OGUNQUIT, Maine — It’s been nearly a week since William “Billy Mac” McIntire, a well-known lifelong fisherman out of Perkins Cove, was last seen.
The Coast Guard called off an extensive search for McIntire Sunday. He has been missing since Aug. 22, when he went out on his boat, The Clover, with friends and jumped in the water about a mile off the shore of Perkins Cove. The Coast Guard said he became “distressed” and disappeared from sight.
Through days of searching with no sight of McIntire, 51, friends and family members kept vigil on the shore. This week they shared their memories of the man who lived in Cape Neddick section of York, saying he always kept them laughing.
Mark Walz, a senior photojournalist with CNN, recalled meeting McIntire while assigned to cover President George H.W. Bush’s Thanksgiving in Kennebunkport, shortly after he won the 1988 presidential election.
“It was my first time in K-Port, and while walking around the town I happened upon the Port Gardens bar which was the locals’ spot underneath the old Port Gardens Inn,” he said. “It was that night I met Billy Mac, ‘The Heart Attack’ McIntire. I got the impression that the ‘heart attack’ reference was his effect on the ladies. Billy Mac was quick to befriend myself and some other cameramen and introduced us around. I had the impression that Billy Mac was the ‘lord’ of the place, and definitely the largest personality in the bar. Rounds of shots were had, and a friendship was born.
“I loved hearing of his stories of harpooned giant tuna and later, he even invited me out on his boat with my television camera to shoot a story, though I couldn’t leave my responsibilities of covering the president. Over the next four years, our friendship grew, and I always looked up Billy Mac to hear of his latest adventures. I was saddened to hear of his passing, and it sounds like he gave his life to save another. That was Billy Mac.”
Brooks MacDonald of Hurricane restaurant agreed. When the original Hurricane restaurant was new in Ogunquit in the mid-1980s, an actual hurricane was forecasted. MacDonald and his wife, Luanne, planned to weather out the storm in their restaurant.
“Lu and I had no idea about how to prepare for a hurricane,” MacDonald said.
He said Billy Mac showed up at the restaurant with a crew of local fishermen and boarded the place up to protect it from the storm without being asked. In return, the MacDonalds kept the restaurant open and provided coffee and meals to the local fisherman so they could stay close to their boats and keep an eye on things until the storm was over.
“That incident cemented us with the local fisherman,” MacDonald said. “They always kept an eye out for us after that.”
McIntire was a local celebrity in many ways as well.
“Billy Mac was like a rock star, everybody loved him,” said Dwight Raymond of Kennebunk’s Performance Marine and The Pilot House. “He was the real deal and always put a smile on everyone’s face. He worked hard and played hard. I feel terrible for his parents.”
Debbie Kimball Goodale remembers the impact McIntire had on women especially.
“I loved watching girls stand in line to dance with him at ‘Good Night Ogunquit,’” she said.
While McIntire impressed women, he also earned the respect of men. Captain Corky Decker grew up with him and said McIntire was the quintessential fisherman.
“We were a generation that fished hard and stayed up late,” he said. “We lived and breathed bluefin tuna and Billy was the best out of all of us. He fished with his dad, Sonny, and the two of them for years caught more than the rest of us combined.”
McIntire was also described as a living legend by many of the local New England bluefin tuna harpooners.
“He was known in every port on the East Coast and many around the world,” said Jeff Moore. “Anyone with any fishing experience on the ocean has heard of the McIntires. Billy’s dad, Sonny, started the legend and Billy had made it his life’s mission to improve upon, enhance and add to that fishing legend, and I think he succeeded.”
Billy Mac’s lifelong friend, Michelle Melanson, was waiting for news from the Coast Guard along with members of the McIntire family earlier this week. She described their emotions as “devastated and broken-hearted.”
Melanson said losing McIntire should make people look at life differently.
“Love your friends and family to the fullest and tell them,” she said, “because you never know when they may be gone.”