Very Sad Breaking News – Tommy Mertaugh Passes Away!

Tommy Mertaugh

Tommy Mertaugh

Hessel Michigan – With great sadness, we report on the sudden passing of Tommy Mertaugh today.

Tommy was a cornerstone of a much-loved area — Les Cheneaux Islands (Hessel and Cedarville, Michigan). His cultural and financial impact was enormous, primarily through Classic and Antique Boats, a company he started with his family 13 years ago and grew into the region’s largest classic boat restoration and service business.

Through Classic and Antique Boats, Tommy successfully carried on and expanded a family legacy that began over 80 years ago when his grandfather, Gene Mertaugh, became the first Chris-Craft dealer in the country.

Tommy built his business through an intimate familiarity with classic boats since childhood, an insatiable drive to research and learn about details in order to do work right, an ability to attract and retain talented craftsmen, a firm hand and direct involvement with operations, long selfless hours on-site, incredible empathy with customers, and, perhaps above all, a high degree of honesty, fairness, and trustworthiness. Combined, these things took away much, if not all, the apprehension which can come from owning, restoring, and collecting classic and antique boats.

Tommy is survived by his fiancee Wendy, his sisters Erin and Amy, his brother Danny, and his father Jim.

Thanks to his dedication, he is also survived by at least 200 classic and antique boats that will live on for decades — some, for generations — as integral members and memory-makers of Les Cheneaux families.

Our area and the greater classic boating community has lost a great one. For many of us in Les Cheneaux, boating is changed forever. We miss you already Tommy.

Alex Watson, Texx and Matt


15 replies
  1. Allen
    Allen says:

    Sadly we loose another one…..would be great if our Woody Team did some video interviews with some of the Greats around the country……”This is your Life” woody Boater……We did this a few years back with some of the Chris Craft people near Algonac and are available through the museum…..many stories lost forever. So sorry to loose such a young person with experieince and knowledge of our hobby.

  2. Mike Green
    Mike Green says:

    Very sad to here that, he was a great guy and one of the best in the business. I feel our families have been tied together since the first dealership and the Mertaugh name has been a part of many family conversations over the years. I will say this on the behalf of the Chris Craft family to the Mertaugh family our thoughts and prayers will be with you.

  3. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    We heard of Tommy’s quick illness last Saturday at our Chapters Annual Dinner. So sad to lose such a young craftsman, so suddenly…

  4. Richard Wright
    Richard Wright says:

    Very sorry to hear about Tommy. Our deepest regrets to his family. Your comments about how he was able to instill confidence into his clients is absolutely true. We bought our Connie 28 from Tommy, sight unseen, and he definitely smoothed the way and made us feel comfortable in moving forward with the purchase. We are members of the Woody Boater fraternity due, in large part, to Tom Mertaugh. Thanks Tommy, we will miss you.

  5. Tom King
    Tom King says:

    Very sad to hear of his passing. Tom sold me my first Chris Craft and I got to know him through this transaction. A fair and honest man who has been taken way too early. My deepest condolences to all the Mertaugh family.

  6. John Kovach
    John Kovach says:

    The antique boat hobby has lost a great friend. Doing business with Tom was dealing with your best friend. MY deepest regrets to Jim,Danny,Erin, Amy and Wendy. Thanks for every thing you have done for me and Todd. You are missed.
    John Kovach

  7. Loren Sattler
    Loren Sattler says:

    My deepest condolences for the family. As a summer resident of the Islands, I can confirm Tommy’s well deserved following. He was a very pleasant person, honorable business man and a credit to his trade for his honest and straightforward dealing with everyone around him. He will be greatly missed in the community and the wood boating fraternity.

  8. John & Diana Grenier
    John & Diana Grenier says:

    Diana and I are shocked and saddened to hear about Tom’s unexpected passing, our sympathies to Wendy, Jim, Dan, Amy and Erin. The craftsmen, staff and friends at Classic and Antique Boats have lost their captain.
    While lettering the name on one of Tom’s boats we would often visit in the evening and he would know everything about the boat, from the first owner to that moment. It was amazing the generosity of knowledge he shared with us.
    We will miss our friend.
    John and Diana Grenier

