Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Robert Manry and the Tinkerbelle

A heart attack may have claimed his life at the age of 52, but the life story of Robert Manry was as full as any Lake County history book chapter could be.  Manry was born in June, 1918 in India. His parents were missionaries.   A student of the world, he learned to sail on the Jumna River.  He left for the U.S. in 1936 to attend college.  Arriving in Ohio in 1937, Manry selected Antioch College.  WWII interrupted his studies.  Some political issues resulted in a brief jail sentence before he served in the European theater as an Army photographer.  After the war ended, he returned to college and in 1948 earned a degree in political science.

Robert Manry was a reporter for several Ohio and Pennsylvania newspapers before assuming the position of copy editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1953.  He resided on Royalview Road in Willowick, Ohio during these years. An ad for an old "whitecap" by the Old Town Canoe Company of Maine resulted in the purchase of a 13' 6" sailboat in 1958.  The sailing adventures of his youth were about to be renewed.  He named his new vessel the Tinkerbelle.  No cabin or deck existed initially and he rigged an awning to his sailboat as his first major improvement.  Traveling with his son, his first voyage aboard the Tinkerbelle occurred in 1964.  They sailed 200 miles to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

1965 became Manry's year of infamy.  A unique 78 day solo voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in his tiny wooden boat became a worldwide phenomena.  Manry left Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA and reached Falmouth Corwall, England on August 17th.  The story of his travels were widely celebrated, highly documented and he wrote a book about his trip in 1966.  The Tinkerbelle (Harper and Row) was a best seller.  Manry never returned to his position with the Plain Dealer.  A new career as a lecturer presented itself.  Also, the purchase of a new vessel (the Curlew) in 1967 led to new adventures and stories to tell.

In 1966, the City of Willowick renamed the old Nike site Manry Park in honor of their famous resident.  Tinkerbelle is now on display at The Western Reserve Historical Society Museum in Cleveland.  The story of Robert Manry (1918-1971) remains as another gem in the history annals of Lake County.

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