography. Sadly, it never happened. In every single one of those conversations, Thad would start out by asking me about my children, Luke and Joy, and, frankly, that’s what I will always remember him for most. He was a true, caring, giving friend.

My favorite Thad Koza photograph is one he took of Luke at about 6 months old at a party aboard the Stad Amsterdam in Newport.

Thad had many, many friends across the globe that are missing him today and while his extraordinary body of tall ship photography will live on and fulfill his legacy, most will remember him for being a caring, giving man.

Sea-Fever explores maritime culture and I can think of no better way to celebrate 1000 posts than remembering my friend Thad Koza, a man who did more to promote tall ships, sail training and maritime culture than anyone I’ve ever known.

Happy Birthday and Fair Winds Shipmate!

Published by

Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

8 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Thad Koza and RIP”

  1. Hello, I am working on a book about sailing based on the articles published on the website zeglujmyrazem.com. It includes, among other things, a short note about the passing and significance of Thad Koza. I am looking for an image of him to use along the text and wanted to know if you would grant permission to use the image above.

    Thanks for your time,

  2. Thank you very much for the beautiful tribute and birthday wishes to my father. He was just 27 days shy of his 70th birthday. It is very heartwarming and touching to know that he was loved and respected by so many marvelous people and that you waited for such an honorary spot as your 1000th post to acknowledge his passing and birthday.

    I would just like to remind everyone that his Memorial Service is this Saturday, the 15th, at 3 pm in Channing Memorial Church on Pelham Street in Newport and a reception following at the Newport Art Museum just across the street at the corner on Bellevue Avenue and Old Beach Road. We hope to see you there.

    As Dad would have said . . . Fair Winds,
    Alex T. Koza

    1. Alex;

      Thanks for visiting, commenting and reminding us of the Memorial Service this Saturday at Channing Memorial Church in Newport.

      Your dad was a great man and good friend. My sincerest condolences on your loss. We all miss him.

  3. I met Thad a couple of years ago at the Newport Boat Show and told him about the pirate museum I was building in Newport ri and the problems I was having. 2 hours later he shows up at my shop and we talked for hours ,he gave me alot of insite. He was a very giving man. I’ll miss our talks and autograph sessions
    Fair Winds my friend !

    Your most humble servant,
    Capt. Alexander J. Banks
    Newport Jack”s Pyrate Museum

  4. Thank you Peter for waiting with this 1000th text… and reflecting on Thad’s passing away. I haven’t had with Thad such a frequent and regular contacts as you did. My memory of him is very much like yours – I met Thad first time in person in Lisbon in late 90-ies while I was working on the RIP Concordia. Later when I got stranded on New England coast Thad shared with me, many thoughts about the world of American sailtraining, Newport’s Rules and life in America. Thad’s Polish was practically non-existing but we quite often were alluding to shared Polish genes. Thad and his work is well known among Polish tall ship sailors. Arguably the is a dramatic one – in which Polish “Dar Mlodziezy” heels a lot in a gust of wind while carrying a full set of sails… His personal blog ends with an entry about dismasting of the “Fryderyk Chopin” another Polish tall ship. He will be well remembered by Polish sailors…

    Fair Winds to Thad in his eternal sailings…

    Peter, You have mentioned ThadKoza.com domain… I wonder if we could create some sort of a collective virtual memorial for Thad. I would be the first to volunteer my time, Web expertise and share hosting costs. Any more partners among Sea-Fever readers?

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