Thomas Nelson “Tommy” Mertaugh, 47, of Hessel, Michigan, passed away peacefully Tuesday morning, October 8, 2013, at McClaren Northern Michigan Hospital, Petoskey, Michigan.
Tom was born November 15, 1965, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to E. James “Jim” and Ella May “Elly” (Nelson) Mertaugh. He was a 1984 graduate of Les Cheneaux Community Schools.
Tom was a cornerstone of a much-loved area - Les Cheneaux Islands (Hessel and Cedarville, Michigan). His cultural and financial impact was enormous, primarily through Classic and Antique Boats, a company he started with his family 13 years ago, and which grew into the region’s largest classic boat restoration and service business. Through Classic and Antique Boats, Tommy successfully carried on and expanded a family legacy that began over 80 years ago when his grandfather, Gene Mertaugh, became the first Chris-Craft dealer in the country.
Tommy built his business through an intimate familiarity with classic boats since childhood, an insatiable drive to research and learn about details in order to do work right, an ability to attract and retain talented craftsmen, a firm hand and direct involvement with operations, long, selfless hours on-site, incredible empathy for customers, and, perhaps above all, a high degree of honesty, fairness, and trustworthiness.
He was a member of Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Hessel. Tom met the love of his life, Wendy Pratt, in 2003 and they were engaged on February 18, 2010. Wendy brought much joy to Tommy’s active life through her loving assistance, dedication and companionship. After hours, where you saw Tommy, you saw Wendy, often helping with launching and pulling boats. Tom also had a love of buying and selling cars and the like, operating Tom’s Auto Sales. It was extremely important to Tom that while cars were in his care, they were garaged. Tommy had a great sense of humor and loved to play practical jokes.
Surviving are his fiancée, Wendy, and children, Jared, Preston and Hope; his dad, Jim (Marcie) Mertaugh of Hessel; siblings, Dan (Brenda) Mertaugh and Amy (Mark) Izzard of Cedarville, Michigan, and Erin Mertaugh of Garden City, Michigan; nieces, Megan Johnson and Ashten Izzard; great-nieces, Addison and Liberty; uncles and aunts, Bob Mertaugh, Jerry and Mary Erva, Earl and Nancy Erva, and Precie Fox; cousins, Missy, Kerri, Margo, Brian, Maeve, Tim, Dianne, Judy, Karen, Jim and Bob; Wendy’s parents, Jackie and George Gaulin and Ron and Louise Pratt; Wendy’s siblings, Rhonda Pratt and children, Heather, Mitchell, Justin and Kalyn, Brian (Amy) Pratt and their sons, Tyler and Collin. Tommy is also survived by a host of friends who love and care about him dearly.
Preceding Tommy in death were his mom, Elly; a nephew, Lucas Izzard; his grandparents, Harold “H.B.” and Elaine Nelson, Gene and Helen Mertaugh, Marion Nelson and Evelyn Caldwell; uncles and aunts, Jack Mertaugh, Fran and Lee DeWick, Orville and Jeanette Nacker and Charlie Fox; and a cousin, Raymond.
The family will receive relatives and friends at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, Hessel, from 10:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Saturday, October 12, 2013. The Liturgy of Christian Burial for Tom will be held at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, in the Church, with The Reverend Father Janusz Romanek as the main celebrant. Burial will follow at Cedar Cemetery in Cedarville. In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, memorials may be designated to Clark Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Pallbearers will be Jared Nightlinger, Preston Nighlinger, Paul Tassier, Corey Sands, Rob Freel, Ray Osborne, Todd Ried and Mike Miller. Honorary pallbearers will be Mickey Lukats, John Fehner, Mike Freel, David Masse, Matt Nelson, Edwin Ackerman, Perry Cushman and Chris Riley.
Thanks to Tom’s dedication, he is also survived by at least 200 classic and antique boats that will live on for decades - some, for generations - as integral members and memory-makers of Les Cheneaux families. Our area and the greater classic boating community has lost a great one. For many of us in Les Cheneaux, boating is changed forever. We miss you already, Tommy.
Arrangements are in the care of Dodson Funeral Home, St. Ignace, Michigan. Tommy’s dear friends, Raymond B. Ackerman, Jr. and Margareta E. Ackerman Blegvad, Funeral Directors, are assisting.