Joseph Frank Dawicki Jr. of Sarasota, Fla., died on Oct. 4. Mr. Dawicki was the last chief engineer aboard the steamer Nobska and thus the man who closed out the era of old-world steamboat and ferry service on Island waters. Mr. Dawicki, a veteran engineer for the Steamship Authority, shut down the triple-expansion steam engine of the Nobska, built in 1925, for the final time on Sept. 18, 1973.
Mr. Dawicki, who lived most of his life in Fairhaven, was 78. His career in the engine rooms of the steamers and ferries of the Steamship Authority went back nearly 50 years. He began his work at the boat line in 1951, serving as a wiper aboard the Nobska before he graduated from Fairhaven High School. He earned his chief engineer’s license in 1958 and served aboard the research vessels Chain, Knorr, Oceanus and Atlantis II for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as did his father Joseph F. Dawicki Sr. He also worked with his father and three of his five sons aboard Steamship Authority ferries.
Mr. Dawicki served on the board of directors of the Friends of Nobska — later called the New England Steamship Foundation — which purchased the relic steamer in 1988 after she failed in retirement as a pierside restaurant in Baltimore. The foundation tried to restore the vessel and return her to service as a passenger steamboat and traveling museum on her old Island route, but the effort fell short and the Nobska was scrapped at the Charlestown Navy Yard in 2006. Yet the engine of the Nobska was saved and sent to the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, where Mr. Dawicki worked with students to help learn about and rebuild the engine as part of the larger restoration effort.
Mr. Dawicki was married for nearly 60 years to Barbara Gifford, and they had five sons, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. One son, Michael J. Dawicki, serves today as an able-bodied seaman aboard the Steamship Authority ferry Eagle, which sails between Hyannis and Nantucket. Joe Dawicki also served as the first chief engineer aboard the ferry Eagle, which went into service in 1987.