The Passing Of A Small Town Legend – Philip F. Spahn Jr. 1947-2015

Phil Spahn and companion Susie Halpin enjoying a warm summer day on the lake.

The Passing of a Small Town Legend
Lakeville, NY – Conesus Lake
by Chris Rodman

Twenty-five minutes south of Rochester, NY there is a lake that has a rich boating history. Growing up in the 50-60’s spending his summer on “golden shores,” Philip F. Spahn Jr. may have spent some years away from the lake, but he could never stay away too long. A small cottage on Pebble Beach was his summer weekend get-away from the life of an attorney in downtown Rochester.

It was also the docking point for his collection of classic boats. The most notorious, and often used (almost daily) was “Suzy-Q”. She is a 1925 22.5′ Dodge Watercar 822 with the original single-planked bottom. This was his “summer driver” and used for entertaining. He owned two of these Watercars (1925 and a 1929) as well as other classic boats including a 1931 split-cockpit Dodge 21A named “Hurrah”, 1930 triple-cockpit Dodge 25A named “Mohican”, many Chris-Craft runabouts; a Sportsman, two Utilities, a Barrelback, a Deluxe, and others I’m sure I missed.

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Phil’s two Dodge Watercar 822’s – On the left a 1929 22.5′ named “Spray” and to the right his 1925 22.5′ “Su-Zee-Q” – Conesus Lake, circa 1989 and I think Steve and I are behind the boats, holding them in place. – Chris Rodman

Just about any person on the lake knew Phil, whether from waiving him down to see his boat, stopping to offer assistance as he worked in the engine compartment, or towing him back to dock! On those days of mechanical issues, he would shift in to his Adirondack chair in the front yard to maintain his tan, share good conversation or his extraordinary knowledge.

Phil could be seen most afternoons and evenings on a summer weekend cruising the blonde “Su-Zee-Q” up and down the lake, cigar in one hand, Bombay Martini on the dash, entertaining guests or cruising with his girlfriend, Sue Halpin, or protégé Steve Martini – who was raised to appreciate the classic wooden boats as well, succeeding in building an amazing Dodge boat collection himself. They would frequent classic boat shows across the U.S. and launch in Clayton, NY occasionally.

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Phil’s 1925 Dodge 22.5′ Watercar 22.5′ “Su-Zee-Q” at Clayton, NY. (

After a losing battle with health issues on April 13, 2015 – Phil passed away leaving behind a legendary status, more than just to a small town like Lakeville. The classic boating community has lost a dear friend. Maybe in the years to come, we will see Steve come out from the shallows of “golden shores” in one of the 822’s, to carry on in Phil’s wake.

Chris Rodman

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Phil and Steve head out in “Hurrah” a 1931 Dodge 21A – Skaneateles Lake, NY 2012 (Photo by Rob Chan) – “Hurrah” was named by Phil and Steve after Bill Harrah of the famous Harrah’s Casino. Harrah previously owned and used the Dodge on Lake Tahoe and later kept it on display in his Reno museum. (

Sad news today – Our condolences go out to Steve Martini, long-time friend Chris Rodman and the Spahn family for your loss.

For information on services, you can contact

Flower arrangements are welcomed and memorial contributions in memory of Phil may be made to the Dodge Boat Association at or the Conesus Lake Association, 5828 Big Tree Rd, Lakeville, NY 14480.


13 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    Thank you Texx for posting the story. My heartfelt condolences to Steve and Susie, and my thanks to Steve for providing the great photos. They capture Phil at his passion. He is dearly missed and loved. God bless.

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    It’s always a great public service the way you guys pass on the unfortunate information of ones passing, but I am always saddened to hear about wonderful people in our culture whom I will never get to meet.


  3. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    Sad to hear this. I talked with Phil many years ago doing a Barrel Back research project. I still have the paperwork.

  4. Tom Gruenauer
    Tom Gruenauer says:

    Sad news for sure. You could tell it was him by the sound of the Lycoming idling around the lake at dusk.

  5. Steven Martini
    Steven Martini says:

    Thanks to everyone for reading this and to Texx for posting it. Phil was a huge believer in using the boats. Using is really an understatement he was in the boat for a cruise almost every day during the summer for 30 years. He started off with a Watercar and then we acquired a 21A with a Lycoming. Phil was smart and an excellent mechanic. He loved working on engines more than anyone I ever met, he would discover a problem and loved figuring out the solution. His boats always ran perfectly – but they leaked of course. If there was an antique boater of the year award – Phil should have won it. Thanks guys

    • Jane Taylor Sader
      Jane Taylor Sader says:

      Dear Mr. Martini,
      My name is Jane Taylor Sader and Vincent C. Taylor was my father. He owned the 22′ Dodge “Spray” from 1940 until my mother sold it after his death in 1966 to Jim Crowley.
      My father took excellent care of the boat and I have many happy memories of it as a child growing up at Cuba Lake.
      I tried to have my mother contact the Dodge Company when she decided to sell it but she wanted to see it stay on Cuba Lake.
      There was a twin to this boat but I don’t know what happened to it but the long narrow boathouse is still standing at Cottage 271. As I understand it, both boats were skidded in during the winter to the lake.
      My father, Vincent C. Taylor owned Taylor Maid Butter, a butter creamery in Olean, N.Y. not a bakery.
      We are happy to learn that it is being restored and would love to see it again.
      Jane Taylor Sader
      270 W. Shore Rd. Cuba, N.Y. 14727

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        Thanks for chiming in Jane, always fun to learn the history of these old boats and their past owners. Steve Martini way try to get in touch with you.


  6. Suzanne Jadico
    Suzanne Jadico says:

    What a great memorial piece about Phil. Though I haven’t seen him in several years, he was the type of guy that stays in your memory and always evokes a smile upon remembrance. A class act all around who will be great missed.

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