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Carl Darenberg, Montauk's Man Of The Year

Publication: The East Hampton Press
By Virginia Garrison   Nov 6, 2012 3:02 PM
Nov 6, 2012 3:45 PM

Workers at Montauk Marine Basin were busy hoisting boats in preparation for Hurricane Sandy as Carl Darenberg simultaneously kept an eye on a weather map on his computer and talked about his family’s history on October 27. Mr. Darenberg, who is the Montauk Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year, will be honored at its end-of-season party at North by Northeast restaurant on Friday, November 9, from 6:30 to 11 p.m.

“This storm is going to be a doozy,” he predicted as he pulled up his latest update on Facebook. “People are writing to me right now” to check Sandy’s progress, he said as his employees continued to work to safeguard about 80 boats in the marina’s care.

Mr. Darenberg started working for the family business when he was about 7. His father, Carl Darenberg Sr., bought the marina from George Miller around 1955, operating it with Bill Wiet as a partner. It had been a shipyard with a railway track that went right into the water so boats could be pulled out.

Mr. Darenberg’s grandfather was also in the boating business, running fishing charters out of Freeport and Montauk with his son and others on the Fortenate until the boat had to be mothballed during World War II when fuel was scarce. “My father came back from the war and my grandfather gave him the boat,” Mr. Darenberg said, adding that by then Montauk’s fishing fleet had mostly moved from Fort Pond Bay to Montauk Harbor.

Mr. Darenberg’s father was fishing out of the yacht club in the 1940s when, “lo and behold, he met my mother,” Vivian Tuma, whose father, Frank Tuma Sr., owned Tuma’s Dock to the northwest on Montauk Harbor as well as “quite a few tackle shops in Montauk” both in town and on the harbor. and whose Montauk Beach Company had taken over many of Carl Fisher’s properties. The two married in 1948, and the senior Mr. Darenberg started fishing out of both Tuma’s and the yacht club.

The chamber’s person of the year is deeply interested in the history of Montauk’s fishing fleet, as evidenced by an exhibit of old black-and-white photographs, many from his uncle Frank Tuma Jr., as well as by his founding of the “old-timers” annual roundtable for boat captains, where fish tales are exchanged and old salts honored. This year’s event paid homage to Montauk’s commercial fishing fleet—“Those poor guys never get recognized,” Mr. Darenberg said—and next year’s might well honor a member of the Gosman family, whose dock and business complex are another historic institution on the harbor.

“Montauk will always be one of the best fishing areas in the world,” said Mr. Darenberg, who helped promote the industry in the 1980s by rushing photos of humongous catches to AP for publication. “I did a lot of stuff with Frank Mundus,” he said of the late, famous shark fisherman, adding that Al Holden, who used to publish the Montauk Almanac, taught him a lot about promoting the hamlet.

Mr. Darenberg, who also worked as a mate on such boats as the Osprey, has also been instrumentally involved with the Montauk Boatman’s Association, the Montauk Harbor Committee and the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, where he’s been a member for almost 30 years and the treasurer for nine. He was an East Hampton Town Trustee from 1980 to 1982 and, more recently, one of the co-founders, as well as secretary and treasurer, of Montauk Citizens Voice.

Mr. Darenberg has a daughter, Courtney, who’s 29, and a son, Chase, who’s 27. He and his wife, Jo Ann, were married in the early 1980s.

At age 62, Mr. Darenberg maintains an active nightlife as well as running the marina and working in the community. “I had two heart operations last year, but I’ve still got energy,” he said.

“He’s a hard worker,” said Laraine Creegan, the chamber’s executive director. “He does so much for the chamber, it’s like he lives here half the time.” She added that Mr. Darenberg does a great deal in general “for the overall betterment of the Montauk community.” His founding of the old-timers’ dinner and the displays of old photographs at the yacht club have “given so many people so much pride in being in this industry,” she said.

When John Keeshan nominated Mr. Darenberg for this year’s top chamber honor, the vote in favor was unanimous, Ms. Creegan said. Even so, he’s bound to be roasted as well as toasted at the dinner on Friday night. Drinks start at 6:30 p.m., and Ocean Dream will play live music during dinner and beyond. Tickets cost $75 from the Montauk Chamber of Commerce and $85 at the door.

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