Cal Morser, 1919-2014

The Schooner Festival Committee is saddened by the loss of Cal Morser this winter. Cal was instrumental in the development of the Festival and its management for the first 20 years of the event. Not only was Cal a wonderfully generous man, he was an excellent sailor and a great friend .

Calvin Stein Morser died peacefully at his home in West Gloucester, Mass., on February 27, 2014. Cal was 94 years old. Though born in the city of San Francisco – an area he always loved – in 1919, Cal lived the majority of his long and full life on the east coast, spending the last 37 years in Gloucester.

Raised in Redwood City, Calif., Cal discovered early on an unwavering passion for the maritime world. He built his first sailboat, a Comet class, in his early twenties while attending Stanford University. After graduating in 1940 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Cal moved across the country to matriculate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving his degree in naval architecture and marine engineering in 1942.

Four years later, Cal had what he called “the extreme good fortune to marry Mary Miles Hausman,” a graduate of Wellesley College and Yale School of Nursing. The couple raised three children in Wellesley, Mass., and Wilton, Conn., before retiring to Gloucester.

Cal described his career as having three principal phases – military, engineering and management – and he wasted no time getting started. The day after his graduation from M.I.T., Cal was called into active duty as an M.I.T. instructor of the Naval Architect Training Program. His subsequent assignment was to repair ships, primarily submarines, at Pearl Harbor and San Diego.

With a dearth of jobs to be found in shipbuilding after the war, Cal turned to engineering. He worked on system design and development for General Electric, the Polaris Submarine Program at Northrop Corporation and air-space optical systems for Litton/Itek Optical Systems. Cal received three U.S. patents for his original designs.

Moving from engineering into management of high tech programs in the defense electronics industry, Cal supervised the design, development and production of large-scale, often classified, optical systems. At PerkinElmer, Cal managed the team that won the NASA contract for the Hubble Space Telescope mirror. At Litton/Itek Optical Systems, Cal supervised programs involving space and airborne imagery for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and NASA. Developing a laser and mapping camera for NASA and the Keck Telescope mirror were among his many projects.

Though his career took Cal to the inland plains of Texas, Iran and Egypt among other places, his interest in all things nautical never faltered. For many summers, Cal and his family cruised the New England coast in a Tripp 30 sailboat. When the children were older, Cal campaigned his International 210 racing sailboat on the weekend from Eastern Point Yacht Club.

Being mechanically adept, Cal also had the ability to fix or build just about anything from household and car repairs to boat building and maintenance. Cal particularly appreciated the aesthetic and engineering design of Porsche and owned several over the years. Skiing, photography and fine woodworking were other hobbies of Cal’s.

In 1988, Cal retired from his position as Vice-President of Itek Optical Systems and focused his attention on the numerous marine activities in Gloucester. Again he wasted no time. Cal volunteered for the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and worked on the annual Gloucester Schooner Festival. He became involved, as a director, with the restoration of the schooner Adventure, was elected a director of Maritime Gloucester, President of the International 210 Sailing Association plus Commodore and lifetime member of Eastern Point Yacht Club.

In 1991, Cal and his son who lives near Seattle jointly bought a wooden Sparkman & Stephens sailboat named Courageous. For the next sixteen years, Cal and his family members sailed the expansive straights and inland waters of the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Then coming full circle, in 2004 Cal completed his final boat, an Iain Oughtred design lap strake wooden dinghy as a tender for Courageous.

Though success and accomplishment define his career and activities, marriage and family, Cal will be remembered most for his remarkable integrity and kindness.  The word everyone used to describe Cal has always been, “Gentleman.”

Cal is survived by his wife of 67 years, Mary Miles of Gloucester; his daughter, Susan Klem (husband Chris) of Lincoln and Gloucester, Mass.; his son, Bruce (wife Juli) of Vashon, Wash.; and son, Fred (wife Kate) of Potomac, Md.; and six grandchildren.