2011-02-10 / Obituaries

Donelson (Don) C. Glassie Jr.


(Don) C. Glassie

Jr. died Feb. 3, 2011, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The sailor and entrepreneur had lived in Newport since the 1970s. He was 76.

Born in Washington, D.C. to the late Donelson Caffery Glassie and Sara Madison Eccles, Don grew up in Chevy Chase, Md. A lifelong sailor, his first sailing experience was aboard a Herreshoff 12-1/2 in Falmouth, Mass., where his family vacationed during the summer. Don was also an avid skier and traveler, and enjoyed bicycling and walking.

At Amherst College, he majored in economics. Oft-told stories were of a dorm room so messy he earned an award, a spring-break road trip to Florida in a vintage ambulance, and a summer working on a fishing boat in Alaska, during which he befriended a seal he called Augie. Following graduation in 1956, Don served in the U.S. Air Force as a radar controller in Casablanca, Morocco. He later studied electronic engineering at Stanford University, as well as business at George Washington University.

After a brief stint with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Don started on the path of entrepreneurship. He imported turtlenecks and ski sweaters, and patented several skiing-related items under the company name Ski Ventures. This led to a women’s fashion business, and Don designed a full line of clothing under his own label.

The rag business brought Don to New England; he moved from Virginia to Uxbridge, Mass., to be closer to Blackstone Valley’s textile mills. While there, Don started racing Vixon, a Herreshoff S-Boat, out of the Rhode Island Yacht Club.

In 1974, he came across Fortune, a 1926 Crowninshield staysail schooner in need of major repairs. Don, with long-time friend John Taft, restored the boat. Since then, Fortune has been a presence in classic yacht races from Long Island to Maine, taking top honors three times in Nantucket’s Opera House Cup.

In 2001, Fortune was shipped to Cowes, England, to take part in the America’s Cup Jubilee. Don won the award for best finish in the fleet by an owner helmsman. Later that season, Fortune placed first overall in the Prada Veteran Boat Rally in Porto Cervo, Italy, and was among the top finishers at the Les Voiles de St. Tropez.

By 1977, Don had moved to Newport. Focusing on real estate, he started with a single building and began transforming historic buildings into condominiums and renovating small inns. Today, his company Yankee Development operates the Yankee Peddler, Jailhouse and Harborside Inns.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Don’s business extended to Miami Beach, where he spearheaded the renovation of five hotels along Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. The Avalon Hotel and the South Seas Hotel are still operated by the company. Most recently, Don transformed a 1906 educational building in New York City into the 140-room Park South Hotel – open since 2001 – and built the 20-story Strand Hotel, which opened in late 2009. Don’s legacy also includes Newport harbor tour boats Madeleine, Rumrunner II and the 160- foot sailing cruise yacht, Arabella. He also initiated and operated the Newport Used Boat Shows for more than a dozen years.

All of his endeavors involved an entire crew of individuals whose efforts, talents and affection helped make Don’s visions realities. It was both accomplishment and character that made Don the unassuming man he was.

Community and social involvement were also a big part of Don’s life. He was a founder of the Museum of Yachting, a partner who was instrumental in lifting Newport Shipyard out of financial diffi culties, and enthusiastically supported Sail Newport. Every year he donated harbor tours and hotel getaways to the summer silent auction at St. Matthew’s Church. He also helped with the initial design and construction of Waterbug. The boat, sailed by his daughters Alison, Georgia, and Jacqui, took first in its class in the Fools’ Rules Regatta for seven years running.

Don was blessed with a large and loving family. He leaves four siblings: Sallie Griffith of Belvedere, Calif.; Jefferson Glassie of Bethesda, Md.; Claire Carlin of Kensington, Md.; and John Glassie of New York City. He also leaves six children: Elizabeth Doucette and Thomas Glassie of Newport; Alison, Georgia and Jac- quelin Glassie of Jamestown; and Christopher Glassie of Newport. He also leaves four grandchildren: Sander and Dee Doucette, and Annie and Jack Glassie, all of Newport.

He will also be missed by his two former wives: Phyllis Fragola of Barrington and Marcia Sallum Glassie of Jamestown, and his current partner, Melissa O’Brien of Newport, and many special friends.

Don lived a full, fun and productive life surrounded by love. In his own words: “I had a blast.”

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 2 p.m., at Trinity Church on Queen Anne Square in Newport. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to Sail Newport, 60 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, RI 02840.

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