Monument to honor longtime Harbor Master

Mar 31, 2019

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on April 2 to approve the permanent placement of a small monument and plaque honoring the service of longtime Harbormaster Harry C. Besse at the entrance to the Onset Pier.

Harry C. Besse was born in Wareham on November 3, 1915. He served in the military from 1943 to 1946. Besse, who earned the rank of Sergeant, was a marksman who served in New Guinea. He was awarded a Good Conduct Medal, a Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Service Star Victory Medal, and an Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaign Ribbon with a Bronze Service Arrowhead.

He served as Harbor Patrol from 1960 to 1980, giving assistance to boaters, keeping the harbor safe, and returning lost and stolen boats. At the time, the Harbor Patrol was a part of the Police Department.

Besse proposed changed rules and regulations to improve waterway safety in 1964 as the traffic in the town’s waterways increased. Those rules were approved by town voters for the 1965 season.

Besse reported a summary of the season to the town each year. In 1971, Besse reported “a very busy season with extra nice weather, and more, and more boats.” That summer, he towed and assisted 52 boats into port, and recovered 32 lost and stolen boats, with an estimated value of $28,780.

Besse was honored for his service in the 2018 Town Report.

Mike Besse, who is Harry Besse’s nephew, and the Wareham Veteran’s Council, initially proposed renaming the Onset Pier after Harry Besse. After some discussion, Besse, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan, and the Board of Selectmen agreed on the more modest proposal of a smaller permanent monument.

Mike Besse said he plans to withdraw the citizen’s petition to rename the pier that is currently on the warrant for a vote at Town Meeting.

Mike Besse said he envisions the monument as a piece of cut stone with a plaque commemorating Harry Besse’s service, perhaps with an engraved image of Besse.

“I know there’s a lot of emotion that went into this issue,” Selectmen Peter Teitlbaum said. “There were a lot of ideas bandied about. I’m glad that we’ve arrived at something that’s appropriate in scale and satisfactory to everyone.”

Mary Bruce also expressed her support for the idea.

Mike Besse and Sullivan will decide on the final design and placement of the monument.