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Captain Liel Burns Osell
Born: March 23, 1920 in Duluth, Minnesota
Sailed away to Heaven: July 14, 2014
Captain Liel Osell's love of adventure and travels on the high seas started upon birth when he was wrapped in newspaper and placed into a suitcase!
As a boy, he roamed the hills of Duluth, MN with his boyhood friends Harry Brock, Orin Olson, Leo Kujawa, the Giesel Boys, among others. When he was eight years old, the Captain tragically lost his father in a drowning accident. He helped to support his mother and sister during the depression years. However, his love of the water and sailing career started by building rafts and sailing them out in the Duluth harbor and out into Lake Superior as a boy.
At 13, he survived an accidental shooting to his chest, making that just one of the near death experiences Jesus saved him from so he could one day become a wonderful husband, father, grand and great father.
When he turned 17, Liel enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps serving at the Grand Marais Minnesota Camp. After his honorable discharge on December 1st, 1937, he sailed many vessels until being accepted in the United States Maritime Service Officers School at Fort Trumbull, New London, Connecticut. He graduated June 28th, 1944 as a Commissioned Ensign Officer in the United States Maritime Service. From there, he served in World War II, earning medals and advancing in rank. Medals earned included: Victory Medal Atlantic War Zone Bar; Pacific War Zone Bar; Merchant Marine Emblem; Honorable Service Button and a Presidential Testimonial Letter from Harry S. Truman.
A most memorable story, among many from his sailing days, was his encounter with a particular Lt. late one night in the Pacific. While transferring fuel from his liberty ship to the Lt. of the PT vessel, the Captain ordered the Lt. to take control of his vessel and to cease the banging of the antennae in Japanese-infested waters or they would be torpedoed to death. It wasn't until later after that the Captain realized who the man was. The man the Captain gave the orders to was President Jack Kennedy.
Post-war, Captain Osell continued to sail to exotic, faraway places like Houa Tau, Manchuria where a General bestowed upon him an ancient war Samaria sword. Tocopilla, Chile, the Philippines and other ports encountering whales, storms and other Great Adventures. The Captain returned to his native Minnesota to sail the Great Lakes using his depth of sailing knowledge and experience eventually becoming a Tug Captain for the Great Lakes Towing Company in Duluth.
It was there where the Captain's heart was captured by the former Bonny Lou Jones, who at the time of their meeting was the reigning Queen of Duluth. They married in 1949 and spent their early years in Duluth, eventually moving to Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1959 where the Captain accepted a position as working Tugboat Harbor Master with C. Reiss Coal Company of Sheboygan, WI. The Captain and Elizabeth (Bonnie Lou), moved in 1963 to the Green Bay area, eventually settling in De Pere, Wisconsin, where he served as the Tug Captain Master for the "Gateway to the Great Waterway."
In 1969 adventure again took him to captain the Car Ferries of Lake Michigan, with his most memorable assignment as Captain of the Arthur K. Atkinson until it's last crossing of the Lake Michigan. He went back to the ocean vessels until 1974 when he returned again to Green Bay to tow vessels for C. Reiss until the tugs were sold in 1979.
Captain Osell then started his own business Osell Marine Towing & Salvage in Green Bay, going to work many times with his daughter Julie (fondly referred to as "Tug Boat Annie). His son-in-law Tim later joined him serving on all the tugs he captained.
Continually increasing his licenses and all sea-worthy related subjects, the Captain continued his life learning, obtaining licensures which include:
•Master of Steam or Motor Vessels of not more than 1600 Gross Registered Tons (domestic tonnage) 300 Gross Ton (ITC tonnage) upon Oceans
•Master of Steam or Motor Vessels of Any Gross Upon the Great Lakes and Inland Waters
•Second Mate of Steam or Motor Vessels of any Gross Tons Upon the Oceans
•First Class Pilot on Vessels of Any Gross Tons Upon the Great Lakes Between Duluth, Gary and Buffalo
•Master of Towing Vessels Upon Oceans and Western Rivers
•Radar Observer (Unlimited) for Vessels Under 200 GRT (Domestic Tonnage) 500 GT(ITC Tonnage) on Domestic Voyages Only.
