Harold E. “Hal” Spoelstra joined Portland Power Squadron in 1950 and taught Piloting for more than 20 years. He served as squadron commander and D/16 educational officer and commander. As national chairman of the Marine Electronics and Piloting committees, he wrote and contributed to boating courses still used today. Elected to the national Bridge in 1974, he served as chief commander from 1978–1979. An Emeritus Member, he earned 59 merit marks.
After graduating from the Oregon Institute of Technology with an electrical engineering degree, Spoelstra worked as a transmitter engineer for radio station KOIN in Portland, Ore., for seven years. He administered the Portland Regional Blood Bank for four years and operated his own marine electronics business, Columbia Marine Electronics on the Columbia River, for 21 years. He then traveled to Montana, developing shopping centers through the state, later returning to Portland to found and operate Northwest Yacht Brokers until his retirement.
Spoelstra and his wife, Marge, had three daughters and a son. The couple and their daughters performed locally and abroad with Bruce Kelly’s New Oregon Singers in the 1970s and 1980s.
Passionate about water safety, Spoelstra was past president of Columbia River Yachting Association, past commodore of Rose City Yacht Club, and a Red Cross instructor in First Aid, Water Safety and Small Craft. For his volunteer service to USPS and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, he received permanent life membership in both organizations.
After retiring, Spoelstra created a presentation about the navigation of ancient mariners called “Ships of Discovery,” which he brought to elementary classrooms throughout the Portland area. He taught community education classes in basic boating and celestial navigation, and he was a trainer and state administrative assistant of 55-Alive safe driving courses for many years.
His lifelong efforts on behalf of boating safety earned him the Oregon Governor’s Award for Boating Safety, the Senator John J. Hollister Memorial Award for Boating Safety, two Olin Marine Safety Awards, and the Red Cross Meritorious Service Award for 25 years of service.
Spoelstra’s achievements are all the more noteworthy since contracting polio at age 7 left him with a permanently paralyzed right leg. Despite his disability, he became a champion swimmer and an offshore sailor with more than 20,000 cruising miles in all types of small craft.