PORTLAND – Clifford Henry Sinnett loved the ocean, especially the waters around Bailey Island.

It took the Navy and World War II to keep him away for any length of time. Mr. Sinnett landed in France on D-Day and kept going inland, fighting in several more historic campaigns including the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine.

“The longest time he ever spent not seeing the ocean was when he spent in the Navy waiting to get across the Rhine,” said his son Jay Sinnett, of Greenville, S.C.

Mr. Sinnett, a retired lieutenant commander, died Nov. 15 in Portland. He was 91.

On Saturday, his family and friends returned to Bailey Island to celebrate his life and his positive spirit.

Mr. Sinnett’s grandson, Henry Sinnett, played taps and a Navy honor guard presented a folded American flag and a message of thanks to his wife of 66 years, Charlotte Sinnett.

If he could have done it again, his wife told them, he’d have signed up right away.

Mr. Sinnett grew up in Portland and graduated from Deering High School. He spent summers on Bailey Island, where he had deep family ties.

“The island was essential to my father. His family goes back to 1750 on the island. The heritage is very strong,” said his son Chandler Sinnett, of Falmouth.

Mr. Sinnett’s grandfather, who once ran the island’s general store and post office, petitioned the state to build the Bailey Island Cribstone Bridge. His father was one of the first people to cross it.

Mr. Sinnett met his wife at the University of Maine. After he graduated and got married, Mr. Sinnett left for amphibious naval training and, ultimately, for Europe.

After World War II, he came back to Portland to start a family. He remained in the Navy Reserve and was called back to duty during the Korean War.

His family still has a recording of his voice that he made and sent home as he was waiting to ship out from San Francisco.

“He tape recorded a message to send back to my mother and he instructed her to buy a tape recorder so she could send a message in response. We still have the tapes,” Jay Sinnett said.

“His attitude on the tape is just so unbelievably positive. Here’s a guy getting torn away from his family, with a baby less than a year old, and he sends a tape sounding like he’s going on vacation.”

Mr. Sinnett was stationed on an island in a North Korean harbor, watching troop and ship movements and helping to build an airstrip. He later was transferred to an intelligence post in Japan, where his wife and children joined him for about a year before returning to Maine.

In civilian life, Mr. Sinnett was in the investment business and was owner of Charles H. Gilman & Co. for a time before the firm merged with H.M. Payson & Co.

He passed on his love of the island and the ocean to his three sons.

“We spent summers on Bailey Island. He had a boat almost continously,” Jay Sinnett said. “He taught us seamanship and how to watch the weather and the clouds and the waves.”

He frequently took his family fishing off Bailey Island, or to one of the nearby islands to explore.

He once won a halibut tournament that became a running family joke. His was the only halibut landed, and not all that big.

“We always said it was his prize-winning halibut,” Chandler Sinnett said.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324, or at:

[email protected]