Stonington man fondly remembered as 'old school' fisherman

Walter Krupinski
Stonington resident Walter Krupinski was killed Sept. 22 when his 23-foot Steiger Craft capsized off Watch Hill near Napatree Point.

Stonington — Walter "Wally" Krupinski was a commercial fisherman for more than half of his 81-year-old life so he knew a thing or two about lobster and conch pots.

But among his fishermen friends at the Stonington Town Dock, Krupinski was better known for "stirring the pot."

"He would love to get you riled up, but not in a mean way," said longtime friend and fisherman Frank Gentile. "If he liked you, he would do anything for you. He was a character. He was always at the dock. He was someone you could always count on."

Krupinski of Stonington was killed Sept. 22 when his 23-foot Steiger Craft capsized off of Watch Hill near Napatree Point after a 60-foot Viking Princess yacht allegedly ran over it, according to the Coast Guard.  

Gentile, of Stonington, said he called Krupinski around 10 the morning of the accident, but he never picked up. Gentile said his friend was probably gone by then.

"It's just a shock," Gentile said. "I'm going to miss his friendship. I'm going to miss not seeing him at the dock."

Krupinski's friends have many questions about his death. Why did he go out and fish on that day when the price of porgy, which he was fishing for, would barely cover the cost of fuel? Why didn't the yacht see his 23-foot boat? Why didn't the yacht move when the channel was clear?

They have so many questions, but the one thing that is clear to them is that it couldn't have been Krupinski's fault because he was an experienced, safe fisherman.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Division of Law Enforcement is also looking for answers and this week asked for anyone who may have witnessed or has information on the accident to call them at (401) 222-3070.

The Viking Princess was on display at the Newport Boat Show prior to the fatal collision, and was en route to Old Saybrook for another boat show at the time of the accident, the Division of Law Enforcement said in a news release.

The yacht was being operated by a hired captain, Cooper W. Bacon, 76, of Cape May Court House, N.J., with a first mate, William L. Noe, III, 73, of Woodbine, N.J.

Krupinski's friends are not only mourning his death but the end of an era at the dock, where he also filled in as dockmaster.

He is described by his fellow fishermen as "old school," coming from a generation where you fished because you loved being outdoors and on the water — it wasn't all about the money.

Bob Guzzo of North Stonington knew Krupinski for 40 years. Guzzo said it seemed like Krupinski never slept because he was either at the dock or on the water.

"Let me tell you, he was 81, but he looked like he was 60," Guzzo said. "He was in excellent shape. He was always doing something and would always say, 'If you are working, you're already ahead of the game.'"

Guzzo said Krupinski liked to bust people's chops. He said if you talked about eating a good lunch, Krupinski would say he ate an even better lunch. If you talked about a hot fishing spot, Krupinski would say he had an even hotter one.

"We would always lie about where we would go fishing, but end up at the same place," Guzzo said.

Guzzo also said his friend was "thrifty."

"You knew it was spring when he would take you out to lunch in New London because he had a two-for-one hot dog coupon," said Guzzo with a laugh. "Let's just say he would spend his money wisely."

Krupinski, he said, was a practical joker, but could also take a good prank.

"I would put some tin cans on his pots and see him struggling to pull them in and he would act like he didn't care," Guzzo said. "He would thank me for the extra money he made off the scrap metal. You couldn't get one over on Wally."

"He just loved being on the water," Guzzo said. "He died doing what he loved to do. I will miss him."

i.larraneta@theday.com

Twitter: @larraneta

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