He was one of the first Super Tanker Pilots in the world. The Captain sailed his last Ocean's blue adventures in the late 70's to Barry, Wales and Safi, Morocco retiring in April 4th, 1985. He planned on traveling with his wife Elizabeth (Bonny Lou) wanting to see America with her as he saw the world. But the next day Great Lakes called him to help out for a "short time" in Green Bay, Marinette and Milwaukee harbors, and that lasted 26 years. He captained their tugs with Bill Hermes and others, which gave way to more great sea stories of Great Lakes adventures.
At 91, the Captain retired in Spring 2011 yielding the helm to Captain Dale Wiegan and Captain Bill Hermes. In their words, "Captain Osell was a fair but strict Captain, never expecting anything that he had been expected/done in his life." Captain Osell was a Charter Member of the International Shipmasters Association Lodge #18 in Green Bay, Wisconsin as of March 26th, 1963. He also held the distinction of being the oldest living licensed Sea Captain on the Oceans and Great Lakes, with his sailing license still yet to expire July 24th, 2014.
The Captain was very proud of his Swedish/Lapland/Mongolian decent. He really enjoyed another lifelong adventure to Sweden with his son Michael in 1990. There he met family members, visited his parents birthplaces and was able to see the country of his heritage. While there he became a member of the Ancient Order of Knuts Gillett in Skåne Sweden and Denmark.
Captain Osell is survived by his family whom he dearly loved, spending all is shore duty with wife Elizabeth (Bonny Lou) and his children. He volunteered with the Boy Scouts and was pleased that his son Michael achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and his daughter, Julie, the Girl Scout rank of First Class. He also was a ham radio operator maintaining his call sign KA9POX.He is survived by:His beloved wife of 65 years, Elizabeth Louise (Jones) Osell, known to those who know her best as Bonny Lou ( Jones) Osell. Son and spouse: Michael Liel Osell & Sharilyn (Kalkofen) Osell and their children Anders Mikael Osell, Annika Amalia Osell and Lars Fredrik Osell who reside in Green Bay, WI. Daughter & spouse: Julie Lizette (Osell) Sowers & Timothy Wayne Sowers, De Pere, WI. Granddaughter and spouse: Abigail Elizabeth (Sowers) Van Eyck, Scott Richard Van Eyck, and Great Grand Daughter: Brielle Jewel Van Eyck, De Pere WI.Grandson and spouse: USCG Petty Officer Captain Christian Liel Sowers (as well asTugboat Captain) and Courtney Lynn (Stiles) Sowers, Newton, New Jersey. Preceeded in Death by: Infant Son Liel Brook Osell, Father Samuel Sigfrid Irenis Osell, Mother Lillian Amalia (Peterson) Osell and Sister Ruby Eileen (Osell) Hollingsworth.
A special thank you goes to those at Renaissance in De Pere, WI who lovingly helped to care for the Captain, and to lifelong family friend Cynthia (Emmel) Hereth.
Visitation will be held at Graceway Fellowship Church Friday, July 18th from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm and Saturday, July 19th from 1:00 pm - 3:00. The celebration of his life will be conducted on Saturday, July 19 at 3:00 at Graceway Fellowship, 1750 Dousman Street, Green Bay, WI. Please visit www.ryanfh.com to send online condolences. RYAN FUNERAL HOME of De Pere is assisting the family with arrangements.
In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Captain Liel B. Osell Scholarship Award
c/o U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Foundation (USMMAAF)
P.O. Box 222011 Great Neck, NY 11022
Tax ID # 11-6037948
Cards of condolences can be sent to: The Osell Family, PO Box 343, De Pere, WI 54115
Ryan Funeral Home & Crematory
305 North Tenth Street
De Pere, WI 54115
Published in Green Bay Press-Gazette from July 16 to July 19, 2014