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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

    Stonington scallop boat crewman remembered for devotion to his daughter

    Veteran commercial fisherman Charlie Lathrop, right, and his daughter, Catherine. Charlie Lathrop died Wednesday night after he fell overboard from the scallop boat Invictus off the coast of New Jersey. (Courtesy of Ashley Hoffman)

    Stonington — When Charlie Lathrop was just 15, he quit school and began a 35-year career as a commercial fisherman, working out of ports from the Town Dock to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

    Known for his devotion to his 13-year-old daughter, Catherine, his tattoos and his nickname "Charlie Tuna," the 50-year-old Westerly resident died sometime Wednesday night when he fell overboard from the local scallop boat Invictus off the coast of New Jersey.

    "He just loved Catherine so much. That’s the whole reason he was out on that boat, to take care of Catherine," said Catherine's mother, Ashley Hoffman of Westerly, on Saturday afternoon. "He was one of my closest friends even though we were not together anymore. He was at my house every day. He was like family."

    "Charlie’s greatest accomplishment was no doubt his daughter, Catherine Macey Lathrop. You could often find the two of them surfing at Fenway beach (in Westerly), flying a kite, eating chicken and waffles or cruising around in Charlie’s orange Jeep," his family wrote in his obituary.

    Hoffman added that restrictions on social gatherings due to the coronavirus has made it difficult to grieve.

    "Normally my house would be full of people right now but we cannot have anyone over," she said.

    Lt. Commander Dan Schrader, the public affairs officer for the Coast Guard’s Mid-Atlantic Region, said Saturday that on Wednesday at 10:43 p.m., the Coast Guard received a report from the boat that a person fell overboard about 60 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J. The Coast Guard issued a broadcast to mariners about the incident and dispatched the cutter Lawrence O. Lawson, a C-130 search plane from Elizabeth City, N.C., and a MH-65 helicopter from Atlantic City to search for the person. Schrader said the Invictus reported it had recovered the person, who was unresponsive, at 6:49 a.m. Thursday, about eight hours after the person went in the water.

    Schrader said the victim was transferred to the Lawrence Lawson, brought to Cape May, N.J., where he was officially pronounced dead at 1:20 p.m. Thursday afternoon and turned over to the medical examiner. A review of the incident will be conducted. The Coast Guard was not immediately releasing the name of the person, pending notification of next of kin.

    "Our condolences are with the family. We wish this had a better outcome," Schrader said.  

    Southern New England Fishermen and Lobstermen’s Association President Mike Grimshaw referred comment Saturday to boat owner Joe Gilbert of Milford, who could not be reached. The 74-foot-long Invictus was not at the dock on Saturday. A small memorial with flowers and candles had been placed at the public fishing overlook.

    Hoffman said the Coast Guard was not able to provide Lathrop’s family with any details of how he fell overboard. She said he was always uneasy about working on the Invictus because its railings were lower than those on the other scallop boats he worked on owned by Gilbert, making it easier to go overboard.

    Hoffman said she hopes people realize the sacrifices commercial fishermen make every day.

    "When people eat seafood, I want them to know that someone else risked their life to catch it," she said.

    Lathrop grew up in Stonington, the son of Charles R. Lathrop and the late Catherine Donahue Lathrop. He also leaves behind two sisters and a large extended family. He earned his nickname from fishing for giant yellowfin tuna.

    Longtime Town Dock fisherman Bob Guzzo called Lathrop a "good guy" and said he had a reputation of being a hard worker around the docks.

    Hoffman said that, due to his tattoos, Lathrop might look scary to some who did not know him, but "he was the gentlest, most soft-spoken person."

    Hoffman said she met Lathrop in 2005 at the Handlebar Cafe in Pawcatuck. He was somewhat of a "wild fisherman" at the time, she said, but the birth of Catherine changed him for the better.

    Hoffman said Lathrop almost missed his daughter's birth, as he was out at sea when she went into labor eight weeks early. The boat he was on had engine trouble and came back to port. He then drove to the hospital in New Haven and arrived in time — stinking of fish.

    "And he never left her side. He was excited to have her," she said.

    Hoffman said that when Lathrop recently turned 50 and Catherine, 13, he treated his daughter to a stay at a luxury hotel in Boston to celebrate the two milestones.

    "That’s the kind of stuff he did for her," she said.

    Hoffman’s mother, Denise Pellegrino, said that whenever Catherine, a student at St. Michael School in Pawcatuck who recently helped her father decorate his new apartment, needed something, "he took care of it."

    "She doesn’t deserve this. No kid deserves this. He loved her so much," Pellegrino said about her granddaughter.

    Pellegrino said Lathrop moved into his parents' home and to help take care of his mother when she was battling cancer.

    Pellegrino said she is wondering why this happened to Lathrop, who she said was not a risk-taker and knew his way around a fishing vessel.

    "Why Charlie? He made my granddaughter so happy," she said.

    j.wojtas@theday.com

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