Emil A. Kratovil, 89, Had Lifelong Love of the Sea

Emil Arthur Kratovil, 89, died Thursday, June 17 at the Edgehill LifeCare Community in Stamford, Conn. He died from complications of pulmonary disease, his family said.

Mr. Kratovil, known as Emmy, was born in New York city on August 16, 1914, the only child of Emil Stephen and Rose Tilla Kerbecek Kratovil. His wife of 59 years, Louise DeWolf Kratovil, predeceased him in 1997.

Upon graduating in 1931 from Classical High School in Springfield, where he developed a life-long love of English and, in particular, its Latin roots, he joined the Harvard Class of 1935, rowing on the heavyweight crew and majoring in chemistry. During his college summers, he raced on various sailing yachts in southeastern Massachusetts waters that sparked a fondness for the sea, which benefited him throughout his business career.

After graduation in 1935, he began his career as a marine underwriter with Wm. H. McGee & Co. Inc. in Manhattan. He learned his craft so well that in 1942, shortly after Pearl Harbor, Rear Adm. E.S. Land appointed Mr. Kratovil as the War Risk Cargo Underwriter in the War Shipping Administration responsible for worldwide U.S. marine war risk insurance. Mr. Kratovil's contributions significantly hastened the U.S. industry acceptance of the risks of full commitment and conversion to large-scale war production.

In 1943, Mr. Kratovil joined the U.S. Navy when Admiral W.D. Leahy, President Roosevelt's military chief of staff, personally selected him to strengthen the joint and combined chiefs war planning capability. His contributions included more accurately predicting vessel loss, repair and replacement ratios and serving on the planning team for the cross-channel invasion that became D-Day.

After separating from active duty as a lieutenant (junior grade) in May, 1946, Emmy returned to Wm. H. McGee & Co. Inc., where he rose to vice president and director before leaving in 1952 to join the well-respected all lines ocean marine underwriting firm of Carpinter & Baker as executive vice-president and director. He became chairman and CEO in 1953 and led the firm for 10 years when it merged with Wm. H. McGee & Co. Inc.

Mr. Kratovil served there until 1966 as a senior vice president and director when he decided to leave the field of marine underwriting for marine insurance brokerage at the New York firm, Johnson & Higgins, as a senior vice president until he retired for the first time in 1979. His retirement was short-lived, however, when he was asked to return to the Johnson & Higgins reinsurance intermediary, Wilcox Inc., from which he retired for the final time in 1983.

During his career, Mr. Kratovil served as a director of numerous marine industry associations. He was particularly proud of his tenure as president of the American Institute of Marine Underwriters since he initiated their international meetings during the Cold War years, and as a director of the Lifesavings & Benevolent Association of New York, where he served until his death.

Mr. Kratovil was a summer resident in Edgartown starting in the early 1960s. During this period he was an active member of the Edgartown Yacht Club, where he established the race patrol operation for the club's monthly racing series and its annual regatta. Additionally, upon discovering what became the verified remains of the coastal schooner, Mertie B. Crowley, on East Beach, Chappaquiddick, he along with fellow club members Gordon Schall and Peter Sharp, harvested a sufficient supply of its ribs to have a handsome block and gavel fashioned for use during the club's annual meetings.

Mr. Kratovil was also a member of the Edgartown Reading Room, rising to number two in membership seniority at the time of his death. During their fall visits, the Kratovils hosted two legendary clambakes at the Reading Room and the yacht club to celebrate their 40th and 50th wedding anniversaries. They often could be found casting for blues and stripers during the afternoon at Wasque Point.

Mr. Kratovil built an enviable record of resident involvement in Greenwich, Conn., beginning with his participation in its annual Memorial Day Parade at the wheel of his fabled 1935 Ford Phaeton and his election to the Representative Town Meeting in 1971. He served on the RTM with distinction for 28 consecutive years and also served as chairman of District Seven, as vice chairman of District Nine and on five RTM standing committees.

In 1999, Mr. Kratovil moved to Edgehill in Stamford, Conn., where he called upon his community experience gained in Edgartown and Greenwich to help create the Edgehill Residents' Council and served on it for three years. There he met his "best girl," the late Jane Keller Souris. During this time, he maintained his direct ties to Edgartown with his membership in the Reading Room.

Emmy is survived by his four sons: Emil A. Kratovil Jr. of Charlottesville, Va., Edward D. Kratovil of Greenwich, Conn., Stephen C. Kratovil of New York city and David W. Kratovil of Greenwich, Conn., and nine grandchildren who have benefited greatly by his example as an honest, straightforward, caring and generous individual.

Interment is private. There are no calling hours.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30, at Christ Church Greenwich, 254 East Putnam avenue, and will be followed by a rousing reception at the Field Club of Greenwich, 276 Lake avenue.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Martha's Vineyard Historical Society, P.O. Box 1310, Edgartown, MA 02539, or The Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, P.O. Box 4718, Greenwich, CT 06830.

Arrangements are by Fred D. Knapp & Son, 267 Greenwich avenue, Greenwich, CT.