Alpena, MI. Our community sadly lost an important member of the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary on July 25, 2022. With sadness, we announce the unexpected passing of Captain Spencer W. Cootware of Naples, Florida. Spencer was born February 13, 1961, in Tupper Lake, New York to the late Harold and Lillian Cootware.

Spencer was a flight attendant with Delta Airlines for 25 years.  He enjoyed the opportunities to travel and explore life in the big cities. Following that career, Spencer moved to Naples, Florida where he owned a sign business for a few years before becoming a bail bondsman. Spencer opened Nickel Bail Bonds (operated by his friend Tony Bennett) where he and Tony created lots of exciting stories.

Spencer loved being on the water and became a boat captain of his charter, Flat Bottom Girl. Fishing and pleasure outings were his specialty and his clients loved him so much they would return annually. His boat was well known in the Naples area. He also captained Naples Princess on sunset cruises into the Gulf of Mexico. He was a member of the Naples Coast Guard Auxiliary, which helped him develop a keen sense of safe boating and vessel readiness. Spencer also loved riding his Harley whenever he could get out on the open road.

Spencer was a member of the Kiltsmen in Naples, Florida. He reveled his days as part of the brethren and the Naples St. Patrick’s Day parade was one of his most cherished times spent with them. Dressed in their kilts with their bagpipers playing, Spencer and fellow Kiltsmen were parade favorites.

Spencer married Nicole Partika on April 1, 2017. Following their wedding, they spent time in northern Michigan. Spencer loved northern Michigan so much that he accepted a job with Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2017. With much pride, he was the captain of Lady Michigan allowing thousands to enjoy the beauty of Lake Huron and the sunken shipwrecks. He loved all his co-workers and developed deep friendships during his tenure in Alpena.

Spencer was preceded in death by his parents Harold and Lillian, and brothers Stuart (twin) and Steven. He is survived by his wife, Nicole Partika, stepchildren Peyton Nagel and Lilian Nagel, sisters Sheri Loren and Stephanie Nygaard, nieces Kenna Loren, Haise Loren, and Stevi Loren, nephews Michael Nygaard and Craig Nygaard, niece Courtney Wainright and her children Kolt and Charlee, and great niece Lucy Loren.

Family and friends greatly miss Captain Spencer and will endeavor to carry on his legacy of kindheartedness and his zest for living. The Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary have established a fund in Captain Spencer’s name to continue his passion for student education aboard the Lady Michigan, which helps thousands of students connect with Lake Huron and Shipwreck Alley.

Godspeed Captain Spencer, your absence is greatly felt.