A man who will be remembered as one of the area’s most established boat builders died Sunday August 23. William H. Grunwald, 77, whose love of traditional boat designs extended the life of the Grand Banks dory into this century, passed away Sunday. A memorial service was held on Saturday, August 29 at Aeolis Boat Works in Davenport, where his small boat shop carved its place in boat history with its many preserved vessels with designs dating back to the Victorian age and before.
In a previous Sentinel article, Grunwald was featured as a veteran of building who resisted sacrificing his own individuality as a craftsman to the modern ways of crafting marine vessels. In a way he was a renegade by insisting on building wooden boats when the trend now is plastic, said his wife Ursula, who he was married to for 49 years. It’s a matter of naval architecture, in a way, while there is much of that lacking out there. He also inspired many novice boat builders to become some of the best around, she said. He was very quiet in a way, but has had much influence, she said.
Family members described him as always an independent soul with a love for boats and a gift for wood. Mr. Grunwald became a permanent resident of Santa Cruz in 1960. Born in Seattle, he was raised in Alameda, where, as a child, he started building boats. He served in World War II as a First Lieutenant in the 8th Army Airforce. He attended U.C.Berkeley, where he received his degree in journalism. Not long after that, he started his custom boat business in Davenport.
It was his personality most that attracted people to Davenport his wife said. People will miss his dry humor, his talent, and his ability to talk boats.
He is survived by his wife Ursula, his brother, Tom Grunwald, of Felton; one niece and three nephews. His brother, Gerry Grunwald, died in 1994. Donations may be made to the Pacific Elementary School in Davenport or to the Grey Bears in Santa Cruz.