  9. bill hunt
    bill hunt says:

    we are all so sad to lose a friend who was there for us ..all us summer folks whose happiness depended on Tommy and his crew. he was an exemplary of selfless service, excellence of craft raised to art, and the knack of being masterfully competent without fuss. with that was a great guy and friend.
    his reputation extended to both coasts, and spanned three generations. it hurts

  10. Jeff Martines
    Jeff Martines says:

    For the last 14 years, I have had the opportunity to come to know Tom and to call him my good friend.
    He was a true gentleman. His presence invoked guidance to his crew, an incredible source of knowledge and craftsmanship for the industry and a certain calm to those either involved with him in wood boats, or in his personal life. It’s hard to put into words what a great loss this is for so many people that Tom has touched over the years.
    I will miss dearly his friendship, his big heart and humble soul.

    My deepest sympathies to Jim, Dan, Erin, Amy, Wendy and Hope.

  11. Greg Schmidt
    Greg Schmidt says:

    We always looked forward to stopping by the shop almost everytime we passed it. Tommy’s personality was like a magnet that my wife and I was drawn to. Anytime Tommy had a question about a certain outboard motor, he would give me a call. We carried on long conversations and shared many stories. I did not take me long to sense that he was someone very special. I witnessed acts of kindness, calmness and mutual respect in his dealings with customers. Like many others, I am proud to call him my friend. He was a large part of the love we have for that area. He will be greatly missed.

    Our sympathies to Wendy and the Mertaugh family.

  12. Curt Vaught
    Curt Vaught says:

    No words to add beyond those already expressed so well here. Just that I’ll miss Tommy…

    My deepest condolences and best wishes to family and the crew at the shop.

  13. William Dykstra
    William Dykstra says:


    Always called me Billy, and He never did this in a way where i felt as if He saw me as a kid! I have a real hard time calling anyone that i greatly respect, Billy, Tommy, Freddy, Johnny, Louie! Yet Tom in calling me Billy helped me keep the little kid in me alive! I have lost a whole lot of the little kid in me!

    God Blessed Tom Mertaugh with Many Skills and Abilities He Freely Shared With All Of Us! Anyone that was a Friend Of Tom’s I Hope They Understood The Blessings Of Being A Friennd Of Man Like Tom Mertaugh? I am sad i could not have taken the place of Tom In Death! People With Ability Particularly Great Ability Floor Me!!!

    How i wish i would have taken the time to get to know Tom Mertaugh! The last time i saw Tom was during the Boat Show. I had some friends up from Nashville TN. and brought them over to The Shop to see The Boss! If it were not for my Nashville Friends the last time i would have seen Tom would have been a year or two back!

    Tom was a Master at working on Wood Boats and had Great People Skills And The Ability To Read People! Some of the photos of Tom on this website were taken on The Boss! The Boss is a Very Very Special Boat To Me! My Dad and Mother and my sister and myself would cruise The Boss to the North Channel! Because of the Uniqueness of The Boss we met many many very Unique People and One Of Them Was Tom Mertaugh!

    Tom and my cousin John Brandt brought The Boss from down below for the new owners! As Tom shared with me His observation of John on that last trip John would take on The Boss, told me Tom’s Amazing Ability to Read People! Tom Knew this was so much more to John than an Old Boat being sold!

    When Michael Jordan was playing for the Bulls years ago when they moved out of the old United Center. Mike was asked something to the effect
    What he thought of the old building? He responded with something like
    Its not an old building its a friend! I have worked here, i have cried here, i have played here!

    This is very very much the Case With The Boss for myself and John Brandt! Even though no one’s death brought about the sale of The Boss! If i would have joined John and Tom for that last trip i would have cried and cried and cried!

    I am a deeper than deep thinker but i feel people and things much much deeper than i will ever ever think! In many cases i envy those that are not emotional! I think they must have less sadness and pain in their lives because they do not connect and feel people and things as emotional people do!

    I Pray The Present owners of The Boss R.E.A.L.LY Appreciated The Relationships They Had With Tom and The Boss? So many Relationships came about with other boaters because of The Boss’s Uniqueness!


    I need to take the time to better know those that will let me know them better! Many times at hospitals and funerals I Say I Wish I Would Have Known! I Need To Better Live My Life Lets Talk!

    I am not smart! Many ask me Bill you say you are not smart? How do you know so much? I have said because i live my life lets talk! I HAVE TO BRING MY LETS TALK TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL!

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