Column: Making every port of call

BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO Bill Lieblein in front of Port of Egypt.
BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO Bill Lieblein in front of Port of Egypt.

How strange that you can wave and say hello to someone just about every day for 20 years and yet know very little about them.

That’s the relationship I had with my neighbor, Bill Lieblein, until just a few days ago. I knew he was a fisherman and owned the popular Port of Egypt marina in Southold. Armed with those two facts, I asked him to tell me his story.

Bill’s father was a fisherman. In 1946, he and Bill’s two uncles bought the property that now hosts the marina. Bill was just 7 when the family began operating a small fishing station there.

Have you ever wondered where the name “Port of Egypt” comes from? After the Lieblein family purchased the property, Bill’s Uncle Herb found parts of some letters under a sign. He asked Carl Reiter, who had owned the station, what the letters were and was told they spelled out — Port of Egypt. It seems that the original owners thought that the little sand bar in front of the property looked like the Nile River delta and the phragmites grasses looked like papyrus reeds. The Lieblein brothers happily reinstated the original name.

Bill graduated from Greenport High School in 1957. A fisherman, scuba diver and skier, in high school he played football for the legendary coach, Dory Jackson. Bill remaines proud of the fact that he was part of the undefeated 1956 team, playing for a school that was one of the smallest on Long Island.

Bill enrolled in Villanova University in 1957. Although he didn’t play football, he was a part of a championship drill team that won the 4th Naval District Tournament in 1961.

With no grass growing under his feet, Bill graduated from Villanova in 1962 and immediately joined the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer, and married Kae. They have five children, four daughters and a son.

After enlistment, Bill went directly to submarine school and the following year he was off to the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School in Bainbridge, Maryland. From there he was off to Windsor Locks, Connecticut, home of the prototype of the propulsion plant for the U.S.S. Tulibee.

In 1964, Bill reported to his first submarine as a member of the engineering department and lived in Kittery, Maine, home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Seavey’s Island. Bill’s sub was the U.S.S. John Adams; commissioned in 1964, it was designed to deploy the Polaris A2 missiles.

Serving on the John Adams, Bill traveled to Charleston and Cape Canaveral as well as Scotland’s Holy Loch. During his service aboard the John Adams, Bill made four Polaris patrols.

He was transferred to Polaris Weapons Officer’s School in 1966, and was then assigned to the U.S.S. Nathanael Greene, initially as the assistant weapons officer.

After two patrols, he was promoted to weapons officer for the next two patrols. Initially the Nathanael Greene was stationed in Rota Spain, but changed base to Charleston at the end of his first patrol.

In 1967, the 28-year-old naval officer got some bad news. His mother, still a young woman, passed away from cancer. Bill decided to resign from the Navy and help out the family at Port of Egypt.

Shortly after his return home, Bill and his family began construction of the large storage building on the west side of the property, used to store and repair boats and house the sales offices and service area. Bill’s initial focus upon leaving the Navy was the boat rental operation, but in 1974, he transferred to the sales, service and marina division of the company.

Although there have been other boat lines featured, Port of Egypt has been a Grady White dealer since 1960, making it the oldest Grady White dealership in the country. Port of Egypt has won many awards from boat builders, including the Gold Anchor for sales and service as well as the Admiral’s Circle Award.

The marina now features winter storage, boat sales, repair, maintenance, the Heron Suites Motel and the A Lure Restaurant.

In 1995, Bill met Barbara Allen when she bought a boat from Port of Egypt. After courting for four years they were married in 1999. They enjoy boating, fishing and traveling. And Bill’s passion for skiing remains strong with his membership in the “70 + Ski Club.”

As I walk by his house with my dog, I often see Bill working in the yard. He’s either up in the trees cutting branches, chopping wood or cleaning the property. Since my only exercise is walking the dog, watching Bill used to make me feel guilty. Now, after doing this story, I realize that he always worked a lot harder than I did, so why should I try to compete with him now?