'Sonny-S' remembered: 'Tough-as-nails' islander

MIDDLE BASS ISLAND Charles "Sonny" Schneider skippered his namesake
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

 

MIDDLE BASS ISLAND

Charles "Sonny" Schneider skippered his namesake Sonny-S between Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island for more than 40 years.

The 69-year-old, who was beloved by many islanders, and was often called the "Mayor of Middle Bass," died unexpectedly Monday at his Middle Bass home.

His sister, Mary Ann McCann, said the ferry boat will continue to run under the direction of Schneider's son John.

"There are not many icons like that left around the island," McCann said about her brother.

Even after the fifth-generation Middle Bass resident became ill and retired from daily runs on the ferry boat, he still helped when he could.

"He was a true islander -- tough, tough as nails," she said.

McCann said her father built the Sonny-S in 1950 to use for commercial fishing. When he died in 1955, tragically slipping through the ice and drowning, Schneider finished high school and got his captain's license to take over the family business.

Business, however, was not good, McCann said.

"The fishing was not very productive so he started that summer run," she said.

Schneider began offering summer ferry service in 1961 to supplement his fishing business, eventually abandoning commercial fishing altogether.

McCann said her brother was always well known in the community for his friendly demeanor and sense of humor.

"He was one of those really easy-going guys," she said. "He would stop and talk to you for hours."

Schneider was also a devoted family man and had three sons with his wife, Carolynn. He has five grandchildren -- with another due around Thanksgiving.

Maggie Beckford, executive director of the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce, said residents on the islands will miss the late captain.

"He was always upbeat and always had a smile," Beckford said. "It's going to be tough, it's going to be tough for Middle Bass. They are an even smaller community than we are."

Schneider was active in the community, donating a plot of land for the Middle Bass Island Volunteer Fire Department and serving on the Middle Bass Town Hall and the Middle Bass Board of Education.

McCann said there will be a memorial run with the Sonny-S and other boats Friday before the 10:30 a.m. service at Middle Bass Town Hall.

Boats will leave Put-in-Bay at 9:45 a.m., and an additional run will be made to pick up passengers if needed. The Miller Boat Line will also run an additional ferry from Catawba Island to Middle Bass at 8:45 a.